Animals for the disabled are called service dogs. The Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) defines a service dog as a dog trained to provide assistance to an individual with a disability. Service dogs include assistance, hearing and guide dogs. Generally any breed of dog can be employed since the dog’s temperament is the most important determining factor. However, retrievers are known to possess the vital skills and talents required as service dogs, and smaller breeds are used as hearing dogs.
Golden retrievers and Labrador retrievers are considered to be the best service dogs due to their intelligence, loyalty and ease of training. They are highly competent at performing the special tasks required of them to assist and support the disabled in their daily lives. Golden retrievers in particular are preferred because of their temperament. They are highly devoted, calm, obedient, confident, sociable, willing to work and have a quick response to situations requiring immediate action.
Assistance dogs help the disabled become as independent as possible. They help their partners perform essential living tasks such as opening and closing doors, carrying items, pulling a wheelchair, helping their partner up after falling, providing balance while walking or climbing stairs, and barking for help.
Hearing dogs are trained to recognize a wide range of sounds necessary for daily life and alert their hearing-impaired or deaf partners accordingly. Some of these sounds include a fire alarm, doorbell, telephone, alarm clock, dropped keys, honking horn, burglar alarm, smoke detector, oven timer or the deaf person’s name being called. Typically hearing dogs are small to medium-sized dogs such as terrier mixes, poodles, cocker spaniels, Lhasa apsos, shih tzus and Chihuahuas.
Guide dogs are trained to assist the visually impaired or blind. They guide their partners in avoiding obstacles, walking along sidewalks or up and down stairs, navigating traffic and using public transportation systems. They remember obstacles within their partner’s environment such as curbs, doorways and low-hanging light fixtures. Guide dogs enable their partners to lead productive lives and prevent their injury by helping them go anywhere the sighted go.
Certification of service dogs is not required by the federal Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA). However, registration and identification from a reputable organization enables the disabled less problematic access to public places such as grocery stores, restaurants, lodging facilities, public transportation and private housing areas with no-pet policies. Registration procedures vary among organizations, but typically a photo identification badge and certificate are provided.
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