Helping dogs in everyday life – when animals help their humans to survive

Message from 05/10/2022

by Elke Stockhausen

Dogs are part of our family. We enjoy spending time with them, we have claims to them and in return we provide and take care of them. But for some, dogs are more than just a loyal friend. Specially trained assistance dogs enable many people to manage their lives.

Atrio for support in everyday life. (Photo: Elke Stockhausen)

Westerwald. In general, and this is what distinguishes them from wolves, dogs have been domesticated (tamed from the wild forms) and bred to perform specific tasks. Herding dogs can guide a flock of sheep and raise them together on their own. On the other hand, herd guard dogs protect the herd. Guard dogs and hunting dogs, which today are often just purely family dogs, are selectively bred for hunting. Even small, helpful and sweet “puppies” were bred for purely social reasons, among other things. We keep dogs for a purpose, because friendship with them is also a purpose that arises from the desire for joy and diversity or the suppression of loneliness.

But some dogs do much more than that, they are the ones who guide, support and make life easier for people with physical, mental or health issues and even have the power to save their owner’s life. For example, there are diabetes alert dogs that can smell a rapid drop or rise in blood sugar levels and warn people with type 1 diabetes. Guide dogs safely guide their owners through their lives and then return them to their independence. The latter is mentioned in the Catalog of Assistance in the Social Security Act (§33 SGB V). In this way, the health insurance company covers the costs of acquiring, training and maintaining the animal. However, other assistance dogs are not funded through health insurance.

And for many of us, there is no doubt that a guide dog really works. We realize that a person cannot see the other side of the line. Our recognition creates acceptance and consideration in everyday life.

All other assistance dogs are less well known. They, too, are specially marked and have the same rights, because they all support one person. The so-called identification blanket in the shoulder area or scarf with a note – in the case of blind guide dogs also strict evidence of the owner – allows clear identification. In this way, strangers can distinguish between a help dog and another dog that might “go for a walk.” And if they are to be carried in retail premises, this is not permitted, unlike assistance dogs. For an assistance dog, “free entry” applies to public facilities, including groceries, as well as medical facilities such as ambulances, hospitals, and doctors’ offices. According to BGG §12e ff (Disability Equality Act), the holder is allowed to take it to any place where people wearing street shoes are allowed to enter.

The truth in the life of this bond between man and dogs
Atrego and his mistress from Westerwald know how to report that ignorance of these special rights often leads to discussions – to moments when explanations are necessary and which should be avoided. She can visit most shops with him without any problems, because they know that he supports them in their daily tasks and helps them find their way. She is grateful to her employees and clients for this. She sees and hears that it’s none of the obvious disabilities that affect her. It was the experiences she had that robbed us of the ease of life that would normally be normal for us. Therefore, their feelings should not be equated with ours. There are various factors (initiating factors) that do not allow for a normal life as we feel it. This is where the dog helps her. He is aware of personal danger and knows how to distract her and warn her in time, even before she herself realizes the approaching and threatening situation. In this way, she can take care of herself at an early stage.

However, he is not ready for spontaneous reactions. Then you stand alone. Questions such as “Do you train a dog for a blind person?” It might be meant politely, but it annoys them because they need an explanation. Phrases such as “I don’t need a help dog” without asking about the background are extremely harmful to them. After all, invisible scars are often the most painful, just as they can lie on the soul. If people pay attention to the light signals – the dog wears an identification blanket – and derive their actions from them, they will be spared some stressful situations.

Is it ignorance? The frivolity with which we often meet other people? They are often met with a discriminatory appearance and people who depend on aid in daily life are still the wrong focus. Recently, there was a discussion in a discount store that the deputy branch manager wanted to prevent her from entering the store with her dog, she said. And here is not alone. In 2018/2019, the Federal Anti-Discrimination Agency registered 18 cases with the same content nationwide. Hygiene regulations are cited as the basis for deciding whether to prohibit entry.

However, there are corresponding statements from the Robert Koch Institute, which clearly refute these concerns. What happens in the retail sector is also happening in medical practices and clinics, with six cases recorded here. However, how often does this actually happen? Because not every one of these situations is reported in any way by those affected.

Of course, you can quote or publish legal texts, write about equality, or discuss the concept of inclusion. It requires attention and training in the right places. Simple information is needed in strategically favorable locations that explain briefly and thus prevent stressful situations for people with health disabilities.

Claw pilot H. V. developed a concept for this. Flyers, posters and posters can be obtained there, for example. Placed in the grocery store entrance window, all customers can be informed. Help dogs should not be touched, that human idiosyncrasies are part of normal life, that respect and understanding should be part of our social behavior, and this will continue to be a learning process.

What is the correct way to deal with a help dog?
Atréju is not Labrador or Golden Retriever, which are often thought of as work assistance dogs. He is Eurasian. Many dog ​​breeds are suitable for assisting dogs and are selected individually after consultation with an assistant dog trainer. A cute and friendly dog ​​that invites many dog ​​lovers to pet him. This distracts the service dogs from their work, which is very important for the owner.

Service dogs should not be disturbed or distracted. This means not touching, petting, staring, seducing, or feeding your service dog. You should prevent your dogs from running into a service dog. It is best to keep an appropriate distance from the service dog. In her spare time the help dog, as well as the dog school, also has the opportunity to communicate with other dogs.

For some strangers, reporting a service dog can also be annoying. So alerting or jumping on the rack will help that person help themselves. Sometimes he leads his human quickly to the exit and shows him a place to sit, which can easily be interpreted as bad animal behaviour. It is precisely these skills that make him so special.

During the long and intense training period of about 18 to 24 months, the assistance dog learns how to behave properly depending on the situation and the partner. If you don’t know this, you might consider begging for a treat or disobedience. This is exactly the behavior of a dog that helps its human.

Some assistance dogs, such as those for epilepsy patients, also carry an emergency kit and seek help from strangers. In emergency situations, it is clear that they will draw attention to themselves in order to save the life of their master or mistress. The relevant information can then be found in the emergency bag.

In the event an ambulance is needed, the assistance dog should not be separated from its human being. Transportation is permitted by law.

If you want to know more about assistance dogs, you can simply ask their owners with care and sensitivity. Depending on the situation, some service dog owners will certainly be happy to answer general questions. Otherwise you can also learn more about claw flyers.

(1) Sdr_3120019121313300 (Anti-discrimination agency. de)
(2) § 12e BGG – Single Standard (
(3) 7 barriers to helping dogs: how to overcome them (
(4) Conversation with Atrio and his “stepsister”. Name and place of residence remain anonymous to protect personal rights.

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