A Service Dog Is A Working Dog Not A Pet

Service dogs are a remarkable group of dogs that work hard to assist their handlers. It's important to understand that these dogs are not pets. For people that suffer disabilities, service dogs are integral parts of their handlers' lives. In fact, depending on the disability, a service dog serves as a lifeline for their human. Historically, the rise of guide dogs seems to date back to World War I.

Origin of the Working Dog Class

 

During the First World War, the German army relied heavily on the use of German Shepherds as ambulance and messenger dogs. Soon, the Germans saw the potential for these dogs to be used as guide dogs for wounded soldiers and veterans. German doctor Gerhard Stalling was with a patient when he got called away to tend to another urgent matter. He left his dog with the patient to keep him company. Upon the doctor's return, he saw that the dog appeared to be tending to the blind patient. In 1916, Stalling opened the world's first guide dog school, which served to train German Shepherds into guide dogs.

Service Dogs Today


Today, Service dogs are able to assist with numerous disabilities such as visual, hearing and mobility impairment, mental disorders, seizures, and diabetes. Many people misconstrue support dogs as pets, whose sole purpose is to maintain companionship. But, service dogs are trained to do much more. A service dog is capable of assisting in many different ways and can be trained specifically on the owner's disability and need. 

How Dogs Help People With Visual, Hearing and Mobility Impairment 

Service dogs assist people who suffer from visual, hearing and mobility issues by doing an array of things, including the following:

  • Guide people who are blind to avoid obstacles
  • Picking up objects that the owner has dropped
  • Alerting owners who are deaf from dangers like flaring fires
  • Help people through crosswalks
  • Turning on and off light switches
  • Pull wheelchairs if obstructed

How Dogs Help People With Mental Disorders

Service dogs are capable of locating individuals who are lost like those who suffer from mental disorders like dementia and autism. It is common for these individuals to run away from home, and if they do, the service dog is capable of alerting the parents or caretakers and locating them outside.

These remarkable dogs can also be trained to:

  • Provide deep-pressure therapy
  • Interrupt repetitive behaviors
  • Protect owners who suffer from seizures
  • Remind owners to take medication
  • Calm a person with PTSD/anxiety attacks

Common Breeds

Some of the most popular service dog breeds that have historically excelled at being service dogs are Golden Retrievers, German Shepherds, Labrador Retrievers and Golden Labradors (a mix between Golden Retrievers and Labradors). These dog breeds tend to be easy to train, intelligent, sweet-natured and good with people. 

What to do when a service dog approaches you

When a service dog approaches you, it's important to keep the following in mind:

  • Are they a service dog? Look for basic colored vests, which usually have embroidered labels.
  • Don't shoo service dogs away. They are only doing their job!
  • Is their owner in sight? If not, that means the service dog wants to take you to their owner who may be in trouble! 
  • Follow the dog to its destination and contact your local emergency hotline if needed. 

 

Written By: Cashmere

 


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