International Association of
Assistance Dog Partners
Service Dog Training In Sweden
Here are our program information. It was written in 1992 but it is still the same. We have 10 service dog teams and 3 hearing dog teams, and 10 during education. We will start up at least 10 more teams in the spring 1997, 10 in the summer 1997, and then we will see what will happen.
P.S: I'm looking forward to meet you and to attend the conference.
Marie recently reported 19 service dog teams, 9 hearing dog teams and 19 during education.
Service Dogs and Hearing DogsWide experience has been gained in the use of dogs as aids for disabled people in England, Holland and in the USA. Sight impaired people have considerable help from their guide dogs, deaf people or those with hearing difficulties are helped by hearing dogs and disabled people are assisted by service dogs. In Sweden we have only made use of guide dogs up till now.
Hearing dogs: Deaf people or those with hearing difficulties can be helped in their everyday life by dogs trained to signal in various ways when they hear for instance; a fire alarm, the door bell, a knock on the door, a baby crying, the phone ring or at the call of a name. The dog is trained to respond to those sounds it's owner wants it to react to.
Service dogs are trained to help disabled people by for instance; opening and closing doors, picking things up from the floor or off the ground, pushing the lift button or turning on the light as well as other things practically difficult for the dog's disabled owner.
Lief and Lajban
During the spring of 1989, a pilot training programme was initiated for a service dog. It involved border collie bitch Lajban who was about a year old and her wheelchair user master, Leif Josephsson.
Dog psychologists Anders Hallgren and Marie Hansson-Hallgren were responsible for the project. They also designed the training programme and carried out the basic training. Marie Fogelquist, the instructor, guided Leif and Lajban in their day-to-day training. Effem, the animal food division within Masterfoods, took the first initiative and provided the funds which made the project possible. Manimalis, a non-profit making association, helped with international contacts and literature among other things. This pilot project was conducted during the autumn of 1989.
The Hearing Dog and Service Dog Project
Nordiska Rehabiliteringsfonden, NRF (a rehabilitation fund foundation) is now running a project to train service dogs, hearing dogs and their owner. AllmEnna Arvsfonden (a national inheritance fund) contributes funding for the project. The Service and Hearing Dog Group works with the training of disabled, deaf and hearing impaired owners so that they can train their dogs to help them in their everyday life.
Many people assume that the training of guide dogs, service dogs and hearing dogs is motivated by a wish to use them like technical aids. This may be one of the dogs many roles but it is far from the most important one. The disabled person rarely stresses the purely technical help they get from their dog as a priority. The most important aspect is rather the dog's role as friend - the warmth of the relationship and the importance of company.
Dogs want to work. Since dogs are active creatures, they thrive when they have the opportunity to learn things and perform tasks. A sedentary and passive life is unnatural and many family dogs "sleep their lives away". A dog trained to help their disabled master or mistress has a professional role which brings a sense of harmony and increases the quality of life. This is one of the reasons why these dogs work so happily and willingly - they enjoy their tasks.
Of course the dog is useful due to its special training. The disabled person is helped in a number of ways which make life easier. The service dog picks things up that have dropped to the floor or ground. Even though this might sound like a simple thing it can be impossible to do for a disabled person. In the same way the dog can press buttons and provide support to make transferring from wheelchair to bed easier. The dog can raise the alarm if it's master has fallen, it can open and close doors as well as fetch and carry things.
The Close Relationship
Nevertheless, the greatest contribution is the warmth, camradery and company of the relationship. Thanks to the training of both dog and owner, disabled people can keep dogs and benefit from the significant advantages of such a bond. Recent research has in fact found that dogs have much more to give humans than was previously believed.
It has been possible to establish that the presence of a dog has a calming effect. Blood pressure drops and the pulse rate slows down. Sufferers of heart attacks recover more rapidly and completely if they have a dog. This effect is attributed to the vital physical contact - being able to stroke the soft coat and to express ones feelings. All the exercise one gets as a dog owner, of course contributes to general well-being as well as the opportunities for laughter and cheerfulness causing the body's endormorphine system to come into play. This strengthens immune defences and increases general well-being too. You could say that dogs are very effective vitamin pills!
A number of different studies show the enormous boost a dog can provide its owner - solely by being there! The dog provides a social link to others. When out with the dog you get more smiles from passers by than you get when you're out with the children! Lots of people like to come up and talk and stroke the dog which leads to both fleeting as well as deeper social contacts being initiated. The feeling of isolation which can easily affect disabled, deaf or hearing-impaired people even when surrounded by others, disappears when you have a dog. Aaron Katcher, an American psychokogist has listed some of the positive effects dogs can have on humans. They include the following:
To this list we should add - a sense of control. A dog gives his owner that essential sense of being able to perform a task, of being able to manipulate what goes on, an ability to influence your own predicament. Psychological and medical research shows how important it is for us to have this sense of control in being able to meet and master the various difficulties which arise in the course of our daily lives. A dog provides all these things.
- Someone to alleviate loneliness.
- Someone to take responsibility for.
- Someone to keep you active.
- Someone to touch and stroke.
- Someone to observe.
- Someone that provides security.
- Someone that stimulates you to do things.
What The Project Involves:
The project we are introducing involves the training of service dogs and hearing dogs along with their owners. This is contained within the framework of an ideology which stipulates that the dogs should not be used solely for the services they can provide. The idea is that the disabled person learns to do as much of the training as possible themselves. In this way the costly practise exercises conducted in other countries in the training of these dogs are minimal. The instructor's role is to guide and perhaps to train at certain points. In this way the dog will listen to and obey his owner most.
Many disabled people and their families own dogs but they haven't achieved that degree of obedience and the level of service skills necessary for the dog to function efficiently as help. In these cases the instructor can plan a specifically adapted training programme. In other cases, where the disabled person doesn't have a dog, the instructor can select an adult dog which can suitably be moved to a new home and could then decide jointly what skills the dogs should be trained in.
We, the instructors, have undergone thorough training and have comprehensive knowledge of dog psychology and training. We have among other things a foundation instructors course as well as a special course in service and hearing dog training. The idea is to eventually train more instructors in order to be able to cover the whole of Sweden.
We intend to exert pressure to get service and hearing dogs the same social status and acceptance as guide dogs have today. This would involve their being permitted to accompany their owners everywhere. We also intend to exert influence so that the owners of these dogs will be exempted from taxation obligations for their pets.
At the end of the training period the service and hearing dogs along with their owners will be examined by The Service and Hearing Dog Group and other experts. The Service and Hearing Dog Group will remain in the background to follow up the dogs, assist the instructors and take responsibility for the training process being correctly conducted for both dogs and humans.
What does the training consist of?
The dogs are trained in a natural and considerate way in basic obedience. This involves walking well on the lead, not jumping up on people, seeking eye-contact, only approaching other dogs and people with permission as well as being able to respond to various commands. Apart from the obedience training itself, the dog should be able to vent its energy according to its nature. This is the background to mental activation, which is a method of stimulating the dog in order to neutralise stress phenomena and hyper-energy. If the daily duties are not enough to stimulate the competent service dog, the owner can train the dog with activation exercises.
Obedience: Strict demands are made, as outlined above, on the service dog's obedience when the owner uses a wheelchair. Extra eye-contact is required of the hearing dog whose owner is deaf or hearing impaired. Generally the needs and wishes of the owner dictate the demands made.
Picking Up and Carrying Things: The dog should be able to pick up anything on command, within practical limits. It should be able to bring items to its owner, carrying them until told to drop the item into the lap or the hand of the owner, or to place it on the floor - according to the instruction. It should learn to distinguish particular objects and to fetch the object the owner names. It should be able to pick up its dragging lead and carry it itself for a while. The dog can be trained to help with the tidying by picking things up, such as paper or other 'rubbish' and putting it where instructed or in the waste paper bin. The dog whose owner is deaf or hearing-impaired can help by picking things up spontaneously whenever the owner drops something since it is difficult for the owner to notice for instance, if he drops the car keys.
Retrieving things: The dog can fetch things that are difficult to reach from under the bed, the sofa, a bench etc In shops, the dog can be taught to pay the shop assistant, take the goods from the sales person or from the counter.
Switches and handles: the dog can be taught to switch on the lights or to press other switches or buttons important to the owner. It can be taught to open drawers and take out whatever is asked for. It can also be taught to open and close doors.
Directing: The dog should be easily controlled and directed to various people or positions, for example: 'go and lie down', 'go out of the room', 'go to Sofia', 'go to the car', 'straight ahead', 'go first', 'go behind', 'right-left', as well as 'stand', 'sit', 'lie down' from a distance.
Wheelchair practice: The dog should walk to the left of the wheelchair but should also be ableto walk on the right, behind or in front when told. The dog should sit to the left every time you come to a road or the curb. It can if necessary (and in relation to its size) be able to help push the wheelchair. It should also be able to stand on its hind legs and rest its head on your lap.
Hand Signals: Deaf or hearing-impaired people usually talk to their dogs by using hand signals. This involves the dog learning the hand signals and words for exercises and demands that, to a large extent, it maintains eye-contact with its owner. Reacting to sounds: The dog should recognize and react to various sounds, whichever sounds the owner would like the dog to learn. It should be able to show the owner by means of signal and physical contact, which sound it has heard and show the way the source of that sound. Raise the alarm: If anything should happen to the owner the dog should be able to let family members or other people know so that they can help the owner.
Individual Needs: We are all individuals with different needs, abilities and wishes. We want to try to satisfy those needs as far as possible. Helen would like to teach the dog turn the tap on and off, because this would make things easier for her; where as Martin has a dream to be able to ride behind his dog on a sled in the fells in winter.
The Service and Hearing Dog Group was established during the autumn of 1993. The Directing Group consists of:
*IMMI-Instructor, ideology is based on consideration NRF, the foundation; Nordic Rehabilitation Fund
- Leif Josephsson (Solicitor, Chairman of NRF & owner of Lajban, Sweden's first service dog). Anders Hallgren (Dog Psychologist and Author).
- Marie Fogelquist (Dog Psychologist and *IMMI-Instructor).
- Beata Waldenstrom (*IMMI-Instructor).
- Hans W Fstro (Marketing consultant, member of NRF)