Our Co-Founder and President Abby G talks about getting funding as a small business and our early struggles as a company in these 30-Second Mentor Spots.
From Seeing Eyes To Victim Advocacy, Dogs Get The Job Done
The New York Daily News just published a story on Bronksey, a 2-year-old Labrador mix who is now the official facility dog at the Staten Island District Attourney's office. Bronksey's job is to help put crime victims at ease and quell their anxiety before having to testify. Bronksey knows over 50 commands, and was donated by Canine Companions for Independence.
All over the world, dogs are working to help mankind in various ways, including as guide and service dogs.
There are dogs trained to alert when someone is facing an undetectable medical crisis such as an oncoming seizure or a dangerous drop in blood sugar, dogs trained to keep autistic children calm and dogs that act as the ears or eyes (and sometimes both) of their owner.
These dogs are also trained to help their owners do everyday tasks that most people don't even think twice about.
Seeing eye dogs are trained to seek out empty seats for their owner, follow specific people (such as a waiter to a restaurant table), let their owner know when the elevation where they are walking is going to change and sit to let their owner know they've reached a curb on the sidewalk so they can cross the street safely. They're also trained to be intelligently disobedient - meaning they won't budge if they know their owner is about to head into danger.
Hearing ear dogs are trained to alert to specific sounds at home and away, including recognizing the names of family members so the dog can go and find that specific person or bring notes to designated individuals. They can tell the difference between smoke alarms, door bells, cell phones and alarm clocks, all while keeping the hearing impaired person safe if a sudden noise indicates danger, such as a car approaching.
Some service dogs are trained to help people who have disabilities and live independently. For example, if someone doesn't have the use of their legs and one leg falls out of place in a wheelchair, the dog will put it back for them. The dog can also call 911 on a special phone, open and close drawers and doors, turn on lights and position themselves to help someone regain their balance or prevent them from falling.
For more information on all of the things different service dogs are trained to do, check out this list from the International Association of Assistance Dog Partners.
Service Dog Etiquette
1. Don't pet guide or service dogs of any kind unless invited to do so by their owner, and do not interact with the guide dog by calling to it or making noises at it. As long as the dog is wearing its harness, it's on duty and needs to be left alone even if it is sitting or laying down.
2. Don't assume the handler or owner is being mean to the service dog if you witness a sharp leash correction or a reprimand that seems out of place. The dog can make a mistake and the handler or owner is making a very specific correction that they have been taught to do by the organization that provided the dog. When the dogs do a good job they are always given lots of praise, you just might not see it. It's also not only the dog that gets formal training, but the person receiving the service dog that must undergo training to learn how to work with their service dog.
3. Always assume that no matter where you are, any service dog is allowed to be there too. Too often there are stories making the news about people with service dogs being kicked out of various establishments because the owner was ignorant of the law, someone complained about a dog being in a place that serves food, or someone didn't believe the person had a disability that necessitated a service dog because they didn't "look" like they have a disability.
How can you help?
Service dogs are pricey, both to train and to obtain for the people who need them. There are plenty of service dog organizations that are always looking for donations, fundraising assistance or volunteers. If you love dogs, chances are there’s a service dog organization near you that could use some help.
As kids (and still today) many of us loved dropping spare change into the heads of those plastic guide dogs that are found in stores across Canada. These plastic dogs collect change that help Canadian Guide Dogs for the Blind provide guide dogs to people across Canada who are blind or visually impaired, and have been doing so for more than 20 years. If you've got a handful of change, drop some in the next time you see one.
If you’re interested in a more of a long-term, hands-on commitment, Canadian Guide Dogs for the Blind also has a puppy walking program, where foster families raise guide dog puppies for between 12 and 18 months. These foster families help socialize the dogs and get them used to all kinds of different environments until they're ready for their formal training. You can learn more about the puppy walking program here.
And now for that unanswered question no one ever thinks to ask... who picks up after seeing eye dogs? Their owner, of course. Not all people who have seeing eye dogs are completeley without sight, but the dogs are trained to go on command. They're also trained to go while their owner pets them to tell if they're standing or squatting to know what exactly they're up to.