Because of COVID-19, we’ve all had to change our ways and what we do during the course of a day and that includes how we interact with each other as well as pets.
And because of the worldwide pandemic, it’s easy to let social distancing slip your mind when you see an adorable dog helping their handler with a disability. In the “before” times, well-meaning strangers have a pet, talked to, tried to feed, or gazed longingly at working service dogs, potentially distracting the dog. However, in this new Covid-19 era, social distancing can be more important for people with disabilities who may have vulnerable immune systems.
Canine Companions service dogs are professionally trained in 40 commands to enhance independence for people with disabilities, including the “shake” command – a way for members of the public to meet a working service dog in an appropriate manner by allowing the handler to direct the dog to offer its paw. With changing needs due to the pandemic, Canine Companions innovatively changed how they train service dogs to interact with the public, according to a news release.
“People still want to meet our clients’ working service dogs, but ‘shake’ was impossible due to social distancing and could even pose a risk to the handler’s health,” said Canine Companions Director of Training and Client Services Sarah Birman in the news release. “We pivoted to the ‘say hi’ command and are now training all of our service dogs to wave at new friends from a safe distance.”
Despite the challenges of a pandemic, Canine Companions has placed more than 200 service dogs this year nationwide through carefully distanced, small classes with hospital-level sanitation protocols.
“It has been really helpful for Service Dog Renata to know how to wave,” said client Wallis Brozman in the release. “That short interaction allows me to connect with the world safely. I can tell people are smiling under their masks.”
The next time you approach a dog — be it a service dog or an ordinary four-legged cutie — be aware of keeping your distance the same way you would a two-legged person.
Founded in 1975, Canine Companions created the concept of training dogs to help people with physical disabilities and is a founding and accredited member of Assistance Dogs International. They’ve placed over 6,600 expertly trained service dogs entirely free of charge and have teams working in all 50 states. As the industry leader, Canine Companions has found innovative ways to further independence through highly skilled service dogs.
Source: Canine Companions for Independence