Having proved their love for humans and their desire to serve, Labradors are now being trained throughout the world to assist many types of handicapped owners in the chores of everyday life. You have probably seen a handicapped man or woman being guided by a loving and well-trained Labrador Retriever at some time. With some assistance, many people who would formerly have been confined in their activities are now entering the mainstream of society. Their extensively trained Labradors are their vehicles to freedom.
Because Labradors have extraordinary sense of perceptions, they are one of the breeds being widely used as Hearing Ear Dogs. After completing a rigorous four- to six-month obedience and auditory awareness program, they are specifically trained to the individual needs of their hearing-impaired or deaf owners. Their primary tasks are to alert the owner to the noises that most people take for granted such as the doorbell or telephone, the alarm clock, a baby crying, smoke alarms, oncoming traffic, or emergency sirens. The Hearing Ear Dog makes his owner aware of any important sound by running between the sound and the owner until attention is paid, gently nudging an owner who is asleep, or pulling the owner from harm’s way.
Aid Dogs are trained to assist physically disabled people with tasks requiring dexterity or mobility. This variety of tasks include picking up items dropped on the floor to bringing in the mail or turning light switches on and off. These skills are taught to a Labrador by building on his natural intelligence, retrieving instincts, gentle nature, and his desire to please. After mastering a battery of advanced obedience techniques, each dog is placed with his disabled owner and taught the specific chores he will be required to perform in the home.
With an arthritis sufferer, for example, the Aid Dog will retrieve or carry objects as commanded. With a more severely handicapped individual, such as a wheel-chair-bound stroke victim or paraplegic, a system of communicating with the dog may also have to be devised to replace vocal commands or hand signals. Aid Dogs learn to assist their owners by performing many of the physical tasks they are unable to handle, in this way widening the owners’ abilities to take an active role in the world around them.
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