Guide and therapy dogs work hard to ensure the safety and well-being of their human companions. While these pooches are trained to be patient and supportive, they’re sometimes met with societal misconceptions that hinder their help.
Here’s everything you need to know about what they do, how they’re trained, and why it’s important to grant them access to public spaces.
Working dogs improve the lives of people with visual impairments, physical disabilities, and children with autism spectrum disorder. These fluffy helpers can be identified by different-coloured harnesses and jackets, depending on the work they do:
- Guide dogs for the visually impaired wear a leather harness with a metal handle for their human to hold on to.
- Service dogs for individuals with physical disabilities and autism support dogs sport a red jacket complete with reflective strips.
- Puppies-in-training are uniformed in a blue training jacket and collar.
Working dogs are rewarded for their enthusiastic help with loads of physical affection. They also receive treats for successfully completing requested tasks. While these four-legged friends adore friendliness, it is always best to ask their owner if you’re allowed to pet them.
Puppies are prepped for their future work as guide, service, and autism support dogs for 18-24 months at a loving foster family.
They may look cute, but these puppies are quite a handful as training is very intense and time-consuming. They are socialised as much as possible because their careers demand their comfort around people of all ages, genders, and races.
Most importantly, they’re taught how to behave in different environments and how to avoid pesky distractions within these sometimes strange spaces.
The dogs also have to learn to respond to cues from their humans to make sure they’re being as helpful as possible at any given time.
The puppies’ temperaments are carefully assessed to ensure that only the best and brightest fluffs graduate to become fully-fledged working dogs.
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Say hello to the six pups from the Lucia & Ritz litter 😄! These feisty & fidgety Labrador pups gave us a run for our money today during the shoot, and we caught a live video of them romping around a play pen afterwards. Visit our Facebook page to see the video of them playing, and visit Puppy.GuideDog.org to apply to become a volunteer puppy raiser with us today.
Dogs with Jobs
While they are loving pets, these dogs are also professionals. Both locally and internationally, service dogs are legally allowed in all public spaces (except ICU facilities in hospitals).
There has, however, been a history of people rejecting the distinction between pet and professional dogs. Individuals and their guide dogs are often turned away from public spaces. This is because of the widely-accepted “No Dogs Policy” in spaces like workplaces, malls and schools.
These canine companions are tasked with helping disabled people do the tasks we sometimes take for granted and that’s why their public presence is so important.
Not to fret though, as Pieter is working on fixing this with the “Working Dog Access Programme” which hopes to ensure equal access to all people with working dogs.
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@tacobella.gdf, hopes you have a great #Saturday 😁 Don't forget to tag us in pics of your pups today, and visit Puppy.GuideDog.org to learn how you can help raise a #futureguidedog 🐾 Pictured: GDF Yellow Lab, Bella, smiling with her tongue out while sitting in front of some black eyed susans.
How You Can Help
The South African Guide-Dogs Association functions purely off sponsorship and donation. Any financial help is super useful and deeply appreciated.
More hands-on? The association also offers volunteering and community service opportunities. If you’re interested in helping these adorable up-and-coming professionals out, visit guidedog.org.za.