An introduction to Dog Assistance in Disability

PUBLISHED: 11:25 28 October 2014 | UPDATED: 16:16 07 April 2015

Bella with a bag / Photo: K. Humble: humblehouse.co.uk

Bella with a bag / Photo: K. Humble: humblehouse.co.uk

K. Humble

If you are out and about in the area and see an assistance dog wearing a red jacket, chances are Shrewsbury charity Dog Assistance in Disability (Dog A.I.D.) played a part in its training.

Caroline Lewis and Sera wearing the red jacket for promotional purposes only / Photo: Julia StanleyCaroline Lewis and Sera wearing the red jacket for promotional purposes only / Photo: Julia Stanley

What makes Dog A.I.D. different is the fact that they work with a disabled person to train their pet dog to assistance dog level. This takes from 18 months to two years with both dog and owner receiving specialist education from a network of trainers based around the country. The dog owner is given all the tools required to constantly reinforce training methods learnt and also continue to teach their dog new commands and tasks independently.

Once trained, the dog will be confident in no end of social environments carrying out tasks such as picking up dropped objects, opening and shutting doors, finding articles which have been mislaid, putting washing in the machine, taking it out, placing articles where required, fetching help and much more.

Having an assistance dog enriches the life of a person with disabilities significantly. Not only do they have physical help, but they also have emotional support, independence and company.

Caroline Lewis from Shropshire is tetraplegic after a car accident in 1988, she is currently training German Shepherd Sera with Dog A.I.D. She said: “I have 24hr P.A.’s, but to be with a dog who is capable of doing things for me provides such a sense of independence. No longer will I always have to ask someone to pick up something I dropped, Sera, who is learning fast, will do it for me just as Jade, my first Assistance Dog used to. She would appear from nowhere on hearing something drop and place it on my lap with such a sense of pride it always made me smile. I was able to come home from town on my own, safe in the knowledge that I had my canine assistant with me, rather than feeling vulnerable and alone.

“As a person in a wheelchair, an Assistance Dog also breaks down social barriers because people want to come and talk to me about the dog. I simply can’t put into words the impact having an Assistance Dog, especially self-trained, has had on my life. It’s an exceptionally special relationship and one made all the more so when that dog comes into your life as a pet but quickly becomes your helper.

“Being disabled can be very restrictive, but with an Assistance Dog so many more opportunities open up to you, this provides a sense of freedom and confidence, literally opening doors when going to places such as hotels and restaurants. What’s more, the dog is an ambassador for Dog A.I.D. as they are so well behaved!

“For me, an Assistance Dog is not only one of my assistants, but also my constant companion who is always there for me whatever happens. I can’t thank Dog A.I.D. enough for providing me with the tools and support to transform a pet dog into a fully qualified Assistance Dog. I look forward to the day when Sera can follow in Jade’s paw prints and wear the prestigious red jacket that identifies a qualfied Dog A.I.D. Assistance Dog.”

You can support Dog A.I.D. in Shropshire by fundraising, collecting used stamps, volunteering or making a purchase from our online shop. For further information please visit http://www.dogaid.org.uk/ or call 01743 588469.

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