The animals kept as pets bring companionship, comfort, and support. It’s no secret that having an animal as a best friend is a wonderful feeling, but it’s even more beneficial for people suffering from mental health problems.
Emotional support dogs give therapeutic comfort and stability to those suffering from anxiety, depression, and other stress disorders. Unfortunately, this type of service dog is struggling with a lack of legitimacy due to the nature of their jobs. Not many know why an emotional support dog is used or why they are needed so they tend to question the necessity of the animal companion. Usually they think the individual should just go through it without the animal, or that the animal isn’t certified.
The US National Library of Medicine states, “Psychiatric service dogs are a recognized sub-category of service animals. They assist people who suffer from major depression, bipolar disorder, anxiety, panic attacks, PTSD, OCD, and schizophrenia. These dogs are trained to carry out specific tasks to help an individual cope with his/her disability”. These dogs need training depending on the needs of the owner to efficiently help with their health conditions.
Some great tasks that these service dogs assist with are assistance in a medical crisis, assistance coping with emotional overload, and security enhancement tasks.
Dogs specialized in medical assistance are trained to go and retrieve medication for many purposes including fear paralysis from PTSD and other distress related attacks. These dogs can also be trained to retrieve a phone, answer the door, or even call 911 if an emergency is happening.
When it comes to coping with emotional overload the dog can be trained to give tactile stimulation to disrupt the overload. These tasks include licking someone’s face, persistent nudging, a hug or snuggle next to the individual, and deep pressure calming. DPT (deep pressure therapy) is a technique in which the dog would lay on top of the owners chest providing warmth and a comfortable weight, this is usually better with a medium sized dog but can be done in other ways with a larger dog. All of these techniques are used to bring the owner to full attention and shorten or disrupt emotional overload.
For security enhancement, a person may be chronically paranoid and believe someone is in the house or someone dangerous is around them in public. The dog can be trained to go into the home first and provide an initial walk through to bring ease to the individual or if in public, it can calmly keep unwanted people away.
The purpose of service dogs goes much deeper than someone wanting to hold their pet when they are sad. It’s about a 24/7 support for the needs of an individual to help them live a normal life. Emotional support dogs should not have to be questioned about their job or what exactly they are helping. No person should be denied their emotional support animal in public, however this gives no excuse for an individual with or without a disability to take an average pet into a public establishment without proper training and certification. These hard working trained dogs are so much more than just a pet, they are some people’s stability.