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If you are a pet parent, you don’t need a scientific study to tell you that having a furry companion in your life just makes you feel better. Animals are there after you’ve had a bad day at work and only want to offer unconditional love and support – no judgment, no criticisms.

However, if you are a science “geek,” you will be happy to know that there have been several studies over the years that show how animals can relieve stress in both adults and children.

Let’s “dig” into the question of; can an animal relieve stress?

Scientific Proof that Animals Relieve Stress

Two studies, each published in the Journal of Research in Personality (and reported in Scientific American), examined the impact pets have on human emotions.

For the first experiment, people were divided into three groups. The first group of participants was given a pet to sit close by, the second group was only asked to think about a pet, and for the third, no animals were involved at all.

The participants were then told to list their goals and how confident they were in achieving them. Not surprisingly, the first two groups came up with a longer list of goals, and they were all significantly more optimistic that they could achieve them.

For the second trial, the same folks were once again divided into three groups. However, this time they were asked to perform a stressful task. The researchers closely monitored any changes in their blood pressure. For those participants that had pets close by or were thinking of pets had markedly lower blood pressure.

The takeaway?

Having pets close to you, or even just thinking about your pets, has the effect of lowering stress.

Therapy Dogs & Emotional Support Animals

For many decades, the use of therapy animals in hospitals, hospices, schools, and nursing homes have shown remarkable improvement in the stress levels of those the animals visit. Patients are calmer and respond better to treatment, while students in schools are better able to face the challenges of the academia with regular visits from a therapy canine.

The use of Emotional Support Animals is also gaining popularity. Mental health professionals are seeing the positive results of their patients emotional and mental health when an ESA is prescribed as part of their treatment regime. Emotional support animals provide comfort and emotional support to their owners and are allowed to live and travel with their owners.

Other Ways Animals Relieve Our Stress

According to Alan M. Beck (Director of the Center for the Human-Animal Bond at the Purdue University College of Veterinary Medicine), pets help relieve stress in eight specific ways;

Lowered blood pressure. As the studies indicated, petting an animal or even just being in their presence of one can have a significant reduction on one’s blood pressure. Increase cardiovascular health. People with dogs tend to walk more, which is good for cardiovascular health. Increased activity levels also lower cholesterol. Dogs inspire activity. Having a canine companion will encourage pet parents to get out and be more active, whether that be walking, hiking, playing in the park, or even swimming. Provide companionship. Being lonely can be very stressful. Having an animal provides unconditional friendship, love, and loyalty. Pets help us live in the moment. Animals don’t worry about yesterday or tomorrow – they live their lives in the present. Having an animal keeps us focused on the now, while we let go of our past mistakes or future burdens. Fulfill humans need for touch. It has been proven that physical contact decreases anger, builds a bond, boosts the immune system, and reduces stress. Pet parents also can use the healing power of touch, which is especially important for the increasing number of those who live alone. Provide laughter. Animals can be very amusing, whether they are getting into mischief, or just being themselves. Laughing, in turn, reduces tension in our bodies and provides us with those feel-good hormones. Increase our self-esteem. A recent study from researchers at Miami University and Saint Louis University found that pet owners had better self-esteem than non-pet owners. Animal lovers also tended to exhibit fewer signs of fear and were not as preoccupied with themselves.

Whether you find comfort and friendship in a dog, cat, bird, rabbit or fish, you will be reaping the benefits of a happier and healthier life for it. If you don’t have a pet, look to your local shelter or animal rescue to find your perfect companion.

Alert dogs are best known for guiding the visually impaired, sniffing out drugs and bombs, or providing mobility assistance for people with severe disabilities. Diabetic Service Dogs, or DSDs for short, are service dogs trained to detect hypoglycemia and alert their owners to treat it while they are still conscious and aware. The ADA, or the American Disability Association, considers this to be a type of service dog because diabetes is a type of disability. DSDs detect low blood sugar through organic compounds in the person’s breath and are trained to respond to these changes in blood sugar. Whether the individual has Type I, Type II, or hypoglycemia unawareness, DSDs can react to these changes in compounds and alert the owner to act.

What services do Diabetic Service Dogs provide?

While the primary objective of a DSD is to notify their owner of any changes to their blood sugar levels, they also provide other ways of service that come with a service animal, such as:

A Sense of Comfort for the Owner Increased Physical Activity Improved Regulation of Blood Sugar Levels Increased Socialization and Independence A Sense of Ease for Family Members

DSDs can also be used as a medical expense. As long as the owner’s disability is legally recognized, the costs of buying, training and maintaining the owner’s service dog can count towards their tax assessments. While DSDs provide companionship, DSDs cannot be the only reliable source for people to check their blood sugar. Owners of DSDs should not rely entirely on their service animals and should check their glucose monitors for their levels and take extra precaution when dealing with their health.

Diabetic Service Dogs can notify their owners when blood sugar levels change.

How do trainers train a Diabetic Service Dog?

Training varies depending on the organization or trainer. Diabetic Service Dogs are trained from birth until they are around 18 months old, beginning with training in public access and social conditioning to help to expose them to various environments, including scents, objects, and sounds. From there, trainers work the dogs towards the next step, scent detection work. In the case for DSDs, these dogs are trained to detect the hypoglycemic scent, obtained from a person with diabetes while their blood sugar level is below 70. These dogs are then tested under the Assistance Dogs International (ADI) public access test, which follows through a series of objectives to evaluate the dog’s behavior in distracting environments. For owners who wish to train their dogs, they should partner with a trainer experienced in training service dogs and follows the ADA guidelines.  

How accurate are Diabetic Service Dogs at detecting low blood sugar?

Dogs are known to have a great ability to smell. This ability to detect smell is based on the number of olfactory cells they have. Compared to humans, who have 5 million olfactory cells, dogs have up to 220 million olfactory cells. This means that a dogs nose can be 1,000 times more sensitive than a human. In practice, DSDs alert their owners by recognizing a scent emitted when that diabetics blood sugar begins to drop rapidly. However, the accuracy of the dog’s ability to smell that scent or what precisely the smell is is up to debate by many researchers. According to studies, results vary, with some stating that the dog’s ability isn’t as accurate and others stating the opposite. Hence, the standards for what accounts as a precise sense of smell for DSDs is currently unavailable and is still being determined.  

How to register your Diabetic Service Dog

Because the ADA does not directly support service dog registration, it is essential to find the right organization to register your service dog. The right Service Dog Certifications and Registry will provide support for service dog owners.  By ordering a custom identification card for you and your Service Dog, you help others follow the guidelines set out by the ADA and helps store employees grant public access to you even if they have a no-pet policy.  It is important to work with a trustworthy source so you can direct store employees to the right resource as well. Service Dog Certifications, however, does not train or provide assistance dogs for people with disabilities. Instead, they recommend adopting a service dog and working with a trainer if you have the means. If that is not possible, no worries, you can absolutely still adopt a service dog and train them yourself or seek support from a local trainer.  

Some tips on choosing the right organization/trainer include:

Don’t get a dog from a trainer or organization that will not allow you to visit the training facility Ask the trainer about follow-up support Ask for test demonstrations for the puppy as you would with an adult dog Ask for health records, demand to see the kennel and parents of the pup. Ask about scent imprint procedures and exactly how the trainers teach their dogs to imprint. After purchasing your new DSD, get a health evaluation from your vet: Hip x-ray, routine blood tests, heartworm snap.

According to the U.S. Department of Justice, the Service Animal is defined as a dog that is specifically trained to perform a task (or tasks) for an individual with a disability.

With this definition in mind, a Service Dog is not an ordinary pet or even one that is being used for emotional support (ESA).

In this post, we will take a more in-depth look at this topic to uncover what makes a Service Dog legal.

A Service Dog is NOT an Emotional Support Animal

There may be some confusion as to the difference between a Service Dog and an Emotional Support Animal. As we mentioned earlier, the Service Dog must be specifically trained to perform a task that the person cannot do for themselves.

This includes (but is not limited to);

Guiding the blind Pulling a wheelchair Opening doors Alerting to an oncoming medical condition Reminding the individual to take medications Alerting those with hearing impairments

An Emotional Support Animal is defined as any animal that is being used by an individual with a mental or emotional disability for comfort. This can include helping people with social anxieties, PTSD, phobias, anxiety, and depression. Unlike a Service Dog, an ESA is not specifically trained for providing a task(s) for their owner.

Unlike an Emotional Support Animal, Service Dogs are allowed into all areas where the general public has a right to go. This includes restaurants, hotels, theaters, public transportation, libraries, retail outlets, malls, etc.

Difference between service dog, emotional support dogs, and therapy dogs

How Do I Qualify for a Service Dog?

Before you can have a legitimate Service Dog, you must have a disability that requires the assistance of a canine companion. Some disabilities are obvious and therefore will need no explanation for the dog. Other conditions may not be so visible, but that doesn’t mean you are not entitled to having one.

The Americans With Disabilities Act (ADA) does have a clear definition as to what is considered disabled. If you are unsure, ask your doctor if you may qualify for a Service Dog.

To register your dog and get your service dog ID card, please complete the registration below.

What Makes a Service Dog Legal?

Training of the Service Dog to perform a specific task is key to it being legitimate. According to the ADA, the Service Dog does not need to be professionally trained, meaning the disabled individual may go through this process themselves.

However, be aware that the handler of the dog is 100% responsible for that canine in all situations. The Service Dog must be under your control at all times. It cannot exhibit any unruly behavior such as jumping, begging, wandering off, barking, lunging at people, etc.

The ADA also does not consider a Service Dog in training a full-fledged assistance animal, so it is not yet allowed into those public areas that are normally off limits to dogs.

The Service Dog is also not legally required to wear any identification of its status; however, having a specifically marked vest, harness or badge will make it easier when you are dealing with the general public.

What Questions Can Be Asked of Me?

In situations where your disability may not be obvious, there are only two questions that may be asked of you;

Is the dog a service animal required because of a disability? What work or task has the dog been trained to perform?

Note: The staff are not allowed to request any documentation for the dog, require that the dog demonstrate its task, or inquire about the nature of your disability.

You and Your Service Dog

If you have a disability and need the help of a Service Dog, know your rights. You are allowed to have this working animal with you in all areas open to the general public. However, your dog must be well behaved and in your control at all times. If your disability is not openly visible, staff members are only legally able to ask you two questions in regards to your Service Dog.

Don’t suffer another minute when a Service Dog may be the answer to getting you back on the road to living a more productive, normal life.