How dogs help people?
How dogs help people?
A dog is a man's best friend - probably every child knows this saying. And it is, of course, true! But do we really know how much dogs support us in everyday life?
Let's look at a few of the areas where dogs use their extremely sensitive senses and intelligence in collaboration with humans.
- Dog therapy
- Where dog therapy is useful?
- Guide dog
- Police and military dogs
- Dogs detecting drugs and dangerous substances
- Tracking and rescue dogs
- Dogs hunting for …
- Disease detection
Dog therapyDog therapy
Probably many people have heard about this method of working with a dog, but let's take a closer look at it. It is a technique of working with a person that requires rehabilitation to fully recover, psychological support, or simply to sweeten loneliness. Animals (in this case dogs, but horses, donkeys or alpacas also provide excellent support!) are selected on the basis of their abilities and disposition, and then trained by qualified trainers to help such people in therapy.
The dog that will eventually be selected for dog therapy must meet several basic conditions - it should be mentally stable, respond to appropriate commands, be gentle in dealing with treated patients (that's why usually slightly older dogs are selected, not vicious and carefree puppies). Such a dog should also be patient, he must also have excellent contact with his trainer, who tells him how to behave in a given situation (but also watches over the safety of the dog and the patient).
Where dog therapy comes in handy?
Dog therapy it is often used as a supporting method of working with children with disabilities (both physical and intellectual). Contact with a dog allows such children to open up to safe touch, teaches them to build relationships and interactions, gives them a sense of agency when the dog obeys their orders, increases the level of self-confidence in withdrawn children or children with anxiety disorders, and teaches them responsibility for living creatures.
Dog therapy is also very effective in supporting treatment:
- bipolar disorder,
- post-traumatic stress disorder,
- Alzheimer's disease.
Dogotherapy is also often used in the physical rehabilitation of patients in hospitals who, thanks to contacts with dogs, gain more motivation to work on their body and its limitations.
It is also an excellent method of working with seniors who often suffer from loneliness. Dog therapists organize classes with dogs in seniors' homes, hospices, cultural centers, city parks to allow seniors to contact dogs. Dogs have a natural ability to open up people who cannot cope with interpersonal contacts, have physical blocks related to contact, but at the same time have a great need to touch, hug, pet the dog, but also have an unsatisfied care instinct.
What is important in such work (as from the outside it may seem like fun) is to take care of the well-being of not only the patient, but also the dog. For the dog, each such session with a loud child, senior, hospital stay is also exhausting and requires a long regeneration time. That is why it is so important to have a trained and responsible guardian who, above all, will provide the dog with adequate working conditions and subsequent relaxation.
For some time this technique of work has been so effective and widespread that since 2007 even the National Dogotherapy Day has been celebrated!
Guide dogGuide dog
Most of us have seen a blind person with a guide dog in the urban space, which, thanks to special training, is able to help such a person in everyday life and, in a way, replaces his eyesight. But the guide dog has many more functions.
These are dogs that, thanks to special training and selection, perfectly support their owners. Usually such a dog is trained for a specific person and his needs and lives with him in one house, thus creating an unbreakable bond and becoming a member of the family. For example, when a dog is trained for a wheelchair user, the emphasis is on being able to always come when called, pick up objects that fall, open the refrigerator, and even help the person get from the wheelchair to the bed.
These dogs are also used to work with people who, for example, suffer from epilepsy and warn them about further attacks early enough so that their owners have time to prepare. Dogs are able to sense the change in the smell of a person, which heralds an attack, much earlier than the patient himself senses the deterioration of well-being.
Of course, in order for a dog to become a good handler, it must undergo a series of strict training courses that last about 2 years and cost a lot. It is a demanding job, because the dog must be constantly vigilant in order to perform its role well, so when it exceeds a certain age (usually 8), it retires. Since a bond is naturally created between a man and a dog, the dog often stays in the family, but no longer acts as a guide, or is eventually sent to lighter and less strenuous work.
Police and military dogsPolice dog
When we think about police dogs, it is immediately visible in front of the eyes of an upright, proud German Shepherd, who stands vigilantly at the side of a man in uniform and only waits for his command. This vision is not so far from reality. In fact, among the police and military dogs there are many German Shepherds, Belgian Shepherds, but also retrievers, terriers and Newfoundlands.
When choosing a dog to work in uniformed services, the key factors are his mental predispositions, discipline and courage. Such dogs are subjected to many demanding tests in the recruitment process and only some of them pass them. A police dog cannot be afraid of shots, demonstrations, attackers attacking him or a policeman, he must be brave, vigilant, but also obedient to the owner so that he can perform his tasks efficiently. He must also learn quickly and be able to find himself in difficult and often dangerous situations. The key here is a stable psyche and the ability to control emotions, only mentally well-balanced dogs are suitable for this work. The dog must trust its owner, but the owner must also trust the dog.
The scope of work of a police or military dog is very wide - dogs are used as a means of direct coercion against attackers, are sent for reconnaissance and patrol of the area, warn against the threat and intrusion of undesirable people into the protected area, they also search for illegal substances at borders and airports.
It is a stressful job, physically and mentally demanding, so dogs can only work for a few years and then retire. Sometimes they stay with their professional partners, i.e. policemen and soldiers, and sometimes they are donated to foundations that look for suitable homes for such dogs, where they can spend the time they have left in peace.
Dogs detecting drugs and dangerous substancesDogs detecting drugs and dangerous substances
Such dogs also perform their functions when working for the police, customs and border guards. This work uses one of the wonders of nature that the dog has been endowed with, i.e. his extremely sensitive nose, which is able to detect the smallest particle of smell, where a man or a machine would certainly not be able to cope. Well, let's face it, dogs have around 220 million odor receptors while humans have around 5 million, so we're unlikely to ever be able to compete with them!
Dogs looking for drugs or other illegal substances (e.g. explosives in war zones) are, of course, professionally trained in advance. The idea is for the dog to be alert to that one particular smell, which it is supposed to detect and ignore others. It requires hard work with the trainer, the ability to focus on work and learning by the dog and absorb a lot of information.
Tracking and rescue dogsRescuer dog
Tracking dogs can also work in the police or, for example, in the Mountain Volunteer Rescue Service. Here, too, their fantastic sense of smell is used, which allows them to track down a fugitive or a person buried by an avalanche or debris. Well trained dogs are able to detect odor particles that are a good few days old but are still palpable to a dog's nose. The dog will follow this trail using the force of the wind that carries the smell, or the residual smell on grass, bushes or wet ground.
Here, too, professional training and preparation of the dog to work in various, sometimes extreme conditions, such as snow, low temperatures, at night, natural obstacles, etc.
Of course, such a dog is an inseparable link with its rescuer or policeman, who are also properly trained to work with the dog.
The dog's task is to locate a person buried in an avalanche, kidnapped by the elements, a missing person or a potentially dangerous criminal, and then inform its owner about it.
If there is such a possibility, the dog first receives an object or a piece of clothing belonging to the wanted person to smell, so that it can select its smell and then follow the smell.
Dogs that catch the trail often chase the scent, and the owner must keep up with them for the action to make sense. The dog is trained to let you know where it is after completing its mission - whether it's by kicking it hard, sitting next to the victim, or barking loudly.
Which dogs are best at such tasks? There is no one selected breed here, there are German, Belgian, Australian shepherds, retrievers, but also smaller hunting dogs, such as pointers or beagles. The key to choosing a dog is its ability to focus and follow, good physical condition, and mental and physical resilience.
These dogs have an extremely responsible task and human life often depends on them!
Dogs hunting for…
truffles Lagotto Romagnolo - truffle dog
But the tracking dogs, which are very useful to humans, although in a completely different field, also include dogs…
looking for truffles! Truffles are very valuable mushrooms with a specific taste and smell that are used to compose refined dishes in restaurants around the world. The problem is that truffles are perfectly camouflage because they grow underground! And here the dogs that know very well, thanks to the developed sense of smell, are extremely useful, where these expensive mushrooms (looking like not very appetizing tubers, to be honest) are hidden. After finding the mushrooms, the dogs start digging intensively in a given place, shoveling the soil away with their paws. This is where dog owners (so-called "trufflers ") usually enter, reward the dog for the find and extract this treat from under the ground so that it does not get damaged, because its price on the gastronomic market can be really dizzying.
Finally, it is necessary to mention the dynamically developing field of medicine in which dogs play a huge part. For some time now, dogs have been trained to detect tumors in the body's cells. This is still an area of research and much work to be done, but already many trained dogs are able to locate cancer cells in the human body, greatly accelerating the chance of cancer being detected and thus cured. Dogs are able (by smelling the blood or urine of patients) to determine with high accuracy whether they contain cancer-causing cells.in prostate or lung cancer. In some hospitals in Italy and the United States, specially trained dogs practically work hand in hand with doctors and help with diagnosis.
To sum up - a dog is not only a cute companion who brings us a toy, but also an extremely wise and responsible partner who, thanks to his abilities, is able to really help us in our lives! Let us thank them for that!
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