The old saying “dog is a man’s (and woman’s) best friend” rings true, but for some pups, their purpose in life extends beyond providing friendly companionship to their human. For instance, some dogs are trained to be K-9 dogs to assist police forces with investigations. Other unsung heroes of the doggy species are guide dogs and service dogs.
Guide dogs and service dogs are often confused as being one in the same and although guide dogs are service dogs, the two terms hold different meanings. The term ‘service dog’ refers to any dog trained to perform specific tasks for people with disabilities, but guide dogs are specifically trained to guide visually impaired or blind individuals. Now that you know the difference between guide dogs and service dogs, let’s take a look at how they’re similar.
Pairing Owners with Guide or Service Dogs is Done with Careful Consideration
Just as you would choose a pet based on characteristics that are appropriate for you and your lifestyle, professional service dog trainers weigh a number of considerations when pairing their pups with owners. Everything from the owner’s lifestyle to the type of home they live in, to the ages and number of people in their family’s household is considered to ensure both human and pup are happy with each other.
Handlers and Service Dogs Spend Many Hours Training and Bonding
Service and guide dogs aren’t simply trained to do their job and then sent off with the first handler they’re paired with. In reality, these dogs and their would-be handlers spend many hours training and bonding in the presence of a professional service dog trainer before the final pairing decision is made.
Training for Service Dogs Begins at a Very Young Age
Aspiring service pups begin their training process as young as eight weeks old. At that point, they are sent to puppy raisers who train them in social and basic obedient behaviors before they are returned to the service dog training facility at around 12 to 18 months old to begin their formal service training. Many hours and people are involved in service training before pups are paired with handlers.
Service and Guide Dogs Give their Handlers Independence
One of the greatest rewards for service dog and guide dog handlers is the independence they regain or gain for the first time through the assistance of their dog. Because of guide dogs, the blind no longer have to have human companionship to make their way around town. Children and adults with autism can feel more comfortable in social situations with the help of an autism assistance dog. Service dogs like seizure response and medical assistance dogs can literally save their handler’s lives.
One More Thing You Should Know About Service and Guide Dogs
As you can see, quite a bit of work goes into training a service and guide dog, which brings us to our next point. One very important thing you should know about any type of service dog is that you should leave them alone when they are wearing their vests. Much like a work uniform represents someone who is on the job, a work vest for dogs is meant to communicate to humans that the pup is at work and needs not to be disturbed. Though these pups are sweet and friendly, playing with them distracts them from their work which could be potentially harmful to their handler.