Humans have kept dogs for many years. They were originally developed and bred for specific purposes such as, hunting, sighting, scenting, tracking and herding, as well as companionship. The dog’s natural instinct as a pack animal has equipped it with essential bonding skills, which enable it to integrate well into family life. Their loyalty, intelligence and eagerness to please, has led them to being used as assistance dogs for people with disabilities, the police, the armed forces and search and rescue teams.
Soldiers, who were blinded during the war, were the first people to benefit form guide dogs. At the end of the First World War, the German government trained the first guide dogs for the blind. This idea was later adopted by Switzerland, followed by Great Britain and the United States. Today, dogs assist the blind all over the world.
Training dogs to act as eyes for the blind, later developed into training them as hearing dogs for the deaf and wheelchair assistance dogs. Dogs in these roles not only offer great help and companionship to their owners, but also help to restore valuable self-esteem.
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Stroking dogs is said to lower blood pressure and help to bring pleasure and relaxation. This theory soon led to dogs being used in hospitals, homes and hospices. Some people who find themselves in these institutions become lonely and even depressed and may have had to give up pets of their own. Taking dogs in can have huge health benefits and can help to rehabilitate people.
Apart from assisting people with disabilities, security companies use dogs to guard property, the police force and the army use them for tracking drugs and ammunition, and for helping to secure criminals. They are also greatly valued by search and rescue teams.
Dogs are carefully selected for their many varied roles and a variety of different breeds are used. Some dogs are selected for their intelligence, obedience, patience and good nature and others for their scenting and tracking abilities. Whatever role dogs’ play, they succeed in building up a close relationship with their masters. This often forms an almost unbreakable bond, which is probably the reason why dogs are known as ‘man’s best friend’.