Guide dogs help a visually impaired person to navigate their life, thereby providing increased mobility and independence.
Hearing dogs specialize in alerting deaf or hard-of-hearing partners to key sounds – an alarm, a doorbell, a smoke detector or a crying child.
Service dogs assist mobility-impaired individuals with such specific tasks as opening doors, handling monetary transactions at stores, retrieving dropped items, switching lights on and off and bringing the phone in an emergency.
Medical alert dogs are trained to warn a diabetic of a potentially fatal drop in blood sugar, to anticipate a partner’s epileptic seizure or to prevent or soothe a debilitating panic attack. Specially trained autism dogs partner with children diagnosed with autism spectrum disorder to help prevent fleeing, to increase social interaction and to engage difficult to reach children.
With the partnership of a highly specialized dog, thousands of people with disabilities and their families are offered increased independence and confidence, along with the gift of unconditional love.
Studies continually confirm that the mere presence of a dog has real medical and psychological benefits. Visits to nursing home facilities have consistently shown a drop in blood pressure, an increase in communication, alertness and a relaxing of stress and depression in residents. Reader dogs assist literacy teachers to help struggling readers to practice and improve their skills. Animal-assisted therapy pairs a dog with physical therapists, social workers and educators to complement structured activities to improve specific conditions. Dogs are especially good with children, allowing victims of abuse or trauma to share their stories in a legal or counseling setting with the comfort of a soft coat and a wet nose.
A dog’s sense of smell can be up to 10,000 times more sensitive and accurate than that of a human. By harnessing this amazing resource, teams can help locate missing hikers, bombs or buried landmines in war zones, cadavers in lakes or drugs hidden in a vehicle. Dogs are also able to sense a drop in blood sugar or a change in the body’s electrical currents, helping to prevent or minimize potentially lethal seizures in diabetics and epileptics.
Dogs are assisting in wildlife conservation by detecting the scat of endangered species to help identify current habitats. Our police, fire departments and military are using dogs in weapons searches, arson investigations, as protection against assailants and in forensic analysis. There are promising studies indicating that dogs can even detect some kinds of cancer in urine and blood samples.