Most of us do not adopt our pets as a means to combat depression. However, many find out after getting our precious critters that they have the ability to make us feel good about life and about ourselves. They make us smile and laugh when they (usually unintentionally) do silly things. They are also there for us in our times of need. Some of them might even become small therapy dogs, without us even noticing it.
For those struggling with depression and other mood disorders, the presence of a loving companion can make a world of difference. Of course, we generally can’t take our pets everywhere with us. With a therapy dog that has a registration, that becomes possible.
What Are Therapy Dogs?
Therapy dogs (collectively referred to as Psychiatric Service Dogs) are dogs who are specifically trained to assist human beings who are diagnosed with various psychiatric disorders, including depression.
Therapy dogs are individually trained to meet the specific needs of their owners.
- Dogs whose owners have PTSD are trained to respond to their owners’ unique needs.
- Meanwhile, dogs whose owners have depression are trained to specifically respond to signs that their owners are feeling depressed.
- Dogs whose owners have anxiety or PTSD as comorbidities are alert to symptoms of those disorders as well.
Additionally, therapy dogs provide their humans with a sense of responsibility. This is because the owner has to be responsible for the dog’s well-being. This can teach those with depression how to be sensitive to their own well-beings as well. These dogs also provide the unconditional love that many with depression feel is lacking in their lives.
You can take your therapy dog with you in public. Therefore, these dogs can assist you in becoming more social. They can also work with you through difficult emotions or experiences while in public.
What Does Therapy Dog Training Involve?
Therapy dogs go through multiple training classes in order to become therapy pets with a certificate. Certified trainers cover this aspect. For example, the trainers at Scout’s Legacy have received their Dog Training Certificates from the Penn Foster Career School. Also, the lead trainer is also a Canine Good Citizen Evaluator.
If you are thinking about enrolling your current pet as a therapy dog, you will have to meet with a certified trainer who analyzes your dog. This helps trainers weed out dogs that might not be successful in training and focus on those that show strong potential. You can get more than one dog in training. But some folks choose to only get one of their dogs certified since training requires time and money.
During training, Psychiatric Service Dogs receive choacing on how to perform various tasks, including:
- Deep Pressure Therapy (DPT): When a dog uses its warmth and weight to provide physical comfort, such as sitting on a person’s lap or resting their head on a lap;
- Grounding: When an owner is able to divert their focus from something that is bothering them to their dog. Also, the dog will try to get their owner’s attention when they sense something is amiss;
- Finding an exit and getting to a safe place;
- Alert owner to incipient episodes;
- Remind owner to take medications.
Traveling With Your Therapy Dog: Is This Possible?
According to the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), a certified therapy dog is allowed to accompany their owner with disability anywhere the general public is allowed to go. If a service dog is viewed by a public entity (for example, a restaurant) as being a disturbance to other patrons, the establishment can ask the owner to remove the dog.
However, the law does not recognize therapy dogs as simply being pets. This means that businesses cannot charge you a fee for bringing your therapy dog with you. Moreover, they won’t have much legal ground to stand on if they ask you to leave despite your dog being well-behaved.
If you are planning a trip, airlines need to allow therapy dogs to sit with their owners. Granted, your dog might need to take up the seat next to you. So, you will have to plan on arriving early to get on board before other passengers. Service dogs can make flights much easier for those with anxiety, fear of flying, or even depression (which sometimes prevents people from flying) to get through.
Other Issues Related to Therapy Dogs and Depression
One of the biggest issues you will encounter with taking a Depression Service Dog out into public the presence of other people. We are referring especially to those with allergies or who have pervasive fears of dogs. They might not be receptive to having your therapy dog nearby.
When you meet one of these people, you do not legally have to disclose to them why you have your dog with you. But you can tell them that your dog is providing you an essential service. You can also mention that they went through a thorough training.
Therapy Dog Options
While many breeds work well as therapy dogs, the best ones for depression tend to be the below. These dogs are intelligent and extremely loyal. They often bond easily with their owners.
- Labrador retrievers;
- Golden retrievers;
- Yorkshire terriers.
Of course, you may already have a dog that you are extremely bonded with. It may also seem capable of providing you therapeutic services. Then, you can inquire about getting that dog in training, regardless of their breed.
Therapy Dogs in Pop Culture
The 2017 hit show 13 Reasons Why was so emotionally-charged that therapy dogs were brought in to work with the cast and crew.
Lead actress Katherine Langford had an especially difficult time. She was playing a teenager with depression and suicidal ideation. So, she benefit greatly from the presence of cute and cuddly therapy dogs.
Wagging the Tail
A therapy dog will be there for you whenever you need them and provide vast amounts of physical and emotional support. If you are struggling with symptoms of depression despite your counseling or medical treatment regimen, it might be the right time to consider adopting an amazing therapy dog.
The images are from depositphotos.com.