Working Animals and Pets

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WORKING ANIMALS & PETS     

 

When we think of working pets, we often think of dogs - guide dogs, attack dogs, protecions dogs, police dogs, sniffer dogs, tracking dogs, herding dogs, therapy dogs and anti-poaching dogs.

 

Animals and pets have been working for and with humans for many centuries. Even pigeons delivered the post once! Horses, donkeys, camels and mules have helped us with transportation of goods and people, as well as working hard on farms pulling wagons and plowing the lands. Donkeys have also been employed as "guard Donkeys" due to their natural protective and herding instincts.

 

Seals and dolphins have been used for military applications. Elephants have been used to transport people, haul logs and provide fun rides for people.

 

Humans owe these hard working animals a whole lot of gratitude and respect - they should be well cared for and should be treated well - but unfortunately many are not. Please support the many organizations who do wonderful work with and who care for our working animals e.g. The Guide Dog Association, donkey and horse sanctuaries etc.

 

  1. How did pigeons deliver mail?
  2. How are donkeys used as working animals?
  3. What are search and rescue dogs?
  4. How are dogs used in conservation?
  5. How can guide dogs or service dogs assist people?
  6. How long does it take to train a Guide Dog ?
  7. What is a therapy dog?
  8. Where can I find working donkey associations or sanctuaries in South Africa?

 

1. How did pigeons deliver mail?


The homing pigeon is a variety of the domestic pigeon, which was selectively bred for its ability to find its way home over extremely long distances. Because of this skill, homing pigeons were used to carry messages as messenger pigeons.

Birds can detect a magnetic field, to help them find their way home. Scientists have found that a large number of iron particles can be found on top of a pigeon's beak. These remain aligned to north like a man-made compass, acting as a compass which helps the pigeon in determining its way home.

Some research also indicates that homing pigeons navigate by following roads and other man-made features, making 90-degree turns and following habitual routes, much the same way that humans navigate.

When used as carrier pigeons, a message is written on thin light paper and rolled into a small tube attached to the bird's leg. Pigeons were also used to carry tubes of emergency medication.

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2. How are donkeys used as working animals?


Apart from being used as draft and pack animals, donkeys are also used to protect goats and sheep. The donkeys' distinct dislike of canines may also include the farm or herding dog. Be careful to initially limit and supervise the interaction between the donkey and dog. Donkeys generally have sweet natures and love people.

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3. What are search and rescue dogs?


Dogs are often used in Search and Rescue. With their powerful sense of smell, dogs can be used as trackers to follow trails of missing persons, to find bodies buried in snow after avalanches, under rubble after earthquakes, collapsed mines, in destroyed buildings (think 911). Dogs are also used by firemen to locate people in burning buildings.

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4. How are dogs used in conservation?


Elephant and Rhino poaching have reached critical levels in Africa. Highly trained canine units are used in anti-poaching efforts. These dogs are trained to leap from helicopters and planes with their handlers. They tackle and bring down dangerous poachers on command.

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5. How can guide dogs or service dogs assist people?


Guide dogs are highly trained and become an indispensable part of a visually impaired person's life. Guide dogs are trained in a variety of environments, including shopping malls, restaurants and other public places to prepare them for working in all types of situations. They are able to retrieve items for their person, pull and push (e.g. open and closing doors, working light switches and lift buttons). They are trained to suit the disability of the person needing a service dog.

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6. How long does it take to train a Guide Dog ?


Puppy Raisers take the trainee Guide Dogs into their homes for the the first month's (up to 11 -18 months) of their lives. During this time they are socialised as much as possible, meet people, children and other animals. They are introduced to as many different environments as possible and are also taught basic commands such as sit, stay and walking on a leash. They are taught to relieve themselves in appropriate places on command only and not when working.

Puppy Raisers and the pups attend training sessions. Formal training starts around 12 months for a a guide dog. When they are ready, they are then returned to the Guide Dog Association for the last part of their training. 

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7. What is a therapy dog?


A therapy dog is a dog that is trained to provide comfort to people in hospitals, retirement homes, nursing homes, schools, hospices, disaster areas and for people with autism. Therapy dogs are usually not assistance or service dogs, but can be one or both with some organizations.

Animal-assisted therapy (AAT) is a type of therapy that involves animals as a form of treatment - patients usually view animals as less threatening and will be more likely to respond. Animals that are used in animal therapy work include dogs, horses and dolphins.

 

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8. Where can I find working donkey associations or sanctuaries in South Africa?


Donkeys are often treated badly and very often neglected and abused. These organizations provide care, refuge and a home for these animals:

Eseltjiesrus Donkey Sanctuary - McGregor

Cart Horse Protection Association

Karoo Donkey Sanctuary - Prince Albert

 

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