Service Dogs to the Rescue: Helping to Make Dreams Come True
Service Dogs to the Rescue
We are hearing more news today than ever about how Service or Therapy Dogs are helping all kinds of people gain back their independence and serving as a foundation of stability in their lives. They provide not only loving support and companionship for children with disabilities, but also help veterans of the Armed Forces suffering from a variety of mental and physical conditions.
How service dogs help people
Having a Service Dog is different from having a Guide Dog. Rather than serving to help be the eyes of a person, Service Dogs take on a multitude of other roles. They help an individual with a physical or mental disability be their arms and legs and help them open and close doors, turn on and off lights, pick up something that dropped on the floor and be their eyes and ears in times of need. These dogs are also trained to recognize the signs of hyper vigilance, anxiety, panic attacks, and the onset of nightmares. They are equipped with techniques to help calm down or distract a person in need.
How the training of a Service Dog works
Recently, I had the opportunity to visit a facility in Connecticut called Educated Canines Assisting with Disabilities (ECAD). This organization houses and trains Service Dogs and then appropriately places them to match the specific needs of the client. These dogs get placed in homes, hospitals, and courtrooms. Many veterans receiving these dogs suffer from post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) or traumatic brain injury (TBI) and/or have mobility limitations. As a teacher, I’ve seen Service Dogs accompanying children with autism or various sensory processing disorders to school as well.
Assistance Dogs International (ADI) sets the standards that a dog must meet in order to become a certified Service Dog. It typically takes about two years of training or 1800 hours in which each dog learns a minimum of 89 separate commands. They learn anything from picking up objects and dropping them into baskets to opening up a dryer or refrigerator and retrieving different items. The service dogs wear a special vest while they are in training and should not be played with during that time.
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