Dog’s History of Service to People
Dogs have long been supportive of their human companions. The history of dogs and humans is long and relates to the benefits that they share with one another. Dogs have long been recognized for their loyalty and acute senses, including hearing and smell. Dogs have proven to be adaptable to humans, accepting human training to perform many tasks. They have long been used in hunting and foraging, using their sense of smell, vision and ability to understand commands, which has been developed by their human companions to search and rescue, bomb and drug detection and other similar uses.
In the early 1940’s, the most prominent example of dogs being formally trained for service to persons with disabilities began with the training of dogs as guides to serve men blinded during World War II. That effort has expanded with many different organizations now providing dogs to vision impaired persons around the world. Other uses of service dogs began in the early 1970’s, with the foundation of Canine Companions for Independence which has also resulted in many organizations now training dogs to assist persons with various types of physical disabilities. Dogs are now accepted as supportive service companions of persons with vision impairment, a multitude of physical disabilities, hearing impairment, as well as other disabilities.
The support of service dogs relies on the ability of the animal to learn various behaviors, and perform them upon recognition of a trigger that has been taught to the dog. The triggers can be an oral command, a visual command, a sound trigger or a scent that the dog has been taught to recognize.
Dogs Provide Physical and Emotional Support
There are many studies that support the physical and emotional support that is provided by these dogs and evidence the positive impact on both the physical and emotional health of their companions. As an example, see the study cited below:
“The Benefits of Guide Dog Ownership” By L. Whitmarsh, requests for reprints can be sent to: Guide Dogs, Hillfields, Burghfield,ReadingRG7 3YG,UK
Benefits of Guide Dog Ownership
Dogs and Diabetes
Anecdotal information has long been available that dogs could alert their companions of the onset of a hypoglycemic episode. Work has begun to better understand this area, but much more is needed. See the reports cited below that provide some recent information regarding dogs’ responses to hypoglycemia:
“Canine Responses to Hypoglycemia in Patients with Type I Diabetes” By Deborah L. Wells, Ph.D. Shaun W. Lawson, Ph.D. and A. Niroshan Siriwardena, Ph.D.
THE JOURNAL OF ALTERNATIVE AND COMPLEMENTARY MEDICINE
Volume 14, Number 10, 2008, pp. 000–000
© Mary Ann Liebert, Inc.
Canine Responses to Hypoglycemia
“A dog’s detection of low blood sugar: a case report”By M. B. O’Connor, C. H. Walsh, C. O’Connor,Irish Journal of Medical Science
Received:4 July 2007/ Accepted:23 January 2008
Royal Academy of Medicine in Ireland 2008
A dog’s detection of low blood sugar
Mark Ruefenacht used his dog training background from Guide Dogs for the Blind of San Rafael to evaluate the potential support that a dog could provide an insulin-dependent diabetic.
In his research to develop a Medical-Alert Assistance Dog for diabetics, Mark Ruefenacht used his dog training background from Guide Dogs for the Blind of San Rafael to evaluate the potential support that a dog could provide an insulin-dependent diabetic. That background, coupled with his professional work in forensic science, helped him to develop methods and protocols to train a dog that could could detect and alert to hypoglycemia (low blood sugar).
Dogs for Diabetics, Inc. is recognized world-wide as the pioneer and seminal organization in training dogs to respond to hypoglycemia. D4D has trained and placed over 100 dogs with insulin-dependent diabetics. D4D dogs and clients are trained to achieve a high level of consistent alerts that build the client’s confidence in the dog’s ability to respond to acute changes in their blood sugar. A variety of positive outcomes are reported by D4D clients, starting with improvements in their insulin management as well as in other aspects of their physical, mental, and emotional health.
More Research is Needed
More resources are needed to complete research into the phenomena of dogs scenting hypoglycemia in diabetics in order to further develop the training protocols used to train these dogs. Additional research should be performed to understand the impact of these dogs on the physical and emotional health of diabetics. Additional research will assist in providing this beneficial service to more diabetics world-wide.