27 Apr 2013
| by |
A dog is a man’s best friend.
There is certainly no doubt on the loyalty of these friendly and beloved creatures. And when they help us with their special abilities, the bond strengthens.
Service dogs are assistance dogs that are specially trained to guide differentially abled people. People with autism, visually impairments, hearing impairments, mental disabilities and more are being helped the world over by these service dogs. Their role in these people’s lives helps them attain confidence. And the best part is that apart from providing help, they become the best companions and share a very special bond.
Suitable Breed –
For the differentially abled people these dogs gain a position that is more than that of just a pet or a companion. They protect and guard their handlers at every step. This also highlights another important point. Since these people take their dogs with them almost everywhere it is essential that the dog is calm and does not pose a threat to the people at large. Experts believe that Golden retrievers and Labradors are preferred over the other breeds. The reasons are – their natural inclination towards humans which makes them an ideal and beloved companion, their apt size and the most important their friendly nature. Some other popular breeds that serve as good service dogs are – German Shepherds, Border Collies and Poodles. A wide range of mixed breed dogs have also been successful assistance dogs.
They help people with disabilities. With proper training they can open and close doors, can pull wheelchairs, operate light switches, guide them at the supermarket, guide them through traffic, fetch objects like newspaper etc. and the most important calling people for help.
Guide dogs particularly help the visually impaired people. It is with the abilities of these intelligent creatures that the blind see through their eyes. The dog would guide them when the person is walking; help them with their daily activities like fetching, carrying, passing through traffic and more.
These dogs help people with hearing impairments with their day to day work. They alert the person if someone is calling their name, help them respond to the phone ring, doorbell, alarm etc.
Assistance dogs for Autism
People, especially children with autism and other mental disabilities often have to face the wrath of the society. It may not be done deliberately but somewhere down the
line there is a sense of discrimination that these people have to face at each and every step of their lives. In most cases it has been noted that if such children have a dog as their assistant or companion, it proves to be a great help. It is through these assistance dogs that these children bridge the gap between themselves and the society a bit. They feel connected and also safe with their furry friends.
Be it any form or kind of disability, having a dog certainly helps. It boosts the morale, keeps them connected to the society, helps lower their stress levels and the bond that develops has a calming and positive effect on the person. It can be said that the dog becomes a communication channel through which they can easily and effectively communicate with the society.
In India the trend of having an assistance dog has still not become very popular. Firstly most of the public places like malls, cinema halls, restaurants, shops etc. are not disabled friendly and secondly this concept of having a dog as an assistant or a helper does not appeal to many people of our society. Of course there are exceptions. But in the west this concept has been accepted and is a great hit. There are innumerable organizations that train such dogs but in India we don’t have many such organizations. Some popular ones are Canines Can Care and Help and Assistance Dogs India (HADI). The good news is that at least there has been a beginning towards this cause and with the right resources and awareness, it would become successful. India’s first fully trained assistance dog is a black Labrador named Honey.
Another organization known as Dr Dog is a Chennai based animal therapy program. They work jointly in collaboration with the Blue Cross of India and the Animals Asia Foundation of Hong Kong (AAI). What they do is therapeutic. Dogs and other popular pets are taken to schools, especially for the blind, the differentially abled, autistic etc. and hospitals across the country. When these pets are around the kids they forget all their pain and sorrow. It is a way of healing and on repeated exposure many children have shown a marked improvement. Just that feeling of being with a pet elevates their happiness.
As each person is different, the dogs are trained keeping in mind the needs and requirements of the person.
Training is an essential part that would help these dogs shine. The
is done in stages. Puppies cannot be trained before a certain age, thus for the first year of their lives they are kept with a puppy raiser. Puppy raisers take very good care of them and have a very crucial responsibility. Not every dog can become a service dog; there is a certain temperament that is required. The puppy raisers slowly imbibe these qualities and prepare the puppy. The next step is to introduce the puppy to the training academy. They undergo a proper training regime of about 6 – 9 months. Basic obedience commands, fetch, switch off and on, calling someone for help in an emergency and many more commands are taught to the dog. dog training
Some heroic examples –
· Eight year old Jiyon Ganguly from Kolkata was allowed to fly with his therapy Labrador Simbaa in March 2013. This was specially done by Jet Airways to bring a smile on Jiyon’s face who is autistic
· Honey, India’s first fully trained assistance dog helps his master during everyday chores like opening and shutting the door, putting articles in the waste bin, fetching objects, switching on and off the lights and when she lays down Honey tucks her into the blanket
· Joyce Cane visited India for an educational trip with her guide dog Corey. The special part is that Joyce is blind. She and Corey travelled through Ahmedabad, Mumbai, Chennai, New Delhi and Kolkata.
The emotional bond that a person shares with their pet can only be felt and can never be explained in words. They would listen to you patiently, talk to you (through signs of course) and make the world a much beautiful place for you.