Assistance dogs support people with disabilities and chronic illnesses as well as traumatized soldiers. They provide protection, security and help people cope with everyday life. Sometimes they even overcome barriers no other family member, therapist, or doctor could.
These loyal animals have a unique way of communicating and connecting with clients thanks to their individual assistance performances that are trained over months and the love and support that they selflessly give.
Schooled to accommodate distinct needs
Assistance dogs are vital helpers for people with disabilities, and they are trained in a way tailored to specific needs of the clients. As a result, the demands on the dog can be as varied as the disabilities themselves.
Some of their general duties include tasks such as opening doors, picking up fallen objects, bringing the phone, pulling the laundry out of the washing machine, operating switches and getting help in emergency situations. More particular duties, like for example an appropriate way to accompany clients in wheelchairs, are trained individually.
For people with an autism spectrum disorder, the world is much easier to grasp with autism assistance dogs by their side. The dogs help clients, understand and develop relationships, improve their eye contact and body language, and help to cope with repetitive behaviours. At the same time, they make their surroundings seem less overwhelming and frightening to the dog holder.
The chairwoman of the Rehabilitation Dog Association, Astrid Ledwina, explains how special the bond between a child with an autism spectrum disorder and the assistance dog can be: “One mother called me to tell me how life has fundamentally changed with an assistance dog.”
Her child demonstrated a strong tendency to run away and had refused to stop plucking flowers and grass when being outside, which made it impossible to go for a walk with him. After getting the dog, the child was able to walk calmly, and the running tendencies were prevented by attaching him to the dog with special harnesses, describes Ms. Ledwina and adds: “The mother was relieved because now she could enjoy the walks with her son wherever she wanted”.
The dog became an extended arm of the parent by providing the necessary support and control of sudden movements while simultaneously stimulating the child to feel responsibility.
Another story comes from a family with a little girl who didn’t want to communicate with others and could only walk in one direction. Improvements that occurred after the dog entered this family’s life were evident: The girl could walk without any difficulties and even felt encouraged by the dog to start talking to other people.
Partnership based on trust and understanding
Partaking in activities of everyday life can be challenging for people with PTSD (post-traumatic stress disorder) and trauma-related disorders. Because of their military training, the soldiers often feel the symptom of heightened alertness and tension, so they require distance from others.
In this case, a PTSD soldier dog is trained to establish a barrier to keep other people at a distance, like when standing in a queue at the cash register in a store.
People suffering from PTSD can have problems with uncontrollable flashbacks, anxiety or panic attacks, depression and nightmares. Even smells or common sounds like a door slamming can trigger old memories of traumatic experiences.
The dogs are trained to respond to the behavior of the affected by visual and/or auditory stimuli and they learn to interrupt certain behavior patterns at an early stage.
That is why trained dogs know how to recognize anxiety and interrupt the interference by redirecting the owner’s attention to something else, taking them to a safe place, waking them up from nightmares, or even to bring them medication and water bottles. But most importantly, dogs don’t judge. Instead, they offer their partners courage, hope, and strength not to give up.
Get to know the team Echo Sierra and see how the PTSD Assistance dog Emma helped the soldier.
Apart from autism assistance dogs and PTSD assistance dogs for people with mission-related
or occupational traumatization, the “Rehahunde Deutschland” association trains dogs to become:
● Assistance dogs for people with mobility impairments
● Assistance dogs with different assisting services and school dogs.
All dogs are individually trained to the clinical picture of the affected person.
Visit “Rehahunde Deutschland” to learn more.