A brief history of assistance dogs

October 22, 2019

Dogs are known for being our best friend, and there is no shortage of amusing videos of them ready to brighten our day.

While dogs may bring joy to millions of those who own them or watch them on the internet, there is a distinct group of dogs that bring joy in a completely different way. I’m referring to dogs with jobs.

On the 23rd November, Techniquest is holding a special event to celebrate assistance dogs. These dogs come in all shapes and sizes, carrying out an almost unlimited array of tasks that benefit and enhance the lives of the humans who need them.

A bit of history

Dogs have been used for tens of thousands of years in different roles and now, over 7,000 people use assistance dogs, from guide dogs for visually and hearing impaired to anxiety and autism support dogs. As early as the 1750’s, dogs were trained to assist visually impaired humans with shepherds and Poodles being the recommended breeds to train in 1819. In the first World War, the German ambulance association took advantage of dogs’ acute sense of smell and trained collies to find wounded soldiers on the battle field.

In 1934, Guide Dogs for the Blind Association was founded in the UK and since then, International Assistance Dog Week was founded recognise the hard work of all assistance dogs and the people who train and raise them.

What makes a good assistance dog?

All assistance dogs need at least five main traits to succeed as a service dog; a tendency to bond strongly, strong work drive, calm demeanour, friendly disposition and intelligence. This is so that they will enjoy and want to the work they are trained to do. Specific traits are more important for different tasks such as a calm temperament in dogs assessed by Pets as Therapy and Therapy Dogs Nationwide.

You might be more accustomed to seeing Labradors and Golden Retrievers being used as guide dogs for visually and hearing impaired owners, but they aren’t the only breeds being used as assistance dogs. Great Danes, Border Collies and Pit Bulls will also make excellent support dogs because of their intelligence and calm, friendly personalities.

Dogs are often trained to perform tasks with treats and means that they associate certain exercises with something positive so that they’ll keep wanting to do it. In the case of guide dogs and the dogs at Dog A.I.D, physical tasks will be performed, but in the case of Medical Detection Dogs, are trained to use their incredible sense of smell.

The Bio-detection dogs are given samples of urine, breath and swabs and taught what diseases such as cancer smell like. The Medical Alert Assistance dogs are able to detect changes in their owner’s scent just before a medical event such as seizure or low blood sugar.

Caring for the dogs that care for us

Surely because dogs give so much to humans, it might be sensible to think about what we can do for dogs. Despite our love for them, thousands of dogs need our help and the RSPCA will be on hand at the event to let us know how we can do that.

Join us for the day on Saturday 23rd November to meet assistance dogs, relax and play with some therapy dogs, learn about how dogs help us and what we can do for them in return.

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  • Techniquest, Stuart Street, Cardiff, CF10 5BW

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  • 029 2047 5475
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  •   What is Techniquest?

    Techniquest is an educational charity, with a science centre in Cardiff Bay. Our mission is to embed science in Welsh culture through interactive engagement. We provide a range of services to schools and teachers to complement formal education provision in Wales and work extensively with public audiences.

  •   Where can I park?

    We are pleased to be able to offer all of our visitors discounted parking with Q-Park, our preferred parking partner.

    The Q-Park operates the Cardiff Bay car park in Pierhead Street which is around 8 minutes walk from Techniquest.

    We have agreed a special discount rate for our customers of 15% off all pre-bookings.
    Pre-book and guarantee your space here using the code TECHNI15.

    There are also nearby pay-and-display car parks on Stuart Street and Havannah Street. Please do not park on Havannah Street itself.

    We regret that there is no parking on-site at Techniquest.

  •   Who is it for?

    Techniquest is suitable for all ages! We do have special events for certain groups, however — see Toddler Days and Home Educator days.

  • I have a different question.

    Please see our dedicated FAQ page.

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