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DVD Review: Through A Dog’s Eyes

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The most beautiful blondes in the world are seen in the opening scenes of Through A Dog's Eyes—service dogs from Canine Assistants romp together outdoors. Canine Assistants (Atlanta, Georgia) offers a two-week camp in which people with special needs are paired with dogs with special abilities. This documentary explores the camp, the campers, and the results.

Some of those with special needs are victims of accidents, others suffer from disorders like cerebral palsy and epilepsy. The dogs are trained to do simple tasks like picking up dropped items, as well as opening doors (literally and figuratively) and turning on lights, but those are just a few of the services they provide their owners.

Most of the dogs Canine Assistants train are born and raised at the facilities in Georgia. Dogs as young as seven weeks old begin training, which continues for 18 months. Canine Assistants’ founder Jennifer Arnold explains how people and dogs are matched, and who actually makes the choice (the dog).

With experts informing us of the relationships between dogs and humans, we learn how much help dogs can be, and how man has bred them over the centuries to work and serve. We’ve long known that dogs with behavioral problems are often “acting out” because their inbred work skills, such as herding or toting, are ignored or forgotten by their human families.

The interactions between the dogs and their humans are delightful. “Dogs want and need to make people happy,” and that is the theory behind training methods for these remarkable animals. Trainers explain the techniques used to teach dogs, and those with “untrainable” dogs may pick up a few tips. The philosophy behind training, motivating, and encouraging animals is based on a bond relationship rather than the domination of dogs by people.

Dogs are born wanting to please people, and if they bond with people, they are happy to partner and serve. As the dogs at Canine Assistants come to know the people with which they are paired, their new owners are also trained in communicating with and handling their dogs.

Through A Dog's Eyes offers insight into human/dog relationships that are universal. These particular dogs are service dogs, but their behaviors and the benefits their owners receive from them are common to all dogs.

All of the stories in Through A Dog's Eyes are not success stories. Some of the relationships don’t work out and the bond between dog and person breaks. Fortunately, the dog and its owner will be re-matched. This is not an "everything’s roses" documentary. Parents deal with their disappointment when their high expectations are not met, and children must say goodbye to dogs they like but who can’t help them. Through A Dog's Eyes can be viewed online at the PBS website.

An included bonus with the DVD is “Jennifer Arnold’s Step-by-Step Training Tips for You and Your Dog.”

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