September is National Service Dog Month

Published 7:16 pm Tuesday, September 17, 2019


K9 Corner

September is National Service Dog Month. According to there are eight disabilities approved by the American Disabilities Act (ADA): sight, hearing, mobility, autism, seizures, psychiatric, allergies and diabetes.

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Service dogs are highly trained: Guide dogs trained to lead the blind must learn 12 to 14 commands. However, if they are given a command that might put the blind person in danger, the dog must refuse the command and even move in a different direction to protect his charge. The first training school for the blind, The Seeing Eye, was started in 1927 in Morristown, New Jersey and has graduated 17,000 trained dog-human teams since then.

Other schools have opened now, to train dogs for other disabilities. Canines for Independence opened in 1975 and has classes covering several disabilities. One of the specialties is mobility dogs that have to learn over 40 commands before being placed with a challenged person.

Hearing Dogs are usually called “alert dogs” and qualify under the ADA rules, because they are trained to alert the owner to various bells, alarms or knocking at the door. If there is a baby in the home, the dog is trained to alert when the baby cries and often bonds with the baby, picking up a thrown toy and taking it back to the child.

Dogs trained to assist psychiatric patients provide crowd control by circling to give the person “safe space.” They get the person out of an uncomfortable social situation by pawing, or nudging, giving an excuse to leave. These dogs provide tactile stimulation by touching, cuddling or licking to break the spell of depression. Body pressure is also taught as it has a calming effect.

These dogs learn to turn on lights as the dog and person enter a dark room, and finally, they are taught to bark at prescribed times to take medication. Some dogs will be trained to fetch the medication and a beverage to encourage the person to take it.

I wondered what service allergy dogs provide, and the most important is providing the medications at the right time. If the allergic reaction is severe, an individual specially trained dog will alert the guardian or caregiver of the emergency; similar to the training of a seizure dog who also needs to alert the person of a pending seizure providing time to sit or lie down before it happens.

Dogs that work with diabetics are trained to alert when they smell the change in the blood sugar in the blood. Yes, they can do that! And it gives the person time to rebalance the blood sugar.

Then, there are emotional support dogs that provide comfort and support to anxious individuals, but are not required to perform specific tasks. These emotional support dogs do not have access to public or private places covered by the ADA.

According to , “National Service Dog Month helps in celebrating and showing our appreciation and gratitude towards all of the hard working service dogs.” It was started in 2008 and has become an annual celebration during September.