Today we celebrate Workers Day in South Africa. Let’s also take a moment to wish a Happy Workers Day to all the service dogs of South Africa.
There are many types of working dogs:
- Police dogs
- Detection dogs
- Search and rescue dogs
- Military dogs
- Herding farm dogs
- Therapy dogs
- Service dogs
If someone mentions a service dog, the first thought would generally be a guide dog for the blind. However, there are many other kinds of service dogs as well. Here are a few examples.
- Guide dogs, for someone with vision or even hearing impairments. These dogs are responsible to become the eyes and ears of their owners.
- Mobility-assistance dogs. These dogs are trained for someone who has a physical disability. The dog will help them with daily tasks such as picking things up, opening doors, and so on.
- Seizure dogs or medical assistance dogs. These dogs are trained to detect when their owner is about to have a seizure (or any other medical condition that they may have which causes episodes) and alert them of it. This gives the owner a chance to sit or lie down so they do not hurt themselves. The dog will lie down next to the owner and stay with them until they are up on their feet again.
Facts about service dogs
- Service dogs undergo hundreds if not even thousands of hours of specialized training before they are fully competent and placed with their owner.
- Any breed can become a service dog. We all believe that German Shepards are police dogs and Golden Retrievers are guide dogs. Well think again, yes certain breeds are favored, BUT this does not mean that other breeds are not ever used. Very often even mixed breed dogs are placed into service.
- A service dog can assist with the opening and closing of doors, cupboards, and even the switching on of light switches.
- It is a myth that service dogs have to wear an identification vest. Many will wear them for visibility purposes but it is not a requirement to have them on. So you may not even know that the dog you walked past is “on duty”.
- In a nutshell, service dogs are really smart and pretty darn incredible!
What should you do if you see a service dog?
The best thing to do if you see a service dog is to ignore it. Yes, it is hard I know, especially a big fluffy one! However, distracting a service dog can be dangerous as it pulls their attention away from their owners who need them to be alert.
Service dogs are trained that in an emergency they must go and find help.
So if a service dog without a person approaches you, it means the person is in trouble and needs help. In that situation follow the dog immediately!
Want to learn more
Visit the South African Guide-Dogs Association website for more information about guide and services dogs. There are many ways that the general public can get involved in supporting the work that these amazing dogs and trainers do. The association is non-government funded and relies solely on donations, sponsorships, and fundraising activities to maintain itself.