Service dogs: mans’ best friend

Service dogs: mans’ best friend

Pets can be a wonderful addition to your life, especially a service dog. Believing in the healing powers of pets, Daniela Baker shares the benefits of having a service dog.

The decision to obtain a service dog should be carefully planned with a good deal of research. Both the needs of the animal and the needs of the person must to be addressed to ensure an appropriate match.

While a service dog cannot assist in all areas of a person’s life, the animal will provide a good deal of emotional and physical support so that persons with a disability can enjoy a greater degree of independence.

Six benefits of a service dog:

1. Psychological support. A 1995 study by Dr. Karen Allen, et.al. found that having a service dog increased an owner’s levels of self-confidence, feelings of control, overall psychological/emotional health, and community involvement. Service dogs provide a great deal of affection and offer unconditional love.

While someone may put on a happy face while in the company of other people, inside may lurk feelings of fear, depression, and pain. Having a service dog at their side can lift their spirits and make the day brighter than it otherwise would have been.

2. Increases self-sufficiency. Having a service dog lessens the owner’s reliance on outside support, thereby increasing the feeling of self-sufficiency. This then helps the person overcome feelings of helplessness and enables them to take greater control of their environment.

3. Reduces caregiver costs. Having a service dog means less need of a caregiver to assist with such chores as cleaning or shopping. Service dogs are trained to assist with many household duties and are quite capable of learning others.

4. Helps with physical therapy. Service dogs (like all dogs) provide great opportunities for exercise. From throwing a ball or Frisbee to nice long walks, these dogs provide you with the means to get out and about and enjoy some physical activity. In special cases, these dogs are also trained as quasi-physical therapists, providing brace support for the person as they are walking or transferring from a wheelchair, even lying across their person’s legs while they are doing sit-ups.

5. Increases social interaction. Having a service dog lessens the isolation and helps to bridge artificial barriers to communication and relationship-building. While someone may not be comfortable asking how the person manages the disability, there will be less discomfort asking the ways in which the service dog provides assistance.

6. Provides security. Service dogs are not trained for protection and would not be very good at it in any regard since they are very well-mannered and even-tempered while in public. However, they do act as guardians to their person and do not welcome aggressive advances. It is sometimes unwise to pet a stranger’s service dog in public as the pet is effectively working and needs to remain completely focused on their owner.

By Daniela Baker

Daniela Baker is a financial blogger and creates illustrations for CreditDonkey, a credit card comparison company that offers advice on credit cards and payment plans, including those for pets.

Do you have a service animal? Tell other Disability Horizons readers by emailing us at editor@disabilityhorizons.com, tweeting us at @DHorizons, messaging us on Facebook or leaving a message below.