Service dogs â€” or any kind of service animal â€” are not pets. They are working animals that are highly trained to help people live their lives to the fullest, and to cope with various conditions and disabilities, including mental health issues.Â Â
A video of a service dog in action, posted by dog trainer Amber Aquart, shows just how incredible service dogs are at managing various situations. In the viral video from June 2018, Aquart’s service dog, Oakley, can be seen trying to break her arms apart while she is having a panic attack at the airport.Â
Aquart captioned the video explaining that one of the dog’s many tasks is to de-escalate anxiety/panic attacks. “Oakley alerted and acted three times at the airport today,” she wrote. “I caught the last ones on video because I could feel them coming.”
She continues that Oakley has been taught to break her hands apart and bring them away from her face, and to put her hands or face on him to help calm her down.
“There is so much to say on this matter, but I will just leave this video here for you to see for yourself,” stated Aquart. “Sharing this video and these things make me vulnerable, but I’m sharing them with you so you can see how this dog has changed my life […]”
The video captured just one aspect of a service dog’s training, but it’s something that many don’t get to see. Being able to see the dog at work helps give people an understanding of how incredible they are.
Aquart frequently posts things that highlight service dogs via Pawsitive Development, her educational platform for people to learn about the different kinds of service dogs, the potential of shelter dogs, and some of her dogs, including ones she has trained and her own service dogs, Tucker and Oakley.Â
“I’ve always loved animals and wanted to work with them since I was a child,” she told A Plus. “I thought the only option I had was to be a veterinarian, but didn’t enjoy the medical side of things.” After volunteering anywhere she could and learning about animal behavior, she studied animal training. From there, she took a job as a professional dog trainer. “Since that moment, I’ve been training dogs professionally and continuing my education through certification programs and conferences,” she said.Â
Those who visit the website and the @PawsitiveDevelopment Instagram will see Oakley and Tucker showcasing just how much service dogs are capable of.
Aquart told A Plus that Tucker is a border collie/Aussie mix who became her original service dog after he was rescued from the woods of Georgia. He struggled with anxiety which presented challenges working with him in public places, so she adopted Oakley to specifically be her service dog. Oakley was re-homed three times before Aquart adopted him.
Oakley and Tucker show the different types of jobs service dogs can do. For instance, Aquart explains they’re both trained to retrieve her medicine, be alert to oncoming anxiety (such as heart rate increasing, labored breathing, hands shaking), interrupt panic/anxiety attacks, and perform deep pressure therapy.Â
As her main service dog, Oakley is trained to become a “barrier” between herself and other people when in lines or crowded places, guide her out of crowds, find the exits of buildings, and more. She explains, “With him, I’m able to go to places that without him would have been unbearable. I know that he’s always looking out for me and ready to jump to my aid whenever needed.” Tucker stays at home and works from there, but Aquart regularly goes hiking with both of them. She states, “It’s a way for the dogs and I to decompress and to really enjoy life to the fullest. You will see plenty of hiking adventures on my Instagram.”
Â Aquart’s personal examples help highlight why service dogs are so important. There is actually so much that they do that some people might not be aware of.
Many probably think of service dogs guiding those who are blind or have vision impairment. Aquart adds that service dogs can also “be trained to alert the deaf, be the hands for people who are physically disabled, alert to low or high blood sugar, and even help mitigate mental/psychological disabilities such as PTSD and more.
An important distinction to be aware of is that service dogs are not pets. “They are working for their handler and are not there to give you attention,” says Aquart. “It’s important to not distract a service dog. Speak to the dog’s handler, not to the dog.” She suggests that if you have a question about the dog, some handlers may not mind answering. If someone is receptive to answering questions, she recommends pretending the dog isn’t there and giving enough space for a dog to do its job.
Those who are looking to get involved should note there are several different programs to learn about service dog training. Aquart took a course on medical alert dog training because she felt that this type of service dog work is frequently “misunderstood and overlooked.” What’s more, service dog training is also a continual learning process and takes years of experience.Â
She hopes that people reading about her experiences and training dogs realize the great impact of positive training.
Aquart points out that both of her dogs were adopted from shelters.Â
Finally, she hopes that people realize the difference service dogs can make to people with disabilities of all types. “Service dogs give people independence and there are many service dogs for invisible disabilities,” she explains. “Just because someone looks like they don’t need one doesn’t mean they don’t.”
She continues that service dogs go through years of training and should not be distracted. “They should be respected and admired for their hard work and dedication to their handler,” Aquart concludes.
(H/T: Bored Panda)