This week for Dog Training Awareness month and our focus on service dogs we are focusing on “How” questions. How are they trained, how are they picked to be service dogs and how to pick what is best for the person, how do they help people, and how should they be acting?
How are they trained?
- Through organizations
- Put through testing focused on the skills they will provide – smell, guiding, pulling – based on their intended function for the person.
- Can take years and tens of thousands of dollars depending on their intended use.
- They can fail out – not every dog is built exactly the same – health factors like bad joints, too energetic, too distracted, sometimes it is not the right line of work but they can do other things like being a drug sniffing dog but not a seeing-eye dog.
How are they picked to be service dogs to train and to be for a person?
- Dog possess good traits/characteristics and abilities Social, confident, calm, smart, desire to work
- Some are bred – come from parents with good traits
- The dog should match the lifestyle of the person along with any needs or restrictions. If the person needs a mobility assistance dog, then a small dog is not going to be beneficial or if they have allergies that needs to be considered. Plus take into consideration the care that is needed for different dogs as they shed, eat, and have various energy levels.
How do they help?
- Allergy detection – trained to detect and alert to the scent of allergens, such as gluten or peanuts. Did you know a dog’s sense of smell is so good that when a pizza is made people smell the toppings but a dog can smell the ingredients used to make the pizza dough!
- Autism – provide constant source of support and comfort, work as a buffer and ice breaker in social scenarios, can be trained to alert others if their person is in a dangerous situation or interrupt harmful behavior.
- Diabetic – alert their person of deadly high or low blood sugar levels and the person will test then adjust with insulin or glucose.
- Guide – help blind or low vision individuals navigate the world – typically wear a harness with a handle for their person to hold.
- Hearing – provide ears to their person. The dog will alert their person when they hear a fire alarm, door knock, doorbell, phones, alarm clocks, or even the person’s name.
- Mobility assistance – retrieve objects, open doors, press buttons, turn lights on/off, assist with transfers or balance.
- Seizure alert – help before, during, and after a seizure by finding help, providing medicine, get their person to a safe area.
- Psychiatric – sense a change in their person when they are about to experience negative symptoms. Guide them from the situation, remind them to take medicine, provide something else to focus on.
- Many more
How should they act?
Focused on their person, calm, relaxed, Housebroken
Jumping on other people or dogs, growling, excessive barking (single bark could be a signal to their handler), aggressive towards other dogs