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We have long known about the therapeutic value of dogs. They have been known to help the handicapped, bring companionship to the lonely, help lower blood pressure and even help socialise criminal offenders. Therapy dogs have been recruited to alert those suffering from diabetes, epilepsy and more. They provide aid to children with autism and cerebral palsy. Researchers have found that university students have less stress and anxiety after spending time at a drop-in session with a dog present.
How could this be? The human-animal bond can impact people and animals in a positive ways and students experienced increased motivation for learning resulting in improved outcomes. There are also animal-assisted activities, which is an umbrella term covering many different ways animals can be used to help humans. One example is to facilitate emotional or physical mental health and wellbeing through pet therapy or the presence of therapy dogs. (more info on therapy dogs click here).
Supporting serving and ex-serving Australian Defence Force (ADF) Members
Analysis by McGuire and others (2015) compared NSMHWB results for men who have, and have not, served in the ADF, adjusting for age, education, marital status, employment and self-rated physical health. Men who served in the ADF were significantly more likely (1.5 times as likely) to meet the criteria for a diagnosable lifetime mental disorder (51%) than men in the general population (45%). Compared with other men, men who served were also, in their lifetime. 1.8 times as likely to experience PTSD (6% compared with 4%) , 1.7 times as likely to experience depression (15% compared with 11%) and 1.4 times as likely experience alcohol use disorder (36% compared with 32%). (Stats from here).
The Young Diggers Dog Squad is an organisation that trains dogs to become Companion and Assistance Dogs to support the serving and ex-serving Australian Defence Force members who are dealing with PTSD. Take the case of Josh New an Afghanistan veteran who found an immediate bond with his dog Lucky. He said after numerous therapies in hospital, he decided to try an assistance dog. He went on to say "I had a trigger, there was a young girl screaming and I go a bit emotional.". "..Later on that night I was on the phone to my wife crying and Lucky jumped on my chest and just lay there until I'd stopped crying to make sure I was alright.". Mr New said Lucky has now made suicide virtually impossible. (see the whole story here).
Helping With Seizures
Seizure Response Dogs and Seizure Alert Dogs can provide comfort for children and adults with epilepsy and other seizure disorders. Seizure Alert Dogs warn their owner of upcoming epileptic seizures anywhere from 30 seconds to sometimes even higher than 15 minutes.Many epileptics become isolated because they are afraid of having a seizure in public, so the dog can help prevent a catastrophe (getting them to a safe place). Seizure Response Dogs helps their owners during and after seizures. Each dog has its own style of alerting, including pawing, barking, circling and making close eye contact. Researchers believe that a dog's superior sense of smell enable them to predict an imminent seizure or that they can detect small changes in behavior prior to a seizure. (For more info click here).
Diabetic service dogs are given special training to learn how to assist people with type 1 diabetes. Normally, a person can feel the warning signals of low blood sugar (sweating, shaking, nausea, and confusion); however, some are unable to feel these symptoms and are unaware that their blood sugar is dropping or is dangerously low. This can lead to seizures, brain damage, or passing out while driving.
Diabetic Alert Service Dogs give a trained signal to alert its partner to low or high blood sugar levels, alert others if their owners need assistance, retrieve phones in case of an emergency, and bring juice or medicine when needed.
Even family pets provide comfort, love and assistance to their owners. There seems to be no limits as to what our amazing dogs can do!