Assistance (Service ) Dogs
Dogs can certainly be a best friend, but when they are assistance animals
they are much more. These dogs allow people freedoms many of us take for
Rachael Armstrong is a Washington State University sophomore veterinary
student at who provides "basic training" to assistance dogs. "Zack" is
the two-year-old German shepherd currently under Rachael’s tutelage. His
title is prominently displayed on the red vest he wears. Given his job
will be to assist someone with day to day living, Zack must be exposed
to every possible public environment.
It is essential for people to understand that assistance dogs, even in
training, are not pets. They receive between one and two years of
"basic" training exposing them to public places and then go on to
"finishing" school for several more months to perfect their skills.
If you encounter a person with an assistance dog there are a few simple
guidelines to follow:
- Do not touch or speak to the assistance dog. This is a distraction
that interferes with their work and could endanger their human
- Never attempt to feed an assistance dog! Food is a significant
- Speak to the person, not the dog, if you have a question or would
like information about their dog.
- If you feel compelled to help someone with an assistance dog, offer
your assistance and wait for it to be accepted. Well meaning or not,
assistance that is not sought is interference and can endanger both the
handler and the dog.
Look at service dogs as you would any other hard working service
provider, with respect for the job they are doing.
This Pet Health Topic was written by Sarah Hoggan, Washington
State University, Class of 2001.
Washington State University assumes no liability for injury to
you or your pet incurred by following these descriptions or procedures.
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