Dogs have been man’s friend for a very long time and it is interesting to see how their usefulness has evolved from being a guard or watch dog, a companion type dog, a farm worker herding sheep and cattle to the more specialized training we are seeing today.
For many years now, dogs have been used to detect drugs and explosives at airports and other areas. We know they are also used to assist in finding lost humans and also used in the recovery process to locate dead bodies.
It is fascinating to read about the therapy dogs which are trained to go into hospitals and nursing homes and socialize and bring cheer and comfort to the residents of those organizations. I am sure that the dogs sense that they are dealing with humans who are not as strong as average and they are extra gentle with these people.
Children with autism have also been shown to respond well to therapy dogs.
There are dogs which are used as “seeing eyes” for the blind and also dogs used for the hearing impaired.
Even people with mobility problems can be assisted by trained dogs, who can assist by fetching things, opening doors and other household tasks.
Now in some prisons, dogs are used to help prisoners have a better sense of self esteem through training and programmes offer the prisoners a period of comfort, once they like dogs, and the sense of unconditional love and loyalty which dogs give so willingly.
There are dogs which are trained to alert people with epilepsy – these are known as seizure alert dogs – and these dogs when they alert the person, give the person a chance to call for help or even get themselves to a safer place. It is not known how dogs can sense these things which humans can not, but it may be a subtle change in chemical levels, maybe in sweat glands and/or the person’s breath.
Dogs used their powerful powers of scent to alert also for some types of cancer.
I recently learnt that there are Diabetic Alert Dogs known as DAD or hypoglycemia alert dogs. These are dogs which are trained to detect abnormal glucose levels in humans. These dogs, when they detect an abnormal level, then signal to the person, or the person’s family by barking, pawing or licking the person.
So although, diabetics can control their blood sugar levels through proper medication, the trained dog is a very valuable aid as it can identify when action needs to be taken. And this includes, even when a diabetic is sleeping, and the trained dog is in the room, the dog can wake and alert the person or the person’s family to the problem.
There are lots of real examples of dogs helping people who are diabetic.
These dogs are not easy to obtain and they can be expensive to buy because of their training. Golden Retrievers and Labradors and/or crosses of these breeds seem to be popular for use as Diabetic Alert Dogs.
It comes down to selecting the correct dog with the correct temperament and ability to do a task. Then a trainer needs to be skillful enough to develop the natural instincts and train the dog for the intended purpose.