Humans have a long, long history with domesticated animals, i.e., dogs, cats, chickens, rabbits, cows, etc.
Today’s article discusses service dogs and how they can contribute to the health and wellbeing of special people.
National Geographic describes them as follows: “Domestic animals are animals that have been selectively bred and genetically adapted over generations to live alongside humans.”
Dogs and cats fall into the domestication category for companionship.
The makings of a service dog
When we mention “service dog”, what normally comes to mind is the picture of a guide dog guiding a visually impaired or blind person. A guide dog is just one category under the main heading of “service dogs”.
There are other types of service dogs to help people with certain disabilities. They are highly trained for specific tasks using their superior senses of smell, sight and hearing.
Types of service dogs
Also known as seeing eye dogs, are trained to guide the visually impaired around obstacles. They are trained to navigate their owners to safety from oncoming vehicles or people, step up or down kerbs, taught to know when lights change although dogs are red-green colour blind.
They are trained to alert a hearing impaired person when the doorbell rings, someone calls at the door, phone rings, alarms go off, and other sounds like a baby’s crying.
Now we come to a category of medically trained dogs that can alert the person concerned or even raise the alarm for help:
Diabetic alert dogs
With their heightened sense of smell, dogs are trained to recognize certain smells.
Specialist trainers teach dogs to recognize fruity smelling ketones in a diabetic’s body when he or she is having a hyperglycemic episode, i.e., when the blood sugar level is too high.
Diabetic alert dogs are also trained to recognize the unique smell given off by a person having a hypoglycemic episode, i.e., when the blood sugar is too low.
These special dogs are not a replacement for checking blood sugar levels. However, they are able to alert a person beforehand, on an upcoming hyperglycemic or hypoglycemic episode if there are no other prior warning signs, e.g., drop in body temperature or giddiness.
Seizure response dogs
These special dogs are trained to act once a seizure is going to happen or is happening. They are taught to quickly bring medication to the owner, raise the alarm for help, or make sure the owner is safe until the episode passes or help arrives.
Mobility assistance dogs
These are specially trained dogs to help owners with mobility issues. They are trained to fetch things, press buttons, and help the owner get up or sit down safely. Some big dogs are trained to carefully push wheelchairs up ramps.
Psychiatric service dogs
People suffering from anxiety attacks, depression, or post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) can get various forms of support from these special dogs. They are able to walk ahead of the owner to make him or her feel secure, turn on the lights in a dark house, or defend the owner in a threatening situation.
Autism support dogs
These dogs are trained to provide grounding and support to children and adults with autism. They give their owners a sense of stability as they go out to face the world.
Emotional support and therapy dogs
The purpose of therapy dogs is to comforts an owner with disabilities. They are not trained to perform specific tasks, but are there as companions. Owners often improve their social and emotional states and cognitive thinking when they interact with these dogs.
Service dogs bring comfort and provide relief to their owners who are people with special needs. Owners take better care of themselves when they have a service dog. When a good bond is formed, owners also make effort to care for their dogs’ wellbeing and happiness.
Service dogs can help their owners be more self-sufficient and independent, as can be seen above. They are highly intelligent and need special training in specific areas to look out for the wellbeing and health of the owner.
In Malaysia, access to service dogs is limited, but headways are being made for their acceptance into society due to the numerous positive benefits owners can get from having these special dogs.
22nd October 2020 22:30
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