14:51 GMT +323 September 2019
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    In this April 1, 2017 file photo, a service dog strolls through the isle inside a United Airlines plane at Newark Liberty International Airport while taking part in a training exercise, in Newark, N.J

    Photos of Service Dogs at Canadian Theatrical Production of Billy Elliot Go Viral

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    Trainers explain that the dogs are routinely instructed in similar environments so that they can become accustomed to stress and not lose their focus when their vulnerable owners need them the most.

    A photo taken last week of a group of service dogs sitting in a Canadian theatre went viral over social media networks recently, and a dog trainer has explained the behavioural science behind the seemingly bizarre event.

    In the photos, a group of poodles and golden retrievers are seen calmly watching “Billy Elliot” the musical, sitting in front-row seats.

    ​According to Laura Mackenzie, owner of the K-9 Country Inn Working Service Dogs firm, this part of the training involves exposure to various stimuli, including light, sound and tight quarters. The dogs must be able to withstand it all and still be able to perform their guide duties without succumbing to the highly stressful environment.

    "They were all extremely well-behaved. I was in the lobby when they came in, then they took their seats, then got out of their seats at intermission and went back", Stratford Festival spokesperson Ann Swerdfager said in an interview. "It's wonderful that going to the theatre is considered one of the things that you want to train a service dog for, rather than thinking that theatre is out of reach for people who require a service animal, because it isn't".

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