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School (German)
Assistance dogs (German)
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Social dogs

Link to the leaflet «Sozialhunde» (in German)

 

Social dogs are dogs that regularly carry out voluntary, unpaid assignments within a community. The social dog is trained together with its owner and carries out its duties under the owner’s instruction.

Goal of Social dog services

It is intended that those dogs from the Foundation Swiss School for Guide Dogs for the Blind which cannot be trained as guide dogs should learn to serve the community in a different way; one for which they are better suited.

 

The acquisition of a dog of this kind should, whenever possible, be linked to an undertaking to complete a suitable training course (offered by the guide dogs school) with that dog, and then to perform suitable services on a regular basis. The nature and duration of the community service will be decided by the school.

Suitable locations are

  • retirement homes
  • hospitals
  • special remedial schools
  • homes for the handicapped
  • therapeutic residential units
  • residences for AIDS patients
  • psychiatric clinics
  • kindergartens

 

The place of deployment and the suitability of the dog require careful clarification.

Specially trained social dog teams can also be assigned to work directly with occupational therapists, physiotherapists and speech therapists as well as with doctors.

Prerequisites

  • Age of the dog when starting training: minimum 2 years
  • Open friendly nature and healthy constitution of the dog
  • Willingness of the dog owner to volunteer

Training: Social Dog Team

Since 2002 the guide dogs school provides tried-and-tested, very individual training and support for social dog teams thanks to specially qualified trainers in various parts of Switzerland. The successful training methods and basic principles are regularly revised in the light of the very latest findings.

Following an aptitude test, there is a meeting with the dog owner to learn something about the latter’s motivation and suitability.

 

Once candidates have been admitted, six practical training day take place at regular intervals. Once the individual social dog teams reach the desired level of training, a suitability test lasting several hours is carried out on the basis of the «Good Citizen Dog» test. This comprises challenging test assignments that examine the basic obedience and the desired reaction and behavioural patterns of the would-be social dog under more challenging conditions. During this suitability test the future social dog is also subjected to a thorough (and compulsory) veterinary examination. It goes without saying that the vaccination schedule is also verified at this time.

 

In parallel to the practical training, the dog owner learns all he/she needs to know about the future assignments during two half-day theoretical sessions. There is also a written test to check full comprehension of the course material.

What does the dog learn?

The future social dog is accustomed stepwise to as many as possible of the situations it will encounter during its later on-site deployments. These include: walking alongside a wheelchair; walking on a double lead; walking on a slippery floor; coping with narrow, crowded lifts; falling objects; patients shouting; doors slamming; strong and unaccustomed smells; people wearing unconventional clothing or moving or standing in unusual ways; etc.

 

The future social dog also learns, for example, to tolerate clumsy or rough handling and to trust its owner implicitly in tricky situations.

What does the human learn?

The social dog owner learns to communicate in depth with his/her dog in order to develop a relationship of mutual respect. In addition, he/she learns to recognise the dog’s conflict and stress signals early on so as to protect it from excessive stress. Instruction is also given in the best way to groom a social dog and on how to introduce an animal to its contact person.

 

Training given to the social dog owner also includes hands-on information on how to behave in the company of each person being visited. This includes some basic knowledge of the commonest illnesses and symptoms with which they are most likely to be confronted.

When is a social dog team ready to act?

The prerequisites for deployment have been fulfilled when the theoretical and practical training is completed and the theoretical and aptitude tests have been passed. The social dog owner receives a diploma and a deployment ID. The social dog team is now ready to serve the community: indeed, it is duty bound to undertake regular assignments.

 

Initial and further training, and in particular also the requisite deployment ID, are recorded in the official “Swiss volunteer worker’s certificate”. This accredited licence issued by our guide dogs school forms the basis for the annual renewal of the deployment ID.

You can get information on the availability of social dog teams directly from:

Support social dogs, sozialhundeanti spam bot@blindenhundeschuleanti spam bot.ch