Beyond Sit and Stay: Dogs in Our Service is an enlightening exhibit on now at the Peel Art Gallery, Museum and Archives. On loan from Halton Heritage Services, it explores the relationship between working dogs and their human partners, while teaching us that dogs are far more than our “best friends” – they serve us in a growing number of ways.

A fundamental concept in understanding the role of a service dog is that a service dog is not a piece of equipment that is molded once and passed on from person to person to perform a task. Instead, service dogs and their handlers always work as partners. That partnership is built on immense commitment, hard work, and mutual respect.

Beyond Sit and Stay informs visitors about barriers to accessibility that make it difficult for individuals with assistance dogs to go about their daily routines. As well, the exhibit teaches vital tips to be aware of when encountering a service dog and its handler.

Service dogs are trained to assist people with needs well beyond visual impairment. Seizure response, diabetic alert, hearing loss, mobility, autism, and post-traumatic stress disorder are among the disabilities which service dogs support. The exhibit outlines the criteria both dogs and handlers must meet even for initial consideration for service team work.

There’s a detailed display explaining why a dog’s sense of smell is far greater than that of humans – in fact, 10,000 to 100,000 times more sensitive. For that reason, potential new uses for detector dogs are ongoing. Dogs are used to detect concealed electronics, leaks in oil and gas pipelines, smuggled illegal wildlife and wildlife parts, even peanuts and gluten to protect highly-allergic children. Research is currently ongoing to determine a dog’s ability to detect cancer as well as bacterial infections.

Appropriate for all ages, and not just for dog lovers, Beyond Sit and Stay offers enlightening facts about the wide range of roles played by service dogs. A variety of harnesses and training equipment are on display, along with a sniffing station to test your own sense of smell.

The exhibit was developed with the support of community partners, including the Halton Regional Police, Royal Canadian Mounted Police, Lions Foundation of Canada Dog Guides, St. John Ambulance and other organizations and individuals working with service and assistance animals.

Beyond Sit and Stay: Dogs in Our Service, on now at the Peel Art Gallery, Museum and Archives, 9 Wellington St. E., Brampton until June 3. Visit pama.peelregion.ca for information.

Photo: search and rescue vest, designed specifically for dogs working on emergency task forces, on display at Beyond Sit and Stay.