Dogtober! Let's Celebrate Support & Companion Dogs Everywhere!

Dogtober! Let's Celebrate Support & Companion Dogs Everywhere!

© Danielle Robertson Consulting Pty Ltd t/as DR Care Solutions

It's Dogtober! That’s right, the month of October is dedicated to recognising and celebrating our canine companions. Not the yappy couch sitting kind but those loyal assistance dogs who support adults and children with a range of disabilities.

While it is difficult to pinpoint the origins of Dogtober, it is certainly a global celebration and one that encourages dog owners to enjoy a special doggy day out during the month and to make a donation to an assistance dog charity.


A short history 

Since Guide Dogs was established in the UK in 1934 and then in Australia in 1951, a number of assistance dog charities have been created since and have expanded beyond helping people with visual impairment or low vision to people with a disability.

Canine Companions for Independence, the Californian-headquartered US charity founded in 1975, appears to be the first charity providing service dogs to adults, children and veterans with disabilities. Then came organisations like Service Dogs Texas (US) in 1988 and Dogs for Good (UK) in 1988.


Australian assistance dog organisations 

These various organisations inspired community-minded Australians to set up Assistance Dogs Australia in 1996 and Australian Support Dogs in 1997[1 & 2].

In the past decade other assistance dog charities have been founded. They include:

  • Mind Dog (2011) for people with mental health disorders[3]
  • Smart Pups Assistance Dogs (2011) for children with special needs[4]
  • Empower Assistance Dogs (2016) for people and children with a disability[5]
  • Integra Service Dogs (2016) for veterans and first responders with post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) and other mental health related illnesses[6], and
  • PTSD Dogs Australia (2018), again for veterans and first responders with PTSD (Post Traumatic Stress Disorder)[7].


Difference between assistance dogs and therapy dogs 

As specialisations develop in any field, complications arise. In the dog carer world, there is an important distinction made between assistance dogs and therapy dogs.

Assistance dogs, also referred to as service dogs, are trained to perform tasks that assist their handler, the handler being a person or child with a disability. They are not considered pets and are likened to being a medical aid.

Therapy dogs are also trained but they are trained by their handler to provide psychological or physiological therapy to individuals other than their handlers. Commonly, we see the handlers and their dogs visit hospitals, schools, hospices and nursing homes to provide this therapy.

Unlike therapy dogs, assistance dogs are recognised under the Disability Discrimination Act 1992 (Cth). This recognition allows the handlers and their dogs access to public areas and public transport.


Support our canine carers!

In closing, heart-warming stories and video clips on how assistance dogs help others are available online. Here’s a good short video from Canine Companions for Independence that sums it up.


Training an assistance dog costs in the order of $40,000 and charitable organisations provide the dogs free of charge to those in need. Some are supported through the National Disability Insurance Scheme[8].

There are long waiting lists for these dogs. To have more dogs trained, I encourage you to take out your Buddy, Bear, or Milo for a post-lockdown adventure and make a donation to one of the worthy charities listed in this blog.

If you need support and guidance on seeking care assistance for your loved one, please feel free to contact me, Danielle Robertson at DR Care Solutions.  

Let’s have an initial discussion on how to set up the right care, support and assistance at the right time and in the right place.

- Contact Danielle - For An Impartial & Confidential Conversation



[1] Assistance Dogs Australia
[2] Australian Support Dogs
[3] Mind Dog
[4] Smart Pups
[5] Empowered Assistance Dogs
[6] Integra Service Dogs Australia
[7] PTSD Dogs Australia
[8] NDIS Assistance Animals