04 Mar Therapy Dogs and Service Dogs
Therapy Dogs and Service Dogs are dogs that are specially trained. A service dog can be a guide dog or a signal dog who can be trained to do some specific tasks including getting alerted to specific sounds like that of a telephone, an alarm clock, smoke alarm or the cry of a child. They are also trained to help and assist human’s with disabilities and can be trained to pull wheelchairs and help a blind human to cross a road. Service dogs should also have the characteristics which a therapy dog has but also a few other characteristics too. There are certain breeds of dogs which are particularly selected for specific services.
In the United States, about seventy percent of the dogs which are working as guide dogs for the blind people are Labrador retrievers. The next popular breed is German shepherds and Golden retrievers. These dogs are chosen because of their size, versatility, intelligence, availability, and temperament. The service dogs need to be very hard workers and large enough so that they can be able to guide people even they are put in a harness by their owners. They should also be small enough so that they can be easy to handle in public places, travel in public transport and fit in under the tables and in transport too.
These service dogs are trained specially by certain programs which foster them since they are puppies. Some people also offer train to their own service dogs. In the U.S, the owner training of one’s dog becomes more common. The owners can choose themselves which breed of dog they want to train. The Federal law does not restrict the type of dog breed which could become a service animal so the owner can get any dog they want and train them as they want to fulfill certain special needs.
A therapy dog’s most important characteristic is his temperament. Therapy dogs are trained in such a way that they must enjoy human contact and excessive petting and be comfortable in hospitals and around healthcare equipment. They are best known for bringing comfort to people who are facing health issues or living in an old home or special home. These dogs are patient, gentle, friendly and at ease with the strangers.
The therapy dogs are also known as emotional support dogs because they bring comfort and support in various forms for the people with their affection and companionship. If there is someone who is suffering from a severe mental or emotional condition these dogs could help him feel better. They can assist people with depression, bipolar disorder, mood disorder, panic attacks, anxiety, fear, phobia and other psychological and emotional conditions. These therapy dogs are different from the service dogs in a way that the therapy dogs are not required to perform any specific task for a disability or any other condition.
Various mental and physical benefits have been observed by the visits of therapy dogs to hospitals, old homes, and rehab centers. They help to decrease anxiety and stress including that from post-traumatic stress disorder. They help to decrease depression, loneliness, and feelings of isolation. They also help in decreasing aggressive behavior. They can be a great help to increase the mental stimulation, attention skills, and verbal interactions too. They also increase spirit, self-esteem, and feeling of acceptance and enable a patient to further take part in other mental or physical therapies, get involved in group activities and to accept emotional support.
The physical benefits of therapy dog visits include a decrease in blood pressure, heart rate, and stress hormone cortisol of patients. The increase in hormones associated with the feeling of well-being which includes oxytocin, prolactin, serotonin, dopamine and others has also been recorded. In addition to this, the increase in the level of fitness and improvement of fine motor skills, standing balance, wheelchair and other physical skills has also been recorded. A patient may even need less medication after therapy dog visits.