All About Assistance Dogs
Welcome to Kidzworld’s guide to Assistance Dogs, which are also called Guide Dogs or Service Dogs. These dogs are absolutely incredible, as they help many different people in their daily lives! But it takes a lot of hard work and training to become an assistance dog – find out more about these hard-working canines, and check out a really cool series of books that can help you learn more!
Guide Dogs for the Visually Impaired
Did you know there are over 10 million people in North America who are visually impaired? Many special dogs help people who can’t see, by being their eyes. Seeing Eye Dogs are specially trained at a school so that they know how to guide a person who can’t see. They’re trained to move on in response to their person, unless it is to avoid danger. Plus, besides helping them get around, these guide dogs can help a person with visual impairment in many cool ways!
When a person is in need of a seeing eye dog to help them out, they usually go through a training program with their dog to learn how to work together and to get to know each other better. Once they’re comfortable with each other, a seeing eye dog can help a visually impaired person:
- Walk in straight lines
- Stop at intersections
- Help the person decide when it’s safe to cross the street
- Climb stairs safely
- Stay away from dangers the person may not be able to see
Once a seeing eye dog and a person have been working together for a while, they really get to know each other! After a while, the dog gets to know the person’s normal routine and habits, and all the person needs to say is, “Take me to work,” and the dog will be able to lead him right there!
Other dogs are trained to assist deaf people who have different levels of hearing, or none at all. These amazing Hearing Dogs are able let their owners know about a number of sounds they can’t hear themselves. Some examples:
- Someone knocking on the door or ringing the doorbell
- A ringing phone or buzzing oven timer
- When a smoke alarm goes off
- When a baby starts to cry
Hearing dogs usually let people know about sounds by coming up to the person and then going back or taking them back to the source of the sound (where the sound is coming from).
Assistance Dogs (also known as Service Dogs) can also help people with other needs in their lives. For example, assistance dogs can be trained to help someone who is in a wheelchair by retrieving different objects and bringing them back or picking up objects that have been dropped, opening doors, turning light switches on and off and much, much more!
- Assistance dogs come in many shapes and sizes, but the most popular breeds are Labrador Retrievers, Golden Retrievers and German Shepherds, because these types of dogs are well-known for being smart and easy to train!
- Training takes about two to three months
- Not only are assistance dogs trained to respond to commands, they’re also trained NOT to respond to unsafe commands!
- Assistance dogs are also taught to have the best manners, since they’re allowed to be in places that regular pet dogs aren’t, like inside of grocery stores, libraries, schools, malls, etc.
- Assistance dogs are definitely smart, but two things they can’t be trained to do are figure out how to get to a place they’ve never been to before (finding directions is a job for humans!) and they can’t read traffic signals.
Nito: Assistance Dog of the West
If you want to learn more about assistance dogs, there’s a book series about a dog named Nito. The series tells the story of Nito, an Assistance Dog of the West, and Chloe, the little girl in a wheelchair that he helps every day. Here are the titles of the three books in the series, written by Judith M. Newton and illustrated by Sue Blackburn:
- Nito’s Tale (Get it now: Nito's Tale: A True Story of an Assistance Dog of the West)
- Nito Meets Chloe! (Get it now: Nito Meets Chloe! The Tale of an Assistance Dog of the West)
- Nito and Chloe Get an Invitation (Get it now: Nito and Chloe Get an Invitation)