It's International Assistance Dog Week
By: Dr. Amanda Landis-Hanna
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Today was an awesome day! It is International Watermelon Day! And yes, watermelon is safe for dogs (cut up, in small quantities, and don’t feed seeds). It also happens to be my birthday (yes, I celebrate with watermelon!). But today begins a very important week: International Assistance Dog Week.
According to the International Assistance Dog Week website, the purpose of the week is to support and honor all the canines who support humans in a variety of ways, to “mitigate their disability related limitations.” These dogs can make life in modern society better, by monitoring for disease-related problems, improving mobility and personal freedom, and securing the safety of those their human partners.
Assistance dogs are highly trained, usually with specific physical or mental capabilities. Diabetic detection dogs can detect a life-threatening low blood sugar state, and notify their human or seek medical help. Autism assistance dogs can detect a behavioral concern, such as verbalization (screaming) or violence, and help to provide consolation, comfort and restraint. Guide dogs can help those with visual or hearing impairment to safely navigate transportation, allowing greater freedom and independence.
Most of these dogs begin training at a very young age. Often puppies begin their training process by being fostered (or adopted into the home of their future partner). These dogs are thoroughly socialized, and taught basic training. As they mature, the dogs are often given advanced training in their specialized field. Think of this time as college for the dogs. They must learn hundreds of skills, cues, and techniques to assist their future partners. They are rigorously tested as they proceed through their training. When they graduate, they are matched with their future partner, and the pair undergo training together to understand each other, and further develop their bond.
Of course, this training comes at a (often high) cost. A professionally trained assistance dog may undergo training worth tens of thousands of dollars. In some cases, the future partner will pay the costs associated with the training. In other cases, grants or sponsorships may be available, through a number of associations or non-profit organizations. Assistance Dog International (ADI) is a coalition of non-profit organizations who train, work with, sponsor, and place assistance dogs. A number of non-profit groups exist, and they are always seeking volunteers and funding to support future training of dogs.
The services that assistance dogs can provide are invaluable. And the trainers who work with them are dedicated, not only to the dogs, but also to the future partners who the dogs will be placed with. Often, there is a ‘shortage’ or a wait list to get an assistance dog, for certain problems or disabilities. But making sure that these dogs are healthy, happy, and highly functioning is of utmost importance.
At Voyce, we are proud to support assistance dogs through Voyce and Voyce Pro. Due to the extreme importance of these dogs, early screening and disease detection is vital, as is education and support. Voyce offers a number of benefits for assistance dogs, working dogs, and family dogs. All of these dogs are important, and providing them with the best care possible is our responsibility.
So, raise a slice of watermelon (or birthday cake!) to honor the thousands of assistance dogs internationally. We salute your work, your families, your trainers, and of course, the work that you do.