Assistance Dogs Day!

dog assisted shopping

dog assisted shoppingMan’s best friend has always been known for their loyalty and helpfulness. But none are as helpful or make as great an impression as Assistance dogs. The work they do on a daily basis is amazing and quite inspiring and sure to bring a tear to many an eye. Assistance dogs are any dogs that can aid a person in a variety of circumstances. The two main categories of assistance dog are Service Dogs and Facility Dogs.

Service dogs are trained to do work or perform tasks for people with disabilities and they are usually assigned to aid only one specific individual. Service dogs should legally be allowed to accompany their handler and enter into any building, business, or public area where people are normally allowed to go, but which may be off-limits to regular animal pets.

Some common examples of service dogs include:

  • Guide dogs that assist the blind and the visually impaired.
  • Hearing dogs, or signal dogs, to help the deaf and hard of hearing.
  • Mobility assistance dogs that aid mobility-impaired individuals.
  • Medical alert dogs that aid people who have a medical disability, such as diabetics or chronic medication users.
  • Seizure alert dogs that can be trained to assist and manage their handler’s seizures and that may even be trained to recognise the signs of an oncoming seizure and warn their handler accordingly.
  • Psychiatric service dogs that assists a person with a psychiatric disability, such as post-traumatic stress disorder or schizophrenia.


dog assisted shoppingFacility dogs are generally used by working professionals to aid multiple individuals by interacting with them and providing support.

Common examples of facility dogs include:

  • Courthouse facility dogs which are typically handled by professionals working in the legal system and often used to assist crime victims, witnesses, and others during the investigation and prosecution of crimes as well as other legal proceedings.
  • Educational facility dogs which are usually handled by special education teachers to facilitate interaction with students.
  • Healthcare facility dogs which are normally handled by physical therapists, psychologists, and other healthcare professionals to facilitate recovery and symptom management for patients.


While any breed of dog can be used as either a Service dog or Facility dog most trainers have come to prefer Labradors and Golden Retrievers as the ideal breed for these tasks. Labradors and Retrievers most consistently exhibit the desired characteristics needed to become Assistance Dogs; stability, a degree of initiative, docility, an ability to take things in stride, and a stubbornness that helps them through difficult situations.

The training that any Assistance dogs undergoes is quite rigorous and extremely strict. Rules and guidelines regarding behaviour must be strictly adhered to and each dog is thoroughly tested before being allowed to serve their handler in public.

Most Service and Facility dogs are easily identifiable by their working “uniform” – a coloured jacket with printed identification that they wear while on duty. In some countries the colour of the jacket will designate what type of assistance dog it is or what the dog’s main purpose is. When assistance dogs are working it is generally advised that the public not approach, handle or otherwise interfere with the dog or its duties as this can distract the animal from focussing on its handler and carrying out its normal assistance tasks.

dog assisting at ATMThe breadth and scope of tasks that assistance dogs can be trained to do is mind-blowing! They can provide physical support and help disabled handlers to stand up or sit down, they can be trained to act as a cushioning barrier to break an epileptic’s fall in the event of a seizure or even, through long-term exposure or pure instinct, predict an oncoming seizure! They can be taught to retrieve medicines or other specific objects, locate family members in emergencies, help with shopping by taking items off shelves and placing it in a shopping basket and even handing over a wallet or money at the till. Some assistance dogs are trained to open doors, help load laundry in the washing machine, press the answer button on a phone, and even operate an ATM machine!

Hearing dogs can be trained to alert their handlers to key sounds by making physical contact such as nudging their leg or arm. Among the many sounds hearing dogs are trained to recognize and respond to are the sound of a doorbell, alarm clock, someone calling a name or a smoke alarm.

So show your support for these amazing animals who dedicate their lives to bettering the lives of their humans by celebrating Assistance Dogs Day and supporting your local assistance dog organizations!


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