Assistant Dogs – Why We Love Them :)!

Why are dogs so amazing?

Canadian assistant dogs are incredible resources for anyone who is suffering from a disability, whether visible or invisible. Of course, what we mean by “visible or invisible” would be a disability that people can notice right away, such as being in a wheelchair, or having visual impairment; invisible may be a disability such as epilepsy or PTSD (post traumatic stress disorder). Dogs have been “man’s best friend” for as long as we can all remember, so it makes sense that we can use dogs to assist us in many ways other than pure and undeniable love and companionship.

Who can get Canadian assistant dogs?

Anyone who is living with a condition that causes every day activities to be a struggle can get Canadian assistant dogs. A person with diabetes can get an assistant dog to notify them when their blood sugar is dropping. Someone who suffers from depression can get an assistant dog to help them in innumerable ways; also people who suffer from anxiety or PTSD can get an assistant dog to nudge them when they are feeling anxious to refocus their attention on the dog and relieve stress by petting the dog.

Life doesn’t necessarily have to be a complete struggle, and you don’t have to be completely “incapable” to feel as if you deserve an assistant dog. Oftentimes, those who get an assistant dog, didn’t even realize how much they were struggling prior to having their new support system. It may not be obvious in the ways that you are suffering, and you may think that you are totally “functional”, but that doesn’t mean an assistant dog won’t help you still.

Canadian Assistant Dogs
Canadian Assistant Dogs | @heldsunphoto

How do Canadian assistant dogs help people?

It goes without saying that dogs can warm even the coldest of hearts up. Our society values dogs to such a high degree, and, anecdotally anyways, I often find myself wondering what we did as the human race to deserve such pure and amazing creatures. Canadian assistant dogs can help people with something as simple as giving them a reason to get out of bed in the morning (which can be a huge task for some people struggle with their mental health), to physically pulling someone suffering from MS (multiple sclerosis) out of their bed in the morning.

Specially trained Canadian assistant dogs go through up to two years of training to understand a variety of human needs and conditions. There are some dogs who can even detect cancer! How crazy is that? These dogs go through an abundance of training with professionals, and after the dog “passes” then they will get set up with someone on the waitlist. The companies who do this, like PAWS with a Cause, don’t just give a dog to the next person on the list though. There is an extensive interview process that will make sure that the humans and dogs personalities match with each other nicely. Once there is a personality match, the human will have to attend a two-week training course to learn everything that the dogs can do.

The trainers will always be there for those with the assistant dogs to learn new things; from adjusting their training to fit more specifically to their humans needs, or refresh old skills.

Canadian Assistant Dogs
Canadian Assistant Dogs | @missmayaslife

Where can you get an assistant dog?

There are a few organizations that specifically train dogs to grow up to be service and assistant dogs. One of the most well known organizations is PAWS with a Cause who only charge an initial registration fee, as well as a fee for the training course. Canadian assistant dogs cost roughly $30,000 to raise from birth to qualified assistant dog. Luckily, through an abundance of sponsors, fundraising, and government grants, those with disabilities don’t have to pay that much. Of course, personal fundraising and donations are welcomed, but they are not required. Furthermore, the cost of food, grooming, veterinary care, and miscellaneous expenses are the responsibility of the owner.

How long does it take to get an assistant dog?

It can take up to 24 months for a person with a disability to get an assistant dog. As stated previously, there is an extraneous training process that the dogs must go through, and then the personality match up. This is a long process, but totally worth it in the end. To have a dog that is completely perfect for you and everything you need (which is probably things you didn’t even know you needed), will make life so much easier to navigate with your disability.

Why do people need assistant dogs?

People need assistant dogs for an abundance of reasons. As we briefly stated before, some dogs can pull their people out of bed. For situations, like someone suffering from MS, where the handler cannot walk with ease, the dog will know to pull on a rope “toy” to lift the person from lying to sitting. These dogs will know how to help put their persons socks or shoes on; at the end of the day they can help them into their pajamas. Even more amazingly, they can retrieve drinks or snacks from the kitchen, they can open and close doors, they can pick things up out of reach of the handler, or even maneuver a wheelchair around a tricky landscape.

Completely differently, assistant dogs can sense when their handler is anxious, sad, or full of stress; they will try to refocus their attention to the dog, to distract or remind their handler to stay present. Anything from fidgeting, tapping, biting their nails, or “spacing out” can be signs of an oncoming anxiety or panic attack. Assistant dogs will be trained to know how to get their handler into a safe space and help them cope. Coping mechanism can, again, be nudging their owner or even applying deep pressure therapy. Check out our blog on how dogs can help stress and anxiety for more information.

Canadian Assistant Dogs | @servicedogchloe
Canadian Assistant Dogs | @servicedogchloe

Why doesn’t it look like an assistant dog is working?

When you see an assistant dog with their human on the street, their vest will say that they’re a service dog and not to touch them, because they are working. If you see someone sitting in the corning of a busy place with a dog on their lap, it is especially important not to make a fuss. What is most likely happening in this situation, is the handler is dealing with an anxiety or panic attack. The dog is doing their job and comforting their handler through the means that they were trained to do.

Canadian Assistant Dogs
Canadian Assistant Dogs | @courage4caleb

Why can’t you pet an assistant dog?

Handlers of Canadian assistant dogs understand that dogs are held to such high esteem; they understand why people want to pet them and point them out and ogle at them. Really, they get it. Dogs are great. But they urge you to be considerate of the fact that these dogs are working and essential to their well-being. You wouldn’t grab someone’s inhaler while they were using it, just to be exclaim ‘wow!’ and examine it, right? Well, you should also not do that to an assistant dog. Just because it is a living and breathing thing, does not mean that it is not providing an essential service. In some instances, people will reap the benefits of an assistant dog and not take any medication. So, essentially, the dog is their medication. Do not get in the way of that.

It is truly and understandably a hard thing to do, trust me. But just try and remember that when a handler says “no, don’t touch, they are working” they aren’t saying this to be rude, or deprive you from the joy of petting a dog — they are simply reminding you that it is their dog, that is doing a job, for them.

Do Canadian Assistant dogs have fun?

One question that handlers of assistant dogs will receive is if the dogs get “days off” or time for fun. Rest assured, they definitely do. That vest they wear? That is often put on so that the dog knows it’s time to work. When it is taken off at the end of the day or their “shift” (such as returning home after going grocery shopping, for example), and when given permission by the handler, the dog will know that they can relax and have some doggie time. Assistant and service dogs get to be normal dogs, just not while they work.

But don’t worry, Canadian assistant dogs love their job and love to work! They understand that they are providing an essential service to their handler; the love, praise, and dependence that they get in return is enough payment for them.

Canadian Assistant Dogs
Canadian Assistant Dogs | @surfdogricochet

Can people ask you why you have an assistant dog?

Another thing that is important for people to know is that assistant dog handlers have the right to refuse to answer questions about the purpose of their dog. Besides asking if the dog is a registered service dog, and what the dog is trained to do, everything else is off limits. Owners can decide if they want to say more but they do not have an obligation to do so. Just like any medical information is private, this is too.

What breeds are good for being assistant dogs?

The most common breeds for being assistant and service dogs are golden retrievers and Labradors. This is because they are people loving and confident; they are not overprotective or too hyper; and they are neither dominant or submissive. These dogs are a great size to fit under tables at restaurants, or at your feet on airplanes. Furthermore, assistant dogs shouldn’t require extensive grooming needs.

Although, Goldens and Labs are not the only dogs that can be useful to those with disabilities. Dogs like Chihuahuas, Shih Tzus, Llasa Apsos, Poodles, and Cocker Spaniels, are all good as hearing aide dogs. They are small, energetic, and ready to work at a moments notice.

Canadian Assistant Dogs
Canadian Assistant Dogs | @nw_production

Can any dog become an assistant dog?

Although the certified assistant dogs can cost upwards of $30,000, you can personally train any dog to be a therapy dog (note — not an assistant dog). Unfortunately, therapy dogs aren’t the same as assistant dogs for those with disabilities because they have not undergone specific training. However, therapy dogs are still incredibly valuable for those in hospitals, exam time, or even to comfort victims in court.

Therapy dogs must be calm in environments that are not calm. They must be gentle and comfortable with random people petting them, especially children. For this reason, senior dogs are often therapy dogs; puppies are too excitable (although, who wouldn’t feel better after being around a puppy?!).

Ultimately, dogs of all sizes and breeds can be therapy dogs. Small dogs can be great for cuddling — which, petting a dog has proven to decrease stress and blood pressure. Larger dogs are great for encouraging people to step out of themselves and play with the dogs.

Canadian Assistant Dogs
Canadian Assistant Dogs | @greenshiso_dining

Canadian Assistant Dogs Summary

There is an innumerable amount of benefits of having an assistant dog. Ultimately, however, the independence that they can give those living with visible or invisible disabilities is the most amazing gift a dog could give to a person. The unconditional love, loyalty, mental and physical support, and independence they are capable of giving is priceless. I will continue to wonder what we did as the human race to deserve dogs.

If you are considering getting a therapy dog, and have any more questions – please reach out! If you have one and we missed a vital piece of information, please let us know!

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