Many dog owners say they get huge emotional comfort from their pet, and for disabled people there is the added benefit that dogs can actually be of help with day to day tasks such as finding the way, opening and closing doors, retrieving items, pressing buttons and switches, raising the alarm and even unloading the washing machine.
Chartwell Insurance, a completely independent insurance broker that offers a specialist, caring service for disabled customers, takes a look at the organisations helping people with disabilities find a suitable canine partner.
The Guide Dogs for the Blind Association, probably the most well known of the assistance dog organisations, was founded 80 years ago and since then has been training dogs to help provide mobility and freedom to blind and partially sighted people. It also campaigns for the rights of people with visual impairment and educates the public about eye care and funds eye disease research.
Hearing Dogs for Deaf People aims to offer greater independence, confidence and companionship to deaf people by providing dogs trained to alert them to chosen everyday sounds. Over half a million are severely or profoundly deaf and for these people a successful partnership with a hearing dog can significantly change their lives.
Dogs for the Disabled is set up to enable partnerships between people living with disabilities and specially trained assistance dogs. Their puppies go through a socialisation programme and at about 14 months go to the National Training Centre where they are taught practical skills.
Canine Partners makes life better for people with physical disabilities by finding them suitable assistance dogs. Whether it’s for company, confidence or practical help the organisation is used to dealing with people who have variety of different conditions, some of which have been experienced since birth and some acquired during their lifetime.
Support Dogs UK improves the quality of life for people with epilepsy, physical disabilities and children with autism, by training dogs to act as efficient and safe assistants. Each dog is taught tasks tailored to his owner’s needs, enabling the disabled person to lead a fuller and more independent life. Support Dogs often takes on dogs that didn’t quite make the grade as seeing eye dogs but who are ideally suited to helping in other ways.
Dog A.I.D takes a different approach to many other groups in that the disabled owner learns how to train their own dog. Generally all the training is carried out by the owner with supervision from a specially trained instructor. This means that the owner can adapt the training to their own requirements.
Assistance Dogs UK is the umbrella organisation for the registered charities that train dogs for disabled people within the United Kingdom. It facilitates the exchange of ideas and best practice amongst its members and raises awareness amongst the general public of issues involving disabled people.
All these organisations can help and advise on the responsibilities of dog ownership and the implications of having a dog in your life.