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Assistance Dogs on the Job: What They Do

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It’s International Assistance Dog Week! To help tell you what it’s all about, we have a great guest post today by Marcie Davis, the founder of International Assistance dog week. Enjoy, and make sure you visit the website or Facebook page!

This year during International Assistance Dog Week (IADW) we’re celebrating assistance dogs in the workplace.

IADW is celebrated each year starting the first Sunday in August—this year August 3-9. It was created to build awareness and recognize all the devoted, hardworking assistance dogs helping individuals mitigate their disability-related limitations.

What do assistance dogs do?

One thing these amazing dogs can do is help people with disabilities increase their independence, making it easier to find a job or get ahead in their profession. These highly trained dogs have specialized skills, depending on the type of assistance they provide to their human partner.

In recent years, the numbers and types of assistance dogs has expanded greatly. It’s not just guide dogs and service dogs anymore. There is a wide variety of assistance dogs trained to help people impacted by spinal cord injury, hearing loss, post traumatic stress disorders, diabetes, or some other medical need. And you may notice a variety of dog breeds being used as assistance dogs—not just German Shepherds, Golden Retrievers or Labs.

How to behave around assistance dogs

Whether you see an assistance dog with his or her human partner while you’re shopping at the mall or in the office, your first instinct may be to go up and say hi by petting the dog. Please resist the urge, no matter how adorable the dog.

Even with a pet dog, you should generally ask permission before interacting, but these dogs are working, and really need to focus all of their attention on their human partner. So please don’t distract them. Never speak to the dog directly without permission, and definitely don’t whistle at an assistance dog to get their attention.

Speak directly to the individual with the assistance dog and ask permission to pet or interact with the dog before you do anything. It’s fine to ask questions about the assistance dog, but please be sensitive to the fact that the dog’s partner may or may not want to talk about their disability.

Assistance dogs are trained to be very attentive, while being very well-behaved. You might not even notice the dog at first, especially if she is curled up under a table at a restaurant while her partner is dining, or if he is sitting under a conference table while his partner is attending a business meeting.

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To learn more about International Assistance Dog Week, please visit the website or Facebook page.

To learn more about assistance dogs in the workplace, you can access the August 5 webcast being produced by the Job Accommodation Network, a service of the Office of Disability Employment Policy, U.S. Department of Labor. IADW founder, Marcie Davis and West Virginia University professor and researcher, Margaret Glenn, will be discussing the issue. The webcast will be available for free to everyone at http://askjan.org/webcast/archive/index.htm starting a few days after the August 5th event, which is already completely full.

Read a story about one hearing dog team and how they work together at home, when traveling, and on the job.

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