How to find the perfect assistance dog when you live with disability

Dogs are amazing animals! As well as making fantastic pets, their work as Assistance Dogs have helped millions of people with disability to build life skills, feel confident and have fun.

If you’re thinking about bringing an Assistance Dog or Autism Service Dog into your home, it’s important to think carefully about the dog that you choose. Just because a dog is cute and cuddly doesn’t mean it will be the right dog for you or your family.

Here are our top tips on choosing an Assistance Dog for you and your unique needs!

What is an Assistance Dog?

While all pets can help our wellbeing, Assistance Dogs and Autism Service Dogs aren’t just pets. They undergo years of training so that they can help humans who are living with disability. They are taught very specific skills that help their humans achieve everyday tasks while also providing lots of love, laughs and affection!

Because Assistance Dogs are considered medical aids, they can go with you everywhere, including to the supermarket, on public transport, to restaurants and even to work. Assistance Dogs are trained to reach a very high standard of behaviour and hygiene. As the dog’s handler, you will also be given training to help your Assistance Dog maintain their skills over time.

What jobs can Assistance Dogs do?

Every Assistance Dog is taught jobs based on it’s personality and the needs of its future handler. As well as providing unconditional love and companionship, Assistance Dogs can be taught to:

  • Help keep you mobile (if you have walking difficulties)
  • Reduce anxiety
  • Build self confidence
  • Provide routine and stability
  • Alert people to seizures
  • Help pick up items around the house
  • Bark to alert you to danger
  • Build compassion and confidence
  • Pay cashiers

Who can get an Assistance Dog?

If you think that you or a family member could benefit from an Assistance Dog to help your mental or physical disability, you can apply through the NDIS. They will assess your eligibility, and decide whether an Assistance Dog could help you reach your goals.

If you are approved for an Assistance Dog, the NDIS will only fund an assistance animal which has passed, or will pass, an official Assistance Dog test. This ensures that the animal is suitable to accompany and support you as you participate in the community. You can also reach out to groups like Assistance Dogs Australia.

How do I choose the right Assistance Dog for me?

Unlike Emotional Support Dogs which don’t require extensive training, Assistance Dogs and Autism Support Dogs require years of intensive training before they’re ready to be adopted by their handler. Because of this, it’s likely you’ll be matched with a dog that has the right temperament and ability to learn the skills required to fit your needs. Golden Retrievers and Labradors are the most common Assistance Dog breeds.

Autism Assistance Dogs

Children and young adults with autism who are placed with Assistance Dogs have been found to show great improvement across verbal, social and communication skills. As well as providing assistance for the person with autism, they bring much happiness to the entire family. Autism Service Dogs are specially trained to create a sense of calm, improve the quality and quantity of sleep, and help people with autism feel confident, happy and independent.

Are there services for finding an Assistance Dog in Victoria?

If you live in Victoria, you can apply for an Assistance Dog with your NDIS coordinator, or speak directly to one of the organisations that train and place assistance dogs in Victoria. You’re always welcome to speak to the team at Mambourin if you have any questions about the NDIS and what supports you can access with your current plan.

What if I’m not sure that I’m ready for an Assistance Dog?

Bringing an Assistance Dog into your home is a big life moment, so it’s understandable that you might want to test the waters before making the commitment. The good news is that most Assistance Dog organisations hold workshops that allow you to come and visit the dogs, and learn more about how Assistance Dogs will work within the family.

If you’re 16 and over and living with a disability, Mambourin is here to help open up opportunities for you. Our friendly and welcoming community can help you build life skills that can lead to employment, engage in the community, and make new friends through our fun social activities.

Get in touch with the team today to learn more.

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