When the 8-hour working day was legislated in Australia in 1948, it didn’t include dogs, and we’re certainly lucky it didn’t. Being intelligent, loyal, and hardworking animals, dogs are suitable for many roles in addition to human companionship, and one of the areas in which they are used extensively is service. There are a variety of roles in which our canine friends excel, and they include assistance, rescue, and even lifesaving. Following are some occupations in which dogs have been working alongside us throughout history.
Rescue dogs are often chosen because they have superior senses of hearing and smell which enables them to find lost people. They are usually physically strong, highly loyal and very stable emotionally. They often work under demanding conditions such as in the snow – in avalanche rescue for example - and in hard to reach places. They are hardworking dogs and usually come from the hunting and herding groups such as Labradors, Golden Retrievers, German Shepherds, Bloodhounds, and Newfoundlands.
Assistance dogs are specially trained to help people living with physical or mental disabilities, with moving around and doing everyday tasks. Also referred to as service dogs, their role generally is to help people live with greater independence.
Assistance dogs are used by people with a wide variety of disabilities including physical disabilities, illnesses that cause disability such as autism and multiple sclerosis, and mental health conditions such as dementia and post-traumatic stress disorder.
One of the most well-known types of assistance dogs is the Guide Dog, also commonly known as “seeing eye dogs”. They are trained to assist blind and visually impaired people get around independently and safely.
Hearing dogs assist people who are deaf or have hearing problems. They are trained to alert them to sounds.
What can assistance dogs do?
Assistance dogs are taught to do numerous and varying tasks, depending on the needs of the person they support. Tasks they can learn include turning on light switches, opening and closing doors, picking up keys, and pushing pedestrian crossing buttons. They can also provide personal assistance, such as moving the limbs of people who are paralysed, helping people with walking difficulties to balance, alerting people to seizures, and pulling wheelchairs.
Are assistance dogs allowed on public transport?
Yes, the Australian states and territories have different legislation relating to assistance dogs and certification requirements, but the Commonwealth Disability Discrimination Act 1992 ensures that owners of assistance dogs have the right to take their animals into all public places nationally.
Can we pat assistance dogs?
You should not pat or call an assistance dog without firstly seeking permission from its owner, as it can distract the animal from its job of assisting its owner.
Can my dog become an assistance dog?
Service dogs are mostly bred and raised to be service dogs by organisations that have specific training programs, and by foster families who are dedicated to training the dogs to get them certified to help others. Some programs will certify owner-trained dogs as well. For more information, contact a local service dog program in your area.
If you would like to donate to Assistance Dogs Australia or Guide Dogs Australia, please follow these links: Donate Assistance Dogs, Donate Guide Dogs.