The Service Dog is trained to meet the needs of their owner. Each Service Dog owner would have a different lifestyle and would require the Service Dog to assist with their specific needs.
In the final stages of the dog’s training the instructor would practice tasks that are very similar to the tasks that the dog will perform when it is working with it’s owner.
If you use a wheelchair it can be impossible to reach items that have been dropped on the floor or items that are placed on a high table. Service Dogs can accomplish these tasks with ease.
Door handles need to be adapted to make it possible for the dog to assist with pulling down the lever. The instructor will advise on all of the specific adaptions that will be required.
Service Dogs assist people who are physically disabled. They are taught the main tasks of retrieve, push and pull. These tasks are initially taught in their most basic form but as the dog progresses the tasks become more complex.
A Service Dog is Able to:
- Retrieve a variety of items from a variety of locations.
- Assist with the opening and closing of doors, draws, cupboards etc.
- Assist with the switching on of light switches.
- Locate a family member on the property and indicate that their owner needs assistance.
- Take items to/fetch items from another person on the property.
- Bark on command.
- Walk next to the wheelchair in a controlled manner.
Apply for a Working Dog
How South African Guide-Dogs Association for the Blind Assists Working Dog Owners
All working partnerships are eligible to receive ongoing support and advice for the working life of the dog. Instructors are available to give telephonic advice and follow up visits as needed. All partnerships are visited on an annual basis.
The owner is responsible for the upkeep of the dog but South African Guide-Dogs Association for the Blind can be approached for assistance if the dog requires any extended or expensive veterinary treatment.
Matching the Owner and the Working Dog
The success of the partnership is dependent on the owner and dog being compatible. Compatibility will depend on many different factors. A working dog that suits a young active student at university will probably not be a suitable match for a retired person.
The instructor will consider everything that they know about the temperament and working ability of the dog.
The next step will be to compare this to the needs, lifestyle, preferences and environment of the prospective owner.
What Happens When the Working Dog Retires?
Most working dogs will retire at about 10 years of age. Generally, the owner will keep the dog as a pet as they have such a strong bond with the dog. If the owner can’t keep the working dog then they are allowed to re-home the dog with a trusted friend or family member. If the owner does not know someone suitable then South African Guide-Dogs Association for the Blind will re-home the dog to an approved home.
Retired working dogs are used to a lot of companionship and are usually re-homed with someone who does not work or who works from home.
A retired dog will cost more to maintain as they may have additional health conditions due to age.