Service dogs are dogs that have been specifically trained for the purpose of helping people handle different disabilities.
Bad eyesight, bad hearing, mobility issues and so on.
Another type of disabilities are mental disabilities, the type of dysfunctions that can be traced back to mental disorders
The truth is that I am not a dog expert by any means, nor will I ever pretend to be.
In fact, I never owned a dog in my life, although I did have a few cats over the years
I do know a thing or two about anxiety, though, and I did already cover the positive effects of having a pet for anxiety, depression, stress and everything in between.
As such, I feel like it shouldn’t come off as much of a surprise that I am all for getting an animal to serve as an emotional pillar of support.
However, in a few severe cases, there’s a higher requirement for help.
Getting a support dog isn’t all that easy – you will need a recommendation from a medical doctor or a mental health professional.
Pet Vs Service dog
This, of course, raises the question, what good would a service dog do assuming you already have a pet? That is to say, do service dogs hold any particular advantages?
Well, aside from some specific training to handle mental health disorders, service dogs are also allowed to enter certain public areas that pets are not.
Furthermore, they are trained beforehand to handle your specific condition, be it blindness, anxiety or otherwise.
Meaning that a depression-treating dog wouldn’t be trained the same way as an anxiety-based one.
Qualifying your pet as an emotional support animal will give it a few legal advantages over a regular pet, including lesser fees whenever using specific types of transportation (such as airplanes)
Either way, you’ll still need a recommendation letter from a professional to qualify your pet as such.
What does a service animal actually give, though? What kind of training is so important that some people are unable to go without it?
As it turns out, studies show that service dogs are very beneficial in combating stress and anxiety.
That being said, what are the specifics in this case?
1) They can detect, and react, to symptoms of anxiety
It’s a known fact that dogs respond to emotions, thus making them capable of empathy by nature.
Even before research properly established that fact people always said that your dog would always love you.
Although they weren’t quite right per-say.
They were 100% correct about the empathy part – but it actually runs far deeper.
Dogs can be trained to detect changes in odor, blood pressure, heart rate and general nervous habits.
Heck, some dogs are even trained to smell cancer, believe it or not.
As such, dogs that were trained to successfully detect symptoms of anxiety are also capable of reacting to them accordingly to prevent the situation from escalating.
In other words, they have honed their natural abilities as dogs and learned how to use them better.
To that end, they were also trained to react accordingly.
2) They are trained to fight off negativity
As you may know, negativity is the enemy of men and a major source of anxiety and depression.
So much so, that fighting it off is a major component of overcoming your mental health problems.
One example of a negative behavior is Self-talk, it is a great cause for concern.
You tell yourself a certain lie, then you actually start believing in it for whatever reason.
You exaggerate any situation that way, simply because negativity comes off as being second nature to you by now.
Well, service dogs pretty much put a stop to that.
They offer unconditional love and support just like any other pet. Unlike any other pet, though, they know exactly how to act in order for you to realize the extent of their care.
In comparison to most dogs, they are much more expressive with their comforting nature.
They will make sure to always be around you and provide you with all the love and support that you need, to the point where they will disregard their wants and needs.
Now, how many humans will you meet that will go this far for you? Heck, even your pet might want to go and play outside from time to time.
And honestly, can you blame them?
Service dogs will stick by your side until you start feeling better, and that makes all the difference.
3) They are persistent
If you are suffering from anxiety then it is very likely that you would like to be left alone.
No one would like to be around yous when you are so negative, either.
But they should.
You will tell your friends and family to lay off, you will get angry and frustrated if they won’t, even your other pets might sense how negative you are being and leave you alone.
Service dogs are specifically trained to act otherwise.
Not only will they not leave you alone, they will actually bother you even more! The people who had them trained had such scenarios in mind.
Research shows that social support and interactions lower stress, a major contributing factor to anxiety.
By forcing you into interacting with them, dogs can help you decrease your anxiety, hopefully to a point where you would be willing to talk with other people.
4) They are great with panic attacks
Like I said before, dogs can certainly help you with anxiety.
They can detect it beforehand, thus helping you prevent it before it even becomes a major problem.
They can either help you themselves or call for someone else to assist you, and that’s pretty much what you would expect from a regular person to do, right?
However, should all action taken beforehand fail, and should your distress develop into an actual panic attack, the service dog is trained best to handle it.
One of the most helpful things a service dog will know to do is to lick your body/face or poke you.
These actions may seem insignificant, yet they are anything but.
Panic attacks pull you away from reality, they make you imagine things and see feel as though you are losing your mind.
By doing these seemingly unimportant things, your service dog will keep you grounded to reality.
These aren’t just some random actions, they are meant to draw your attention away from your panic attack and focus on something else.
Distractions are shown to be very beneficial stopping panic attacks in their track, and with a service dog by your side this method becomes more viable at all times.
5) Deep pressure therapy
Deep pressure therapy includes applying pressure to the body in order to create the feeling of a firm hold. even a hug.
Research seems to approve of this method as actual therapy, with subjective results and experiences being particularly high.
It’s amazing what a simple hug can do, isn’t it?
More than that, it doesn’t actually have to be a hug at all, you can simply put something heavy on top of your body for similar results.
This method, in particular, is very useful for people who suffer from anxiety.
It is reported to increase the overall sense of relaxation and is considered to be a highly effective method.
In some studies, the method is shown to be effective for up to 83% of participants, with 60% of all participants experiencing further overall improvement in their condition.
Clearly an effective method, and guess what? Service dogs are trained to perform it!
Whenever it detects enough symptoms, or simply whenever it feels like it, the service dog will get on top of you.
It may seem a bit laughable, but it works! By getting on top of you, the service dog applies pressure to your body, thus helping you out with your current feelings of stress and anxiety.
It will stay there as long as you need it to, something which goes to show how dedicated these dogs can be
Keep in mind, aside from the fact that these service dogs are trained to give animal therapy by themselves, they are also trained to give you a deep pressure therapy.
They will also follow you around, to make sure that you receive therapy from them whenever you need it most
How cool is that?
Having a loving pet is great too!
The truth is that the main advantages of service animals are their ability to form bonds and express love and comfort.
A loving pet can do the very same things, given that the bond between the pet and the owner is strong enough.
With a few exceptions in mind, of course.
Heck, it doesn’t have to be a dog, either!
Due to subjective preferences, some animals will be more effective than others in your specific case.
If someone hates dogs then a pet dog isn’t going to do them much good, obviously.
Nonetheless, service dogs are simply better trained, and if your condition is bad enough then considering getting one isn’t all that bad of an idea.
It’s a pretty good one, actually.
So here’s a quick question for you: Do you feel better when interacting with your favorite animal?
Make sure to answer this question in the comment section below – I read every single one of those comments!
Also, if you got a personal question you would like to ask me then make sure to send me an email.
I always make sure to read them.