Last week was International Assistance Dog Week. Assistance dogs transform the lives of their human partners with physical and mental disabilities by serving as their companion, helper, aide, best friend, and close member of their family.
By definition, an assistance dog, or service dog, is a dog that is individually trained to perform tasks that mitigate the disability of the dog’s owner. Since each person experiences a disability differently and therefore has different needs for assistance, each dog is to some extent custom-trained for the individual it will help. For example, a dog meant to assist a person in a wheelchair might be taught to pick up dropped items, open and close doors, and turn on and off lights. A dog trained to assist a person who cannot see well might be taught to avoid obstacles.