Just like service dogs for people with physical disabilities, you have therapy dogs to seek comfort for people with mental health issues. Therapy dogs provide an emotional bond that contributes to lower anxiety levels and help with other mental health conditions or disorders. Know the procedure to get a therapy dog or an ESA. ~ Ed.
Dogs are not known as man’s best friend for nothing. They can do more than provide just friendship because they can help someone suffering from different mental health issues.
Many people do not know about the role of therapy dogs or how to get one if they need it. This article will cover the answers to those questions.
What is a Therapy Dog, and What Do They Do
Some people do not know the difference between service dogs and therapy dogs. Service dogs help people who suffer from legally defined disabilities. Therapy dogs, also called comfort dogs, support mental health by providing comfort and attention to their owner.
People find that therapy dogs provide therapeutic friendship. Anyone can get a therapy dog because they are not covered by the Americans with Disabilities Act like service dogs are.
Since anyone can get a therapy dog, we can use them for various mental health reasons. However, research has been conducted on their beneficial effects on several known disorders, including ADHD, depression, bipolar disorder, autism, post-traumatic stress disorder, and even Alzheimer’s disease. Experts have also found that they may assist with anxiety disorders or mental health issues associated with physical pain.
How do Therapy Dogs Help People
Therapy dogs can help with several pieces of our overall well being, including physical, emotional, psychological, and even educational. Physically being around a calm, friendly animal can lower your blood pressure and heart rate. This can contribute to lower levels of distress or anxiety as well.
A therapy dog can help you by providing you with an emotional bond and connection besides helping with mental health disorders. They can also provide you with a deep, empathetic feeling. They can teach us how to care for ourselves and others, learn how to move on from situations, and how to sense danger or even mental health triggers.
Animal Assisted Therapy, or AAT, uses animals to interact with people who suffer from certain medical conditions. Experts believe that the animals can assist with personal development, self-esteem, social skills, nurturing skills, and of course, improved mental health.
How Do You Get a Therapy Dog
There are different certifications for therapy dogs. The American Kennel Club can certify a specific training course, and there are other organizations like Paws for Ability, Therapy Dogs United, and Therapy Dogs International.
A dog has to have some qualities to qualify for certification and pass a test, such as the Canine Good Citizen test. Therapy dogs have to be relaxed and friendly with everyone. Not only that, but aggressive dogs cannot be considered, and therapy dogs have to be able to handle, or even enjoy, attention.
They also need to be very obedient because they may have to help their owner during stressful situations. This means that they have to notice and respond to cues and instructions to help the owner if they are nervous or suffer from emotional distress.
The American Kennel Club focuses on some more specific traits for a dog to pass the Canine Good Citizen test. Like, they have to be accepting of strangers and polite to other people. They also have to have limited shedding and sit for petting, even with strangers. They must go out for a walk with their owner with a loose lead and walk through a crowd or other dogs.
Even though any dog can technically be a therapy dog, some breeds are more common than others. This is usually because some breeds have personality traits that lend themselves to therapeutic benefits. Labrador retrievers are often used as therapy dogs because they are friendly, adaptive, intelligent, and very gentle. German shepherds are also good therapy dogs because they are loyal and intelligent and known for understanding human emotions.
Other common breeds for therapy dogs include beagles, greyhounds, golden retrievers, and pugs. One breed that is often used that may surprise you is the rottweiler. They are not as aggressive as some people believe, and they can be very intelligent and protective of their owner.
What is an ESA
You may have heard the term “Emotional Support Animal.” An ESA is an animal that helps an individual cope with mental health challenges. Having an ESA can make a huge difference in a person’s life. Some people are fearful of flying on planes. If they have an ESA, they feel more secure.
Your dog can be an ESA and a wonderful travel buddy. But, first, you need to get paperwork filled out by your doctor and the veterinarian where you take your dog for checkups.
You can obtain an Emotional Support Animal letter from a licensed doctor or therapist to legally categorize your animal as an emotional support animal. This can give you the ability to take the dog to public places.
To get a therapy dog, you will have to be diagnosed by a mental health professional in the state where you live. This professional can write you an ESA letter for you to receive an emotional support animal or therapy dog.
These are the only three criteria required to get a therapy dog. If you have a dog that already meets the criteria, you may be able to have it take the Canine Good Citizen test. You can also get a dog that has already been trained and categorized as a therapy dog. As long as you obtain an ESA letter from a mental health professional who diagnosed you with a mental health disability, you should have no problem getting a therapy dog.
You probably have kennels near you that you can call in order to find a therapy dog that fits your needs and personality. You will be able to visit and find a dog that you connect with that could be your ESA.
If you think that you could benefit from having a therapy dog, do not hesitate to ask your therapist. They may even be able to provide you with additional resources to help you in your search for a dog or to find out more about your specific situation and which dogs may be appropriate.
Over to you
Do you have a therapy dog? How does it help you and how did you get it? Share your experiences and suggestions in the comments section.