A couple of weeks ago, I was talking to one of my faculty mentors about their service dog. Some of the topics we discussed included the importance of service dog etiquette and and different types of service dogs. Even though I do not have a service dog of my own, I love having the opportunity to help educate my friends about how great service dogs can be. One of my favorite tools to use when educating others about service dogs is the livecam videos from Explore, since they have high-quality videos that explain how the dogs are trained. Here are my tips for understanding service dog training with technology and how to learn more about service dogs with Explore.
What is a service dog?
A service dog is an assistance dog that is trained specifically to help people with disabilities. These dogs often go through training with nonprofit organizations, starting as young as nine weeks old, and learn specific commands in order to assist their owner. Service dogs are allowed to go most places with their owners, and are protected under the Americans With Disabilities Act, which protects against discrimination for people with disabilities.
Why should we learn about service dogs?
Here are some of the many benefits of learning about service dogs using technology:
- People can become more informed about how service dogs can be used by people with disabilities
- It allows people to see that service dogs are dogs- they are not perfect all the time
- People can use technology as a supplement to learning about service dog etiquette
- It takes the burden off of service dog handlers to have to explain their disability or their dog's function(s) to random strangers
- By being educated about service dogs, people may be less likely to use a fake service dog in the future if they know how important trained service dogs are.
What is Explore?
Explore is a multimedia organization that allows people to learn about a variety of topics through the use of photos and videos. One of their most popular types of content is the free educational livecams/livestreams on animals, space, and natural wonders from all around the world. Users can access the Explore livecams 24/7 using a computer, tablet, or phone, no account needed.
I use Explore when explaining service dog training with technology because it can be accessed on any internet-connected device and is not blocked by most internet filters in schools. Another benefit is that a majority of the dogs featured on the livecams are puppies, and who doesn't love puppies?
Accessing multiple livecams
Many organizations have more than one livecam for their organization. To switch between livecams, click on the icons underneath the currently playing livecam and switch between the different views.
Guide Dogs of America
Guide Dogs of America has a livecam for their puppy nursery and mobility area, where viewers can watch the puppies grow up and learn to help people with vision impairments navigate the world. The Explore page also features educational information and answers common questions about how blind people can benefit from having guide dogs. As of publishing time, all of the puppies are labrador retrievers.
What to remember about guide dogs
- Guide dogs can help a person with blindness or low vision to navigate in indoor and outdoor settings.
- When a guide dog is on harness, they are at work and should not be distracted.
- People who use guide dogs can also use phones. If you see a guide dog handler using a phone, don't assume they are faking their disability!
Service Dog Project
The Service Dog Project trains great danes to help people with disabilities, and has a large variety of different livecams for viewers. The dogs are trained to help people with mobility and balance issues related to a disability such as Parkinson’s disease, cerebral palsy, multiple sclerosis, and similar. Some people with Chiari Malformation use balance dogs as well. The training area shows how the dogs learn how to navigate different types of terrain so that they will be able to help keep their handler from losing their balance and/or falling.
What to remember about balance dogs
- Balance dogs can be trained to do a variety of tasks, including picking up objects, opening/closing doors, and even carrying in groceries.
- If a balance dog is distracted, this can cause the handler to use their balance and fall.
- People who use balance dogs can sometimes walk short distances without the help of their dog.
East Coast Assistance Dogs
East Coast Assistance Dogs (ECAD) trains puppies to be general service dogs for people with disabilities. Users can watch the three livecams and learn about how the dogs are trained to be comfortable around medical equipment and assist their owners with activities of daily living. Many of the livecams play highlight reels so people can see the classes in action without having to worry about tuning in to watch them live. There is also a live puppy camera which shows the newborn labrador/golden retriever hybrid puppies- so cute!
What to remember about general service dogs
- General service dogs can be trained to help with tasks around the home, work, or other locations.
- General service dogs go through rigorous training, just like other specialized service dogs.
- Many people with invisible disabilities use general service dogs to accomplish different tasks
Warrior Canine Connection/K9s for Warriors
Warrior Canine Connection and K9s for Warriors train service dogs to help military veterans who have PTSD and/or traumatic brain injury. These dogs are extremely important as they help veterans integrate into civilian life and assist with helping them to manage their condition. There are several different streams that show people helping the dogs socialize, puppy rooms, and other outdoor areas.
What to remember about service dogs for veterans
- A lot of service dogs for veterans wear camouflage vests that are similar to a military uniform.
- There are several different dog breeds that can be trained to be service dogs for veterans, though medium/large sized dogs are widely preferred.
- PTSD dogs should never be distracted. They are constantly monitoring their owner to see if they will have an adverse reaction
Ways to use Explore livecams to explain service dogs
Here are some examples of how to use Explore livecams to explain service dogs:
- Creating a classroom lesson about how service dogs help people with disabilities
- Explaining how a service dog can benefit someone with a disability
- Introducing family members to a service dog
- A creative way for handlers to explain service dogs to teachers or professors
There are many other types of service dogs and service dog organizations besides the ones listed on Explore. One thing all service dogs and service dog organizations have in common though is that they all want to help people with disabilities and chronic illnesses to lead independent and productive lives. By using technology to understand service dog training, users can be educated on the benefits of having a service dog and understand the importance of service dog etiquette so that the dogs can do their job.