Man’s best friend has a new trick thanks to a new machine that enables dogs to do their owner’s washing. Hailed as a breakthrough for disabled people relying on guide dogs, the bark-operated machine will benefit those “visually impaired, have manual dexterity problems, autism or learning difficulties."
Rita Howson, director of UK charity Support Dogs explains.
Metro: How smart does the dog have to be?
Howson: It all relies on basic training tasks, such as retrieving, and obedience. The foundation work is key, and then the ones with potential receive ‘toolbox training’, that includes operating buttons with their noses and learning to bark on demand.
What other jobs can we expect our dogs to do for us?
They have been loading washing machines for years, the new element is to ‘speak’ on demand, which can also be a great help if someone has an accident and help is needed. We train dogs to help people with epilepsy and they can alert people to an imminent seizure, recognizing clues such as dilated pupils. They work by association and are very good at seeing behavioral changes. We have only scratched the surface, they can be used for cancer detection and in our newest program they provide assistance for autistic children. There is an amazing calming effect – it’s like therapy.
How much demand is there for the machine?
We’re placing them in households to test the benefits, and we’re looking at various options and variations. We have had great feedback from around the world with organizations interested in getting the machines for their clients, and a Japanese company are making a film about it.