Types Of Support Dogs
Dogs are so good at supporting humans when it comes to mental health, weve given them official titles! There are emotional support dogs, therapy dogs and service dogs, just to name a few. These are all different in the eyes of the law – and a person can definitely adopt a dog specifically to help ease anxiety without having to register the animal anywhere as such. These designations come in handy primarily when its time to travel or visit a public space.
Service dogs are top tier. Theyre highly trained animals recognized by the Americans with Disabilities Act that not only provide emotional support but also perform a function that their human owner cannot. Service dogs are trainedand legally allowedto go everywhere with their owner.
Therapy dogs also go through rigorous training and testing to get certified, but arent usually employed full-time by someone in need. Instead, they provide social-emotional benefits to a variety of people like students, hospital patients and nursing home residents. Therapy dogs do not have the legal access or privileges that a service dog has.
Finally, there are companion pets. Companion dogs are similar to emotional support and therapy dogs but are different in the eyes of the law. Aka, these pets do not have legal access to the same areas that emotional support, therapy and service animals do. People suffering from anxiety, depression, PTSD and similar ailments that prevent them from enjoying life are ideal candidates for companion dogs.
Managing Stress By Having An Esa
According to an article on helpguide.org, healthcare providers have endorsed the use of Emotional Support Animals in the treatment of mental health disorders. According to the experts, regularly interacting with these animals has a calming effect which helps in the secretion of hormones such as dopamine and serotonin, which help alleviate stress. The deficit of such hormones results in poor stress management.
Follow these steps to get an ESA that will help you cope better with stress:
Habits Formed When One Is Stressed
Not everyone can easily cope with stress. Some people may avoid reality since it seems to be too stressful. Failure to adequately manage stress results in the development of bad habits such as regular drinking, drug abuse, eating excessively, and social withdrawal. These habits affect ones overall health and act as a gateway to more diseases.
Just a reminder failure to address stress will result in lots of consequences such as poor physical and mental health, damaged relationships, and breakdown of the family unit.
Always strive to manage stress before it spirals out of control. Remember those bad situations arent there to last. They will come and go, but once your health is destroyed, it may be difficult to recover. One of the best ways to cope with stress is having an Emotional Support Animal.
How ESAs help with stress management
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Can You Take Care Of An Animal
Before getting any kind of pet, it is important to seriously consider the responsibilities that come along with it. Think about whether you can care for it physically, mentally, and financially. If you cant handle a dog, consider a lower-maintenance pet like a cat or a fish. If even that is too much, try starting with a plant or a stuffed animal, or another form of treatment.
Can Emotional Support Dogs Really Make A Difference
Dog lovers inherently understand that dogs make people feel better. When we pet a dog, it brings a smile to our faces, our blood pressure goes down, and stress and anxiety fade into the background even during a chance encounter.
Even so, its validating to know that some studies show companion dogs can decrease anxiety and depression and improve overall mental health. A 2018 review published in BMC Psychiatry included 17 studies that featured measurable evidence relating to the ups and downs of pet ownership, how people connect with pets, the multiple ways companion animals help mental health conditions, and the psychological impact of losing a companion animal. In a nutshell, the review found pets provide benefits to those with mental health conditions.
A more recent study conducted at the University of Toledo showed people who adopted companion animals experienced reduce depression, anxiety, and loneliness. Though more research is needed, so far, studies point to companion animals as being a beneficial partner in human health and well-being.
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How Pets Can Help You Make Healthy Lifestyle Changes
Adopting healthy lifestyle changes plays an important role in easing symptoms of depression, anxiety, stress, bipolar disorder, and PTSD. Caring for a pet can help you make healthy lifestyle changes by:
Increasing exercise. Taking a dog for a walk, hike, or run are fun and rewarding ways to fit healthy daily exerciseinto your schedule. Studies have shown that dog owners are far more likely to meet their daily exercise requirementsand exercising every day is great for the animal as well. It will deepen the connection between you, eradicate most behavior problems in dogs, and keep your pet fit and healthy.
Providing companionship. Companionship can help prevent illness and even add years to your life, while isolation and loneliness can trigger symptoms of depression. Caring for an animal can help make you feel needed and wanted, and take the focus away from your problems, especially if you live alone. Most dog and cat owners talk to their pets, some even use them to work through their troubles. And nothing beats loneliness like coming home to a wagging tail or purring cat.
Helping you meet new people. Pets can be a great social lubricant for their owners, helping you start and maintain new friendships. Dog owners frequently stop and talk to each other on walks, hikes, or in a dog park. Pet owners also meet new people in pet stores, clubs, and training classes.
Get a dog, lose weight
A number of studies have linked owning a dog to losing weight:
Pet Therapymaking Spirits Bright
Dogs arent just used as service animalsthey are also used as therapy animals, visiting the elderly or sick in their homes or hospice care.
Tali has been a therapy dog for six years, brightening the spirits of patients in hospice care or people in nursing homes. Photo courtesy of Lisa Marcolongo.
Lisa Marcolongo has teamed up with her golden/Labrador retriever mix Tali to visit people over the past six years. Marcolongo also works part-time at The Elizabeth Hospice in San Diego, where residents love their four-legged visitors.
They enjoy her presence and the warmth Tali brings, Marcolongo says. She puts her head in their lap so they can touch her head and she has been trained to gently get into bed and cuddle with them, so they feel that warmth. I think whenever people are not feeling well, touch and warmth are very important.
Seeing dogs around also spark fond memories of life with dogs prior to the nursing home or hospice.
There are some patients with dementia who may not remember what they had for breakfast that morning but a lot of times, they remember the animals they had growing up, Marcolongo explains.
Heres how it works: Pet therapy teams coordinate with social workers who offer a list of services to potential patients, dog therapy included. If the patient chooses pet therapy as part of their care, a team will be contacted and paired up with the patient.
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How To Qualify For An Emotional Support Animal For You Or Your Loved One With Gad
In most situations, those with GAD will qualify for assistance from an ESA. If you think you might qualify, or know someone who could benefit from an ESA, participate in this free screening to learn more. If you do qualify, there are resources available to get an ESA letter from a licensed health professional. If your physician, for any reason, does not write ESA letters, you can request a letter here.
How Service Dogs Help Humans With Anxiety And Depression
The therapeutic power of pets is well documented having an animal can help treat anxiety or depression, or simply brighten your day. Photo courtesy of The Elizabeth Hospice.
Often times, those with depression or anxiety avoid contact with the outside world, either out of fear or stress of what might happen.
Anxiety and depression involve emotional turmoil and negative internal self-talk,’Dr. Katie Kangas, co-founder of the Pet Wellness Academy, explains. These thoughts typically spiral into unrealistic negativity and this continues in a vicious cycle.
Dogs help break that cycle by providing comforting companionship and a sense of purpose for their owners.
Dr. Kangas and Certified Behaviorist Colleen Demling weigh in on some of the other ways dogs can help those suffering from depression:
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What Is An Emotional Support Dog
An emotional support animal does not have to be a dog, but ESAs usually are dogs. Dogs are easy to train, loyal, and they’re smaller than a miniature horse whether you get a small dog or a large dog or anything in between. An emotional support dog is a dog that provides comfort to an individual with an emotional or mental disability by offering comfort and reducing stress. Any breed of dog can be an emotional support animal, and no special training is required. Emotional support dogs can help with a wide range of mental illnesses:
- Social anxiety
What Are The Benefits
Not only do ESAs offer companionship on a day-to-day basis, but they can also provide comfort during times of distress, says Ernesto Lira de la Rosa, PhD, a licensed clinical psychologist and media advisor for the Hope for Depression Research Foundation. Other potential benefits include easing loneliness, stress, and anxiety while increasing feelings of pleasure and relaxation.
A small 2021 study found that people with diagnosed mental health or psychiatric disorders experienced a statistically significant decrease in depression, anxiety, and loneliness after getting emotional support animals. Researchers also observed an increase in oxytocin the “bonding hormone” associated with feelings of well-being and lower amounts of the stress hormone cortisol after participants had 10-minute focused interactions with their emotional support animal.
Meanwhile, a 2018 review found evidence to suggest that ESAs were particularly helpful for people with mental health conditions during a time of crisis, as their presence seemed to distract from upsetting symptoms and experiences.
While emotional support animals and their owners have some rights under Fair Housing Laws that protect against discrimination, other public places are not required to accommodate them, says Chum.
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Esa Letters Travel With You
How an ESA letter empowers you
You can buy tags for your pet online. The tags say, ESA and theyre usually red and oversized. Anyone can order them.
You need to carry a letter with you, especially when traveling. An ESA letter is a recommendation from a licensed medical professional.
- Animal-specific information Your ESA letter should not be generic. It should specify your animals breed, name, and identification number.
- Date An undated ESA letter is not valid. Your ESA letter should specify the issue and expiration dates.
- Letterhead A genuine ESA letter has a letterhead that includes medical credentials: your doctors name, license type/number, and contact information.
- Mental health condition Your ESA letter should state you need an ESA to manage a mental health condition. The letter should identify the mental health disorder managed by the support animals presence.
- State-specific Each U.S. state has its own licensing board. Your Emotional Support Animal Letter should be issued by a medical professional licensed in your state. Always check the medical professionals/physician license to ensure its current and valid.
We live in a digital society. Its not surprising there are many online offers of ESA letters. Some people pay the fee only to discover their ESA documentation isnt worth the paper it wasnt written on. Watch for signs of ESA letter-scamming:
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Ability To Sleep Better
When a room gets dark or, the lights are turned off, and the body releases a hormone called melatonin. The hormone is secreted by the pineal gland in the brain and is responsible for your ability to sleep. Its deficiency is what keeps one awake at night.
ESAs and how they affect sleep
To assist one sleep better, the hormone is synchronized with the Circadian Rhythm, which is your Bodys natural clock. The Circadian Rhythm is somewhere working in the back of your brain and is responsible for regulating the intervals at which you sleep and wake up.
Psychology Of Having A Pet
Of course, long-stay psychiatric patients are not representative of most people who have depression. Helen Brooks published research in BMC Psychiatrywhich showed that pets, small or large, are very good for people with depression.
In fact, she found the emotional support and connection offered by a pet was the most important element. This was especially true for those who have difficult relationships with those closest to them. Pets in the home can help people with depression:
- Ward off loneliness
- Enjoy emotional support
- Manage their own symptoms more effectively
As a result, Brooks argued that pets should be seen as a major part of a persons support network. This may seem strange, but evidence suggests that pet ownership offers the following benefits:
- Lower stress levels
- Reduced depressive symptoms
Pets offer unconditional love. This affection, untroubled by day-to-day concerns, is comforting for many people. Owners can also speak freely to a pet without fear of judgment. This is paired with the sensation that someone or something is still listening. That can be therapeutic.
Having a pet ensures that you have something outside yourself to think about. You are responsible for:
- Feeding it
- Cleaning its cage
- Seeing to its emotional and social needs
When a depressive episode strikes, it can be hard to get out of bed. Having a small pet to look after motivates many people.
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How To Make Your Dog An Official Emotional Support Animal
You might want your dog to be officially recognized as an emotional support animal to enjoy some legal rights. However, though there are websites that will register your dog, there is no official database to register your dog or certification program. To make it official, you must obtain a letter from a licensed mental health professional that clearly states your need for an emotional support animal. You can use your own mental health professional or an emotional support animal service such as ESA Doctors, Emotional Pet Support, or Certapet. These companies can connect you with a mental health pro for the required mental health evaluation needed to get the emotional support animal letter.
What Are Emotional Support Dogs
People with mental or emotional issues have begun using dogs as their mental support companions because such pets help them remain functional throughout the day. These pooches provide unconditional love, acceptance, comfort, and a sense of structure for people whose lives may have been turned upside-down by trauma.
The dogs help them deal with the hardships that might otherwise compromise their quality of life. However, there are ways to formally and legally recognize an emotional support dog. According to the American Kennel Club, a dog can be an ESA animal if a licensed mental health practitioner prescribes the pet to the person struggling with a disabling mental problem.
A psychiatrist, therapist, or psychologist must evaluate you and conclude that a dogs presence can help your mental health. The formal process allows you to get some fringe benefits such as getting a cabin on flights or accommodate the animal in a home or apartment with a NO PET policy.
Theres no limit to the dogs age or breed, although certain species have traits that make them more suitable for the role.
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Must I Disclose My Anxiety Disorder
A prospective landlord or airline official may call your therapist to verify your ESA letter, but he or she cannot demand that you or your therapist provide specific details about your anxiety disorder. You are also not obligated to provide any medical records or other paperwork related to your visits or therapy appointments. In most cases, a current ESA letter is enough to allow your animal to live and travel with you.
An anxiety disorder can disrupt your life and make daily tasks seem insurmountable. The presence of an emotional support animal can help reduce symptoms and provide you with comfort and unconditional love. Register your animal today so you can ensure your best friend always remains by your side.
Determining Which Dog Breeds Could Help With Anxiety
If you already have a dog you love, you can get it training to possibly provide some or all of the extra mental health assistance you might need.
But if youre looking to get a new pet, you might want to consider finding a dog with characteristics that would make them more likely to help you with anxiety.
When Cattet goes to a shelter to pick out potential PSDs, she looks for the following traits:
- Confidence. PSDs need to be able to work in all sorts of places and not get worried.
- Sociability. The best PSDs are easygoing, happy-go-lucky pooches who love being around people and other animals.
- Trainability. Cattet and her team train each dog for 30 different behaviors.
These three characteristics can potentially be found in certain breeds, including mutts.
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