A Service Dog can provide the following other, less concrete, benefits:
Depression causes the person to focus inward, and interactions with a Service Dog can help the handler focus more on their environment. Rather than thinking and talking about themselves and their problems, they can watch and talk about the dog.
Studies show that with a Service Dog, there is often more laughter during an interaction that with any other treatment, thus decreasing isolation. The presence of a Service Dog encourages socialization between the handler and their peers, family and visitors. For instance, many family members report that it is easier to for people talk to the handler who has a Service Dog, and makes interactions comfortable and pleasant.
The tactile experience of touching the dog can be calming, and even when doing everyday tasks, the handler feels less pressure working with the dog than with other children. Less anger and fewer acts of aggression are often the result.
Instead of constantly holding a parent or spouse's hand, the handler can walk with the dog, and the dog can assist the hanlder.
Increased mental stimulation occurs with a Service Dog not only because the dog requires time and attention, but because they encourage interaction with the outside world, brightening interactions, and increasing amusement, laughter, and play.
The correlation between touch and health is strong, and a Service Dog can help with this element. For instance, while touch from another person is not acceptable, the fuzzy touch of a Service Dog is, as it is safe, non-threatening, and pleasant. While usually touching and hugging may not be a big part in the child's life, the Service Dog can make a world of difference.
Since children relax more easily when around a Service Dog, tests have shown that the decrease in heart rate and blood pressure can be dramatic.
Children are often more comfortable talking with their Service Dog than with other people, and this increase in speaking leads to more verbal interactions with other people.
By taking care of a Service Dog, children learn to develop nurturing skills, promoting their growth and development. Simply by noticing that their dog is panting, they can learn that the dog is thirsty and can get them water, thus helping form empathy.
Sleeping with a warm, fuzzy dog can help their handler go to sleep, and can help reduce night terrors.
Since a dog accepts without qualification, not caring how a child looks or what they say, their acceptance is non-judgmental, uncomplicated, forgiving, and unconditional.
A 2002 study on the effects of service dogs found that:
- Actual experience with the service dogs met the participant's expectations.
- Participants reported that their service dogs had a positive effect on:
- Going out in public
- Feeling needed
- Feeling independent
- Feeling safe
- Socializing - more people approached them when in public
- Self esteem was enhanced significantly, as measured by theRosenberg Self-Esteem Scale.
- Family caregivers benefited, too, by:
- Being able to pursue other activities
- Having more peace of mind
A 2010 study concluded that service dogs:
- Alleviate the mental burden of daily activities
- Improve the physical functioning of their handlers
- Have positive functional and mental effects on their disabled handlers
The Effect of Service Dogs on the Improvement of Health-related Quality of Life, Shintani M, Senda M, Takayanagi T, Katayama Y, Furusawa K, Okutani T, Kataoka M, Ozaki T. Department of Orthopaedic Surgery, Okayama University Graduate School of Medicine, Dentistry and Pharmaceutical Sciences, Okayama.