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The History Of Assistance Dogs

And their important role in the lives of those they assist

Service dog with bilateral leg amputee veteran akc.org

Through our articles, we always highlight both the values ​​that characterize dogs and our appreciation for the contribution they make to our lives. In addition to being unconditional companions and adorable pets, dogs are also selfless workers.



Dogs are always ready to help their humans, regardless of the effort required or the complexity of the task. These creatures endowed with great intelligence and empathy are, and were, always willing to put their talents at our service, both to help us achieve small goals and to contribute to the greatest achievements of humanity.

The news often show examples of canine heroes who have protected, even with their lives, their human friends. With great integrity, they instinctively identify and take care of the most vulnerable people such as the elderly, children and even other animals.

Dogs’ altruistic spirit and natural aptitude to take care of others, made it possible to train them with the aim of assisting people with different abilities. This led to the emergence of a special type of professionally trained working dogs: assistance dogs.

A little bit of history

The earliest known reference to the existence of service dogs dates back to a nineteenth-century novel called Aurora Leigh. Its author, Elizabeth Barret Browing, describes among the characters a man and his guide dog.

In 1819, Johann Whilhelm Klein founded in Vienna, the Blinden-Erziehungs-Institut, an institute for the education of blind people. In one of his books about education, he introduces the concept of a guide dog and explains his method of training.

However, it was in Oldenburg, Germany, in 1916, that the first guide dog training school was founded, as they are known today. In order to assist soldiers who had lost their eyesight and were returning from the battlefields during World War I, Dr. Gerhard Stalling began the systematic training of dogs.

Assistance dogs are faithful companions and adorable pets when they are at home and not wearing their work gear. However, it is important to understand that when they wear their vests and harnesses, they are working and should not be distracted or interrupted while on duty. That is why it is recommended to…Continue reading

For a decade, this school was essential for the concept of the assistance dog to spread beyond Germany and for its graduates to assist people from all over the world.

In the early 1930s, the first associations emerged and assistance dogs could freely access public places and transport.

Currently, given the specificity in the type of task performed by the assistance dogs and the diversity in their training, it became necessary to divide them into specific groups.

assistance dog training

“Assistance dogs not only provide a specific service to their handlers, but also greatly enhance the quality of their lives with a new sense of freedom and independence.”

Definition according to Assistance Dogs International

To be considered as an assistance animal, a dog must perform tasks directly related to the need of the person it assists. Among them, we can consider those who:

  • Assist people with visual or auditory impairment;
  • Alert before the possibility of attacks, seizures or allergic reactions;
  • Support people with psychiatric or neurological diseases; and
  • Help people with reduced mobility.

Even when some dogs are trained to perform more than one specific task, according to their field of expertise, there are different groups of assistance dogs that you can learn about in the below articles.

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