Dog Training of a Different Type – Assistance Dogs

Dog Training of a Different Type – Assistance Dogs

Assistance Dogs

Assistance DogsDogs that are trained to assist disabled people, called assistance dogs, are not pets; rather, they are trained specifically to help people who are blind, deaf, or physically disabled. They spend their lifetime up until retirement providing independence and security to disabled people. The choice of the perfect assistance dog is based on temperament and size, not breed. Most assistance dogs are mixed breeds acquired from animal shelters, or puppies raised and trained by volunteers of the many organizations formed to help the disabled.

In order to acquire a service dog from a formal program, one must fill out an application and be evaluated. Most are placed on a waiting list while a suitable dog is found and/or trained. Some service dogs are available free of charge, while some are quite expensive. Financial assistance may be available depending on the organization, which provides the dog, the person’s medical condition and their medical insurance coverage.

Once a dog is found and placed, it will take as much as a few weeks to several months to teach the recipient how to use specific commands. The dog will need additional training geared to the specific needs of the disabled partner, as well as yearly refresher training.

Types of Assistance Dogs

There are three basic types of assistance dogs: service dogs, hearing dogs, and guide dogs. Approximately 20,000 people in the U.S. use assistance dogs and more than 60 nonprofit programs train and place assistance dogs in America. Signed into law in 1990, the Americans with Disabilities Act guarantees people with disabilities the right to be accompanied by a service animal in any area, which is open to the general public. Service animals are trained to behave appropriately in public areas.

Assistance DogsService dogs help people who are physically disabled, as well as those who have seizure disorders and other medical conditions. They can pull wheelchairs, open and close doors, retrieve items that are dropped or out of reach, alert a person of an upcoming seizure, turn light switches off and on, bark for alert, find another person, assist by providing balance and stability and many other individual tasks, depending on the needs of the disabled person. [tag]Golden Retriever[/tag]s or [tag]Labrador[/tag] Retrievers make good service dogs. Either a backpack or a harness can identify Service Dogs.

Hearing dogs alert a deaf or hearing-impaired person to sounds such as telephones, alarm clocks, oven buzzers, name call, smoke alarms, doorbells, smoke alarms and a crying baby. The dogs can make communicating easier for deaf or hearing-impaired people by alerting when hearing the name of its owner. Small to medium sized dogs make good hearing dogs. The training is more involved nowadays due to the increase in traffic and quieter car engines. Hearing Dogs are identified by an orange collar and leash and/or vest.

Guide dogs help blind or visually impaired people navigate safely along busy streets, on public transportation, and through stores and other places of business in their community by helping them avoid obstacles and stop at curbs and steps. To foster communication between the dog and its blind partner a harness and U-shaped handle is used. The blind or visually impaired person’s job is to give directional commands, which the dog may or may not obey, depending on the situation. If an unsafe command is given, the dog may choose to disobey the command in order to insure the safety of the person.

Assistance Dogs Training

There are many organizations involved in training and providing assistance dogs, as well as schools, which teach how to train them. These special groups allow the disabled to live a secure and independent lifestyle.

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About Brigitte Smith

Brigitte Smith is an entrepreneur with a love of dogs and a healthy lifestyle. Brigitte is passionate about holistic health alternatives for dogs, most of which are today suffering foreshortened lifespans in the wake of a lifetime diet of commercial pet food, and further contributed to by unnecessary over-vaccination and chemicals and poisons applied topically and internally. is one of Brigitte's sites dedicated to dog health, and in particular dog food reviews.

6 thoughts on “Dog Training of a Different Type – Assistance Dogs

  1. phillip

    Please alert any organizations that you know of who have service dogs……

    I am writing to make you aware of a huge up coming event in Memphis, TN. Dr. Bill Miller of the American College of Veterinary Ophthalmologists is giving a free eye exam to all service dogs. This is the beginning (test) for a National campaign in May 2008 sponsored by the ACVO and the AVMA. There are numerous companies backing this like Merial (Heartgard and Frontline), Novartis, Bayer, Hills, Purina, etc…. I believe this campaign will receive National exposure – which will bring much needed support to these great animals and the organizations like yours that bring them to the people who need them.

    I believe in what you are doing because my wife’s grandfather was a four star general, Bruce Holloway, who served this country for many years, but at the end of his life went completely blind. I know that what you are doing providing these loved companions makes a difference. You have any animals in the Memphis area please send them to this event along with a representative of your organization. – Thank you Phillip Shackelford (

    Please read below:

    Pet Health Systems is sponsoring William W. Miller DVM, MS ( Diplomat American College of Veterinary Ophthalmologists) “Eye Exams for Service Dogs”, campaign by providing Pet Wellness Reports to all service dogs (seeing eye, search and rescue, police, etc…) through the Service Dog’s primary care veterinarian. This event is our first step to a national “Eye Exam for Service Dogs”, campaign through the American College of Veterinary Ophthalmologists (ACVO) members early next year.

    This Service Dog eye examination will be conducted at the Animal Emergency Center and qualified service dog owners will be referred to their primary care veterinarians. Pet Health Systems will be sponsoring this event through the help and support of animal health companies, and animal associations.

    “Eye Exams for Service Dogs”, will be held on Thursday, December 13th from 8am-1pm at the Animal Emergency Center – Advanced Animal Eye Care, 3767 Summer Avenue, Memphis, TN 38122. Owners of dogs that qualify must call to make an appointment for their free Certified Eye Exam – (901) 323-5203. On December 13th at the time of their exam with Dr. Miller they will receive a certificate for a free Pet Wellness Report and associated laboratory panels (including the eye exam a $280.00 value). Please call as soon as possible because space will be limited.

    The local Memphis Shelby County Veterinary Medical Associations (MSCVMA) president, and the president of the Tennessee Veterinarians Medical Association (TVMA), will be there along with news and TV coverage, radio, and newspaper coverage.

    I agree with Dr. Miller when he said, “I believe this is an opportunity to give back to a group of animals in our community that have been serving us for years.”

    Thank you,

    Jim McPeak
    Pet Health Systems

  2. Kathy Strahan

    My 33 year old son is severly mentally retarded and has intractable seizure disorder. Recently he began having drop seizures that occur before a grand mal seizure. Because his speech is limited and he cannot report an aura that would allow us to take precautions we are desperately trying to find alternative measures for anticipating seizure activity.
    Thank you for reading my comment,

  3. Karin Knapp

    My mother has Parkinson’s and would benifit from the companion of a dog. My mother is 85 and will pass soon and we would like to keep the dog for my services after she passes. Is this possible?
    I am Hearing Impaired, significantly. Is it possible to have the same service dog trained for both of us.
    What happens to the dog once an owner passes?
    This process is new to me.
    Thank you.

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