INTERNATIONAL ASSISTANCE DOG WEEK
International Assistance Dog Week (IADW) begins the first Sunday in August and recognizes all the devoted, hardworking assistance dogs helping individuals mitigate their disability-related limitations. Elaine Smith receives credit for the use of therapy dogs due to the development of a training program in 1976.
Assistance dogs come in two categories–Service Dogs and Facility Dogs. Service dogs are trained to do acts for people with disabilities, such as guide dogs do for the blind and hearing-impaired. Facility Dogs are used by working professionals to aid multiple people in special education or during physical therapy.
Through a training program, owner and dog learn to work together and get to know each other. Throughout the course, they learn to knock on the doors or ringing the doorbell, alert their owner of a telephone ringing or if a smoke alarm goes off. The average training period for a training dog and its owner lasts about two months. The most popular breeds for assistance dogs include Labrador Retrievers, Golden Retrievers, and German Shepherds. These breeds are among the smartest and most trainable.
Assistance Dog Etiquette
While on duty, assistance dogs have a job to do. With this in mind, if you see someone with an assistance dog, don’t get too close or try to pet it. Whether it safely guides its master or provides other services, distractions are dangerous. If you must approach, speak to the handler. Keep your own pet restrained and at a distance. Don’t assume a napping service dog is off-duty. If you see a service dog without its owner, that may be a sign of trouble. Seek help if you are able and let the dog lead you to its master.
While therapy and emotional support dogs provide a valuable benefit, they are not assistance dogs. They receive different training.
HOW TO OBSERVE
Acknowledge and honor assistance dogs by raising awareness and educate the public about assistance dogs. Use #InternationalAssistanceDogWeek in social media communications.
Assistance Dog International, a coalition of not-for-profit associations, created International Assistance Dog Week to recognize and raise awareness surrounding these very important canines.