International Assistance Dog Week

We’ve all heard the saying “Not all super-heroes wear capes”, right? Well here at Saint Leonard Veterinary Centre we also believe that not all heroes have two legs; this year, 2018, it’s time to celebrate

International Assistance Dog Week in the week commencing 5th August.

The vast majority of us go around quite independently in our day-to-day lives, not giving a single milliseconds thought to the complexity of the task(s) that lie ahead of us. Not everyone in our communities has that luxury though; some people have physical or mental /behavioural disabilities that have a major impact on their ability to do mundane, everyday tasks that we take for granted. This is where Assistance Dogs U.K can help.

Assistance Dogs U.K is a coalition of 8 assistance dog charities that is committed to helping those with disabilities lead “normal” lives. Over 7,000 disabled people in the U.K rely on an assistance dog. These incredible canines allow disabled people, those with impairments, or with life-threatening conditions to lead independent, fulfilled lives. It isn’t always about the physical tasks that these amazing dogs can be trained to do; very often it’s the difference to someone’s confidence or behaviour that they make that’s crucial.

All Assistance Dogs U.K (ADUK) member charities have to pass an extensive accreditation process of their training standards and administrative practices, which is set by Assistance Dogs International (ADI) and the International Guide Dogs Federation.

The eight member charities of ADUK are:

Canine Partners, Dog Assistance in Disability (Dog AID), Dogs for Good, Guide Dogs, Hearing Dogs for Deaf People, Medical Detection Dogs, Support Dogs, and the Seeing Dogs Alliance.


Some of the charities are ones we hear about regularly, and I can remember collecting foil milk bottle tops for Blue Peter appeals for the Guide Dogs charity (showing my age a bit here!). Some of them however are less familiar, so I thought I would just share a quick over-view of them all with you. If you are interested in helping a particular charity out, just nip over to their websites to find out more detail.

First up is Canine Partners, a charity which only works with adults, and they must solely have physical disabilities or conditions which affect their daily life and limits their independence. Canine Partner dogs give practical day to day assistance for their human counterpart, on tasks which they struggle with. These dogs can clearly be identified by their purple jackets.


Dog AID assists their clients to train their own pet dog to help them with their specific needs. Not only does this make sourcing a dog easier (it’s there already, as is the bond between dog and human), it really does tailor make the solution for that individual. It’s very often simple things, like picking up dropped objects, opening and shutting doors, or placing things like the telephone receiver or T.V remote where required, that these dogs are most valuable for.

Dogs for Good’s qualified canine heroes wear green vests to help the general public identify them. This charity supports adults (17 years+) and children (7-16 years) with a wide range of disabilities to lead independent lives, as well as helping children between 3-10 years of age who have Autism to cope with their environment.

Most people are familiar with Guide Dogs; qualified canines wear a white harness with yellow fluorescent strips on it. This charity helps adults and young people with total blindness or partial sight loss; currently there are over 4,950 guide dog owners in the UK alone! What most people aren’t familiar with though is the fact that some of the Guide Dogs have been trained in additional support. If you see a guide dog with a red and white check harness it signifies that the handler also has hearing loss as well as visual disability; a blue and white check harness means that the dog is a trained seizure alert dog as well as being a guide dog.

Hearing Dogs for Deaf People train their dogs for children aged 7-12 years, and adults (17+) that have impaired hearing. The majority of the dogs used by this charity are Cocker Spaniels, Miniature Poodles, Labradors, and Cockerpoos; their canine superheroes wear burgundy coloured jacketsJ

Dogs are renowned for their extraordinary sense of smell and in recent years this area has been channelled to help detect diseases in the human body. Medical Detection Dogs train bio-detection dogs to detect the odour of some human diseases; I must admit to being somewhat of a geek and finding this area of veterinary science fascinating! Medical Alert Assistance dogs are trained to sense an impending attack in their human partner that has a dangerous health condition, such as Diabetes or Epilepsy, and keep them safe or garner assistance until the danger has passed.

Support Dogs train their canines to increase their handlers’ independence and quality of life, whether that’s for a child with Autism, or for adults with Epilepsy and physical disabilities. These four-legged forces of nature do a variety of tasks such as helping with getting dressed, emptying washing machines (and loading it too!), and opening doors.

The last charity in the ADUKs umbrella is the Seeing Dogs Alliance, whose sole aim is to provide an alternative source of dogs to guide blind people. This charity is run by guide dog owners and their families, and trains dogs to guide blind and partially sighted people so that they can live independent lives.

I think that these canines do an awe-inspiring range of tasks and that they most definitely deserve an International week of recognition, don’t you? Dogs are amazing anyway, but there aren’t many people who don’t strike up a conversation with a stranger when they see them out walking their dog; simply to have a quick stroke of fur and be rewarded by a furiously wagging tail 🙂

If you’re out-and-about and see a dog in a coloured vest or jacket with a charities’ name on, say hello to their human and ask if you can give their furry saviour a well-done pat (or two!).

Until next time; stay safe, stay well, and be happy 🙂