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National Service Dog Month: Salute Our Canine Heroes

National Service Dog Month: Salute Our Canine Heroes

The origins of the domestic dog predate human civilization and every other domesticated animal. Selected as a partner and companion to our species, and having selected us in turn, no other animal understands us as well. We can read their emotions too, sometimes even more so than other human beings. So it’s no wonder we work well together.

National Service Dog month honors the working dogs that make life better for all of us. Established in 2008 as National Guide Dog month, the specially-trained companion guiding a vision-impaired owner safely through city streets is probably the first thing to come to mind when you think of a service animal.

However, service dogs are custom-trained for the people they will help, and can do anything from retrieving objects for a person with limited mobility, listening for a person with limited hearing, or any combination of these things.

Photo credit: Pawsitivity Service Dogs

 

Over the last few years, there has been a growing movement towards taking advantage of dogs’ intrinsic therapeutic capabilities. Even an untrained dog can be an emotional anchor for a person with anxiety or depression, but trained dogs — you might say those with their puppy psychology degree — have specific techniques to bring to bear. Autism service dogs, for example, are trained to refocus the humans in their charge, alert them to danger, interrupt self-harming behaviors by providing physical pressure, and guide them when in overstimulating environments.

Medical response service dogs specialize in protecting their human and calling or running for help during a medical emergency, such as a seizure. They may be trained to activate an electronic alert or pre-programmed phone when they recognize the symptoms of a medical attack, or they may even alert their human when they pick up on the signs of an impending attack before the person realizes it themselves.

Photo credit: Pawsitivity Service Dogs

Although guide dogs are normally medium- to large-sized, many other types of service roles can be filled by dogs of any breed or size, when the dog in question has the right temperament and aptitude. The general rules of service dogs should apply equally in all cases when the dog’s role is recognized: do not distract or try to interact with a service dog while working, and the dog should be able to go wherever the human goes.

Together with Petco, Natural Balance Pet Foods, which started National Service Dog Month, is collecting donations online and in stores, and contributing themselves, for their Helping Heroes Campaign. The campaign continues until October 20, 2013. You can also support it simply by buying certain dog food items.

This year, Natural Balance is also putting a special focus on military dogs. These include therapy dogs who assist veterans with post-traumatic stress disorder, drug- and bomb-sniffing dogs in military zones and even stateside at borders and airports. They’re helping to raise money for the dedication of the Military Working Dog Teams National Monument, to be unveiled October 28 at Lackland Air Force Base, in San Antonio. Click the above link to learn more about it or donate to the monument’s construction and maintenance directly.

Photo credit: U.S. Customs and Border Protection

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Top Photo credit: Library of Congress via Wikimedia

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9:35PM PST on Dec 2, 2013

Blessings to Service Animals and Animal Angels!

10:58AM PST on Nov 23, 2013

These dogs are absolutely wonderful!!

7:34AM PST on Nov 15, 2013

I wish I could thank each and every one of them for their service....

9:06AM PST on Nov 11, 2013

Thanks.

7:56AM PST on Nov 3, 2013

amazin!!!1

6:47AM PDT on Oct 29, 2013

Thanks for the article.

3:56AM PDT on Oct 29, 2013

Thanks

11:46PM PDT on Oct 28, 2013

These dogs are amazing and so intelligent.

7:13AM PDT on Oct 27, 2013

Thanks for posting.

3:32PM PDT on Oct 26, 2013

Awesome dogs. No doubt they´re man´s best friends. Thanx for sharing! ;0)

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