Photo courtesy of Canine Assistants

Pulling a wheelchair, turning on a light switch, retrieving a dropped object…these are just a few of the tasks dogs can perform to help the disabled and increase independence. Some dogs even offer support that people–and even medical science–can’t provide.

Recently I was researching an article and had the pleasure of speaking with Jennifer Arnold, bestselling author of Through a Dog’s Eyes, and In a Dog’s Heart, and founder of Canine Assistants. Instantly I knew that Canine Assistants was the cause I would highlight for Blog the Change.

Jennifer Arnold

Located in Georgia, Canine Assistants is a non-profit organization which trains and provides service dogs, seizure response dogs, and companion dogs for children and adults with physical disabilities and other special needs. About 1,000 dogs, mainly golden retrievers, Labrador retrievers and goldendoodles, have been placed since the organization began in 1991. 

In addition to physical assistance, the dogs can provide emotional support. Often a dog is able to get through to a person in a way that no other human can.

Seizure response dogs provide assistance after a person has a seizure by laying next to the person, retrieving a cordless phone, or even pressing a medic alert button.

Another type of service dog, seizure alert dogs, sense an oncoming seizure and can alert a person before it happens. Because at this point no one really understands what the dogs are sensing, that behavior can’t be trained. But Jennifer explained that after a strong bond is developed, 87% of her seizure response dogs were able to alert their partners in this way.

Photo courtesy of Canine Assistants

Choice Teaching
Jennifer uses only positive training methods. The methodology she developed is called Choice Teaching, and involves rewards for positive behavior. This leads to “calm, well-mannered dogs who respect their human partner and enjoy doing as asked.”  Throughout our conversation, I could easily sense Jennifer’s dedication, respect and love for the dogs she works with.

There is no charge for a dog through Canine Assistants. Recipients attend a two week training class in Georgia to learn how to work with their dog, and for the dog to learn about them. The waiting list for Canine Assistants dogs is from 1 to 5 years.

I wanted to tell you all about this inspiring organization and hope if you might check out their website, or Facebook, and if you know anyone who could benefit from their wonderful work, you might spread the word.