International Assistance Dog Week (August 1-7, 2021) is a week to honor and acknowledge the working animals in our communities that make human lives better. We’re sharing more information about what assistance dogs are, who they help, and how you can go about training or obtaining one to help a loved one in your life.

What is an assistance dog?

“Assistance dog” is a generic term for a type of dog that performs several areas of services for people who need physical assistance. It is a trained dog that can aid in lessening the effects of the person’s disability from guiding someone across the street to helping pull a wheelchair. Assistance dogs could be guide dogs, hearing dogs, or service dogs.

Who can assistance dogs help?

Assistance dogs can help a variety of people. Specifically, assistance dogs help deaf, blind, and physically disabled people as an aid so that they can carry out day-to-day tasks that a physically able person can do on their own.

How can you train or certify a dog to be an assistance dog?

If you’re wondering how to certify your dog to be an assistance dog, you can find many trusted professional service dog organizations who can be of service. Assistance dogs should be well mannered and socialized before they begin training to do specific tasks. Oftentimes, there are better breeds than others to become service dogs including but not limited to: Labrador Retrievers, Golden Retrievers, German Shepherds, and Poodles. If your dog has a calm demeanor, listens well, and is intelligent overall, he or she may be a good candidate to become an assistance dog with the proper training.

What is the difference between an assistance dog and a service dog?

A service dog is trained to help with many duties beyond physical disabilities, including medical conditions like diabetes, autism, seizures, and others. They help people who need help with mobility, physical support, balance, and even psychiatric or neurological issues. Both terms have been used interchangeably by the public, but a service dog can oftentimes work for people with disabilities beyond just sight and hearing like an assistance dog does.

What is an emotional support animal?

An emotional support animal does not qualify as an assistance animal. They serve people who suffer from psychological disorders. They are trained to behave well with basic obedience in institutions where they’re allowed. They do not have public access to all places like service or assistance dogs do. They do need to be certified by a qualified doctor, therapist, or other mental health professional in order to be determined an emotional support animal (ESA).

Where can I find additional information about assistance dogs?

There are several trusted organizations where you can find additional information about certifying a service animal including the American Kennel Club and Assistance Dogs International. Talk to your veterinarian or dog trainer about the potential of your dog becoming a service animal.