2013-11-08 10.24.58-4The photo above is me looking after a Service Dog. His name is Getxo and he is the proud owner of Professor Amanda Burls.  I thought I was looking after the dog but in actuality the dog was looking after me! He would stop me from staying too long on the computer by putting his face on the keyboard and when he felt I was sitting too long he would bring over my shoes in his mouth and stand there until I got up. By the end of my time with Getxo I felt better than I had in months!

Service Dogs can lift depression, help with tasks, and protect their owners. They are used in schools, Nursing homes, hospitals, with veterans. They are specially trained to be companions and to provide services.  James Serpell, director of the Center for the Interaction of Animals and Society at the University of Pennsylvania points to research that  indicates animal interventions can help with social interaction and reduce behavior issues encourage n some children with autism-spectrum disorders. Dogs work just as well  as other conventional treatments, including CBT. The research is less robust for depression anxiety or fear but the owners of service animals state they do enjoy tremendous security and relief with the use of their service dogs.

The animals are effective says a review of animal-assisted interventions on children with autism, published in the Society for Companion Animal Studies Journal in 2009, they can help facilitate daily routines and reduce behavioral outbursts. Dr. Serpell can’t point specifically to a cause for the enhancement but it is suggested that s the animal’s presence induces neurochemical changes, like an increase in oxytocin hormone, which is then thought to improve social interactions.

I spoke with patients who have service animals and they share that some employers, airlines and living places can be very difficult to deal with even when the dog comes equipped and licensed with a physicians letter. It is like they are being bullied for being disabled and bringing help. The NSARSO web site gives great information on how to get, keep, train and troubleshoot service dog issues. If the videos below are not available in your area you can view them below:

The thinking behind service dogs

Wilco helps with TBI and PTSD

This greyhound is even learning how to take off Hoodies and jackets

Amy Price

About Amy Price

Amy Price is a research graduate student at Oxford University. working on ThinkWellTM with her supervisor Professor Amanda Burls.. Through ThinkWell and my project PLOT (Public- Led Online Trials) we help people learn about clinical trials and research by doing research together with the public using citizen science projects. We believe health research should try to address the questions that are most important to ordinary people and patients. Research needs to be done well to minimize bias. ThinkWellTM turns health research on its head by enabling the public to lead health research (with support from health researchers and professionals to ensure that the research is valid and reliable) instead of health researchers and professionals setting the research agenda and patients and the public simply being the subjects of, or participants in, this research. “Tell me and I will forget. Teach me and I will remember. Involve me and I will learn.” Using all the senses engraves understanding in the brain and allows us to process information at multiple levels. ThinkWellTM will change the understanding of health science and make this science accessible for all.