August 7-13 is International Assistance Dog Week. Service dogs are specially trained to help their handlers in various ways. There are many different types of service dogs like diabetic alert dogs, guide dogs, mobility assistance dogs, seizure alert dogs, and hearing dogs, just to name a few. For example, for hearing impaired handlers, their service dog can alert the handler to many different sounds such as alarm clocks, emergency vehicles, telephones, dropped items, kitchen appliance timers, if someone calls the handlers name, etc. The dog will nudge the handler and the handler will use sign language to communicate with the dog. For handlers with mobility disabilities, the dog will fetch items for the handler, open doors, pick things up that are dropped--as small as a credit card--and give to the handler, push elevator buttons, 'speak' to alert if handler has a fall or gets stuck so someone will come help. These are only a few things that assistance dogs are trained to do.
It is extremely important to never pet or distract a service dog while they are working. Touching or petting a working dog is a distraction and may prevent him from tending to his handler. The dog may be in the process of completing a command or direction given by his handler and should not have any interferences.
What is the difference between service dogs, therapy dogs, and emotional support animals? As mentioned above, a service dog is trained to help people with disabilities, such as visual impairments, mental illnesses, seizure disorders, diabetes, etc. A therapy dog is trained to provide comfort and affection to people in hospice, disaster areas, retirement homes, hospitals, nursing homes, schools, and more. An emotional support animal (ESA) provides their owners with therapeutic benefits through companionship. Therapy dogs and emotional support dogs are not considered service dogs under the ADA and only service dogs are protected by the ADA.
Blue Oasis is proud to be a care provider for several highly trained service dogs who were trained by Canine Companions for Independences, a member of ADI (Assistance Dogs International). CCI has met the high standards set by ADI. If you would like to learn more about CCI or ADI, visit their websites: www.canine.org and assistancedogsinternational.org.
(Information provided by akc.org, canine journal.com, pawsofwar.org, and Blue Oasis clients and service dog owners, Kathy T., and Nancy L. Photos: Kolton carrying a bag for his handler and Spain and Janet)