Monday, February 20, 2012

Guide-dogs, Service Dogs and Social Dogs

I was asked on Twitter this week if there is a difference between a seeing-eye dog and a guide-dog? The short answer is no, its just different terminology and the titles are interchangeable. But there are other kinds of dogs in service to people who are disabled.

A SAGA guide-dog (AKA seeing-eye dog) is specially trained to lead a blind or partially sighted person around obstacles. But its a lot more than that. These dogs are raised and trained in such a way that they are able to make decisions for their blind partner. If a traffic light turns green, this is a signal to a guide-dog to lead his blind partner across an intersection. But if the guide-dog sees a car coming that his partner doesn't hear he needs to decide to hold his blind partner back regardless of the traffic signal. This "decision making" skill is one of the main reasons the pups are trained with positive reinforcement instead of punishment. We don't want to "break" the dogs to make them obedient. #SAGApupVolt is most likely destined to be a guide-dog.
Here is a Wikipedia link for further reading on guide-dogs.

A SAGA service dog is trained to aid people who are disabled in other ways. People who are wheelchair bound can make use of these dogs to attract attention if their disabled partner can't speak or has fallen out of his wheelchair, retrieve dropped or fallen objects, switch lights on and off, open doors, and many more tasks. A big difference between a service dog and a guide-dog is temperament. A service dog is more gentle  than a guide-dog and often learn to respond to commands faster and without repetition.
Here is a Wikipedia link for further reading on service dogs.

SAGA also trains what they call "social" dogs (there's no link on their website yet). A social dog can work with therapists in the fields of counselling and rehabilitation, or they may be assigned to work with an autistic child one-on-one.
I will see if I can get more information from SAGA on exactly what a social dog's training entails.

Does that make the different roles of working dogs a little clearer? Do you have any questions?

click on the puppy to make a donation to SAGA

Don't forget to check out the Twitter hash-tag #SAGApupVolt to see regular updates on my puppy raising adventure!


Gina said...

Awesome, thank you for explaining :)

cat said...

Thanks for explaing

Gill said...

I have done a blog post on Volt and I pinched a photo off this blog - hope you don't mind, if you want me to remove it for any reason just leave me a comment okay!