Assistance dogs transform lives of people with physical and mental disabilities, providing practical, emotional and social support.
Dogs have been used in this way since the First World War, when German dogs were trained to guide blind ex-servicemen. Since then, the number of assistance dogs has grown significantly with dogs being trained to perform all sorts of tasks, including:
- guiding blind or partially-sighted people
- detecting oncoming seizures in epileptic people or hypoglycaemic episodes in those with diabetes
- picking up dropped items
- getting clothes out of the washing machine
- using cash-points
- pressing buttons
- alerting deaf owners to noises such as the doorbell, telephone or smoke alarm
- providing support to children with autism
Assistance dogs are highly trained and need to be comfortable in all sorts of different situations. The most common dogs used are Golden Retrievers, Labradors and their crosses, although any dog can be trained to provide some times of assistance.
In the UK, it is illegal to prevent access to a public place to an owner with a registered assistance dog, this includes taxis and private minicabs, unless the driver has a medical exemption certificate from their GP.
Assistance Dog Charities
Canine Partners provide assistance dogs for adults with physical disabilities. For more information, visit https://caninepartners.org.uk/
Dog A.I.D. (Assistance In Disability) works with people’s existing pet dogs to turn them into trained assistance dogs. For more information, visit https://dogaid.org.uk/
Dogs for Good (previously known as Dogs for the Disabled) provide assistance dogs for adults and children with a wide range of disabilities, including children with autism. For more information, visit https://www.dogsforgood.org/
Guide Dogs is the oldest assistance dog charity in the UK. They provide guide dogs to assist blind and partially-sighted people, as well as various other support services. For more information, visit https://www.guidedogs.org.uk/
Hearing Dogs train dogs to alert their deaf owners to noises such as the telephone, doorbell and smoke alarm, as well as providing a way to help them reconnect with people around them. For more information, visit https://www.hearingdogs.org.uk/
Medical Detection Dogs train dogs to sniff out cancer and other abnormalities in laboratory samples, as well as training Medical Alert Assistance Dogs who can warn owners of low or high blood sugar levels, severe allergies and more. For more information, visit https://www.medicaldetectiondogs.org.uk/
Support Dogs provide assistance dogs for children with autism, seizure alert dogs for people with epilepsy, and dogs trained to perform tasks to assist people with physical disabilities. For more information, visit https://www.supportdogs.org.uk/
Seeing Dogs is an alternative charity providing guide dogs for blind and partially-sighted people. In contrast to Guide Dogs, Seeing Dogs become the full responsibility of their new owner once they are trained. For more information, visit http://seeingdogs.org.uk/