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According to various studies, 78.9% of people say that “their pet” is one more member of the family and, even, for 9.4% it is the most important being within the family nucleus; while, as indicated by the Spanish Network for the Identification of Companion Animals (REIAC), the number of registered pets amounts to 13 million, of which just over 7 million are dogs. For this reason, on the occasion of World San Anton Daywhich is celebrated today, January 17, and values ​​the work of assistance dogs, the Chair Animals and Society of the URJC, explains the need for the help of these animals for certain people with disabilities or groups in need of special support, as well as what types of assistance dogs exist. “According to the law, an assistance dog is one that has been individually trained to perform tasks for the benefit of a person with a disability. For this reason, this animal must receive specific training from specialized and legally recognized persons or institutions, ensuring that it is not another new exploitation of the dogs, from their breeding, selection, training and coexistence, which must be done by creating a respectful relationship. ”, details Nuria Máximo, director of the URJC Animal and Society Chair. Therefore, the relationship with assistance dogs promotes the highest quality of life and independence of certain sectors of society that have a recognized physical, mental or sensory disability such as blindness or deafness or specific medical needs such as diabetes, epilepsy or narcolepsy. These people, in addition, must have a degree of disability equal to or greater than 33% and need service or accompaniment for driving, assistance or support for personal autonomy.

Assistance Dog Characteristics

For its part, the assistance dog must present certain characteristics such as being docile, calm and having little aggressiveness, being affectionate and having a great capacity for learning, as well as a correct reaction to sounds and signals, while, on the other hand, The user of the service offered by the dog must take care of certain issues such as ensuring a healthy coexistence with others, having his identification visible, ensuring his hygiene, taking responsibility for his health and taking him when appropriate to an inspection carried out by the entity that trained the dog. dog. “It is essential that these animals are specifically trained to meet the specific needs of the person they are accompanying and, therefore, there are different types of assistance dogs, since this modality includes guide dogs, service dogs, of autism, to those of medical alert and to the signal”, details Nuria Máximo.

Types of assistance dogs

In this way, assistance dogs are classified into guide dogsintended to guide people with visual disabilities; service dogseducated and trained to help people with physical disabilities, increasing their autonomy and well-being; autism dogswhose purpose is to protect the physical integrity of people with autism spectrum disorder and improve their communication, sensory stimulation and safety; medical alert dogs, designed to help people who suffer from a medical condition related to epilepsy or diabetes and ask for help if necessary; and the dogs sign, which pursue the objective of warning people with hearing disabilities of various sounds and indicate their source of origin. Regarding the bond that the dog must have with each person, Mónica Kern, canine educator at Perrunando Madrid, emphasizes that “an assistance dog is one that was individually trained for the benefit of a person with a disability, but it is essential that the user wants to include a dog in his life as a member of the family, with the consequences that this entails: walking to the dog, interact with him, etc. Also, he has to get benefits in that relationship, so there needs to be a strong human-animal bond for this team to work fully.”

Differences between an assistance and intervention dog

The main difference between assistance dogs and those of intervention is that, while the former are intended to assist a person with functional diversity and live with the user, the latter intervene within a therapeutic health program determined, carrying out joint support work together with a multidisciplinary team made up of health or education professionals, looking for concrete improvements in different areas such as the physical, cognitive, relational or emotional of the individual.

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