Pups at the Paralympics!

5 Canadian athletes stand near the water along with a service dog

Canadian rowers and their service dog pose with bronze medals at the 2016 Rio Paralympics. (Ricardo Morales/Reuters)

It is not just the amazing athletes on display at the Paralympics. Their furry friends are too: service dogs! These cute companions are skilled helpers. They're also important members of every Paralympic team.

Para-athletes and their service dogs share a special bond. That’s because they’re together every step of the way, from training to game day!

How do service dogs help?

Athlete Marieke Vervoort in her wheelchair with a puppy in her lap and her service dog beside her

Belgian Paralympic athlete Marieke Vervoort and her service dog. (Dirk Waem/Getty Images)

Paralympic athletes have different impairments. Some need extra help in their day-to-day lives.

That’s where our four-legged friend, the service dog, comes in! Service dogs are trained to help each athlete and their unique needs.

They can help guide athletes who are blind. Or they can alert deaf athletes of sounds, like alarms or telephones.

Service dogs can be trained to pull wheelchairs. They can even get help if there is a medical emergency.

All service dogs have one thing in common. They give emotional support to hard-working athletes.

The history of dogs with Jobs!

a German shepherd guide dog and his owner about to step off the sidewalk and a car coming toward them

A guide dog stops his blind owner from stepping off the sidewalk into the path of a car in 1934. (R. Wesley/Getty Images)

Believe it or not, dogs that help humans have been around for a long time. In fact, prehistoric humans tamed dogs 15,000 years ago to help them hunt!

Historians may have even discovered the first image of a service dog. It looks like it's guiding a man down a street. It's found on a 2,000-year-old painting from ancient Rome!

In Europe, they had been training service dogs for wounded soldiers returning from the First World War. After an American college student got one of these guide dogs, the idea spread to North America. The first guide dog training school in the United States was opened in the 1920s to train dogs to help the blind. Today, they train dogs to help people with whatever help they need.

From pups to the Paralympics!

four service dogs in vest waiting with their trainers

Trainers hold their dogs before daily lessons. (David Gray/Reuters)

Just like para-athletes, service dogs have to train really hard! There are lots of places around the world that teach puppies to help people with impairments.

A good service dog is smart, calm under pressure and focused. They need all those skills to travel with the athletes. They help them at Paralympic games around the world!

But not all pups make it through the tough training. They become family pets instead! They can still watch the Paralympics on TV at home, with their new families!

What if you see a service dog?

a black lab wearing a vest showing it's a service dog

A woman walks with "Joke," a service dog, in northern France. (Philippe Huguen/Getty Images)

You might notice a dog wearing a special vest or harness in your community. It is probably a service dog!

That would be really exciting to see. But remember not to pet or distract a service dog. When they’re out and about, these amazing dogs are hard at work helping their humans!