Emotional Support Dog for Depression2022-07-19
The concept of an assistance dog helping someone with an impairment is never better illustrated than a guide dog for a person with a visual disability or sight deprivation.
Dogs have been helping people for decades, and the concept of dog assistance has mushroomed from simple help with practical tasks in day-to-day life for those with physical disabilities to include emotional and psychological support too.
Dogs are now recognized as assistance animals for invisible conditions such as stress, anxiety, PTSD, and depression.
Emotional support animals can come in many shapes and sizes, but a canine companion is the most popular choice to help combat depression.
Can a Service Dog Help with Your Depression?
Not called 'man’s best friend' for nothing, service dogs are becoming increasingly commonplace as a support for people suffering from mental health conditions, including depression.
Depression is one of the most under-diagnosed mental health issues in the United States. A survey revealed that just over 16 million adults had experienced a significant episode of depression in the past twelve months.
Service dogs are animals that have received official training for their role in helping a person with depression or other mental health problems to perform everyday tasks.
As an emotional support dog, they can help with your depression in the following ways:
- Reduce stress – Service dogs can sense their owner's mood and offer support through physical contact and distraction.
- Encourage responsibility – The care of another living creature helps to encourage someone with depression to think outside of their situation. A service dog is a positive focus and a reason to get up in the morning.
- Identifying panic attacks – Some psychiatric service dogs can recognize the signs of a looming panic or anxiety attack and offer immediate comfort to their owner. Their role can also include preventing strangers from approaching, which may be well-intentioned but can worsen the situation. Some service dogs go through training to provide deep pressure massage, which can help calm an anxious person and reduce the impact of a panic attack.
- Medication reminders – Service dogs can help people with depression and other mental health problems to remember to take their daily medication.
For some people, their service dog is their lifesaver. Supporting people on their journey back to better mental health, service dogs can work alongside other therapies and medication or just on their own.
With that innate sixth sense and human empathy, these dogs become attuned to the needs of their owners over time. They can detect invisible signs which are not recognizable to other people.
One of the best things about service dogs is that they are non-judgemental. People suffering from depression don't feel they have to meet an expectation or deliver an improvement—it is a unique relationship based on unconditional love.
The unconditional love of any animal, regardless of the owner's condition or mental state, is a huge prop to anyone battling depression. This support can provide the incentive needed to take tiny first steps towards improvement and a better life.
One thing to note is that a service dog for emotional support differs from an emotional support animal. A service dog has undergone specific training—such as picking up on non-verbal cues and knowing how to perform a task related to the owner's depression. A dog that serves as an emotional support animal may offer comfort and companionship, but it has not undergone specific training to do so.
The distinction between service dogs and emotional support animals is why only service dogs have protections under the Americans with Disabilities Act or ADA, while emotional support animals do not.
Disabilities Classified by the ADA
The Americans with Disabilities Act or ADA prohibits discrimination against people who have mental or physical impairments in a range of different environments.
The 2008 amendments to the ADA helped to clarify that the Act should include as many disabilities as possible to protect the maximum number of people.
Rather than list the disabilities classified by the ADA, the better question would be which disabilities it does not cover.
The ADA defines a disability as a physical or mental impairment that presents barriers in one or more areas of life.
It includes people who have had an impairment but do not currently have a disability.
It is essential to understand that the wide-ranging definition of 'disability' under the ADA is a legal one as opposed to a medical categorization. The definition may differ from other references to disabilities and their definition under legislation such as laws for Social Security and Disability benefits.
The ADA also prohibits discrimination against a person based on their association with a person who has a disability, such as a relative or caregiver.
The ADA provisions are inclusive of any mental impairment such as depression or anxiety and a full range of psychological and emotional disorders that impair daily life.
Best Dog Breeds for Depression
Dogs sense and react to emotional upset and disturbance in their owner, including depression.
Depression is often a long-term condition, and sufferers can experience a positive uplift with the companionship and support of the right dog. Dogs offer non-judgemental, non-speech-based support, which is unique. In some ways, it's the very opposite of talk therapy.
There is no such thing as the wrong dog, as every canine offers something. Still, some breeds are more suitable for people suffering from depression than others.
Always think carefully about the care you can give a dog, not just what they will offer you. Large and enthusiastic dogs will need plenty of space, whereas smaller toy breeds are more suited to life in an apartment in an urban setting.
Here are five of the most popular breeds with a real mix of personalities and sizes to suit all people and environments.
Cavalier King Charles Spaniel
Classified as a toy breed, the Cavalier King Charles Spaniel is small enough to sit on your lap and easily portable. Calm but energetic, the King Charles dog has a real sense of fun, making exercise a joy even when you don't feel like going out.
A tremendously loyal breed, the Labrador Retriever is popular as a family pet because it is warm and steady.
Many people believe the Labrador to have almost a sixth sense when it comes to supporting its human companion, and this is one breed of dog which will never leave your side.
Labradors can mirror their situation, acting playful and fun during exercise sessions but calm and restful at home.
Vizslas are known as the Velcro dog because they will be stuck to your side wherever you are. Vizslas adore people and are happy to be with humans 24/7.
Quick to read the mood, Vizslas are intelligent and humorous—the comedians of the canine world—but they also have boundless energy and need space and exercise.
Loveable and super cute, these little dogs have a big character in a small body.
Corgis are initially a working breed, bred to herd cattle, so they require plenty of space and mental occupation.
Corgis have a beautiful character and are always keen to be involved in whatever happens, making them the perfect, compact companion to lift your mood.
Cheeky little characters, French bulldogs have been called 'handbag dogs' as they are small in size and very portable. However, there is much more to this breed than meets the eye.
Cute they most certainly are, but they are also real comic characters. A French bulldog is ideal for people who struggle with exercise or may also have a physical disability as they don't require as much activity as a Corgi.
Perfect in a small apartment, their exercise requirements are minimal, but they love interacting with people and are suited to an urban environment.
Getting an Emotional Support Animal for Depression
Both emotional support dogs and service dogs offer vital services for people with depression. However, the distinctions between the two are essential to keep in mind. It may determine which type of dog you qualify to receive or is more suited to your life and condition.
Most service dogs go through specific and rigorous training to perform their role relative to the level of mental impairment and their owner's needs.
Meanwhile, emotional support dogs offer many of the same attributes of companionship, love, and friendliness to help those with depression. However, they lack the specific training of service dogs. That said, qualifying for an ESA may be easier than qualifying for a service dog.
Speak to a licensed mental health specialist to find out more about getting an emotional support dog for depression. Then, protect your canine companion and your rights by registering your ESA through ESA Registration of America.
Registration is a way of gaining real-time information on legal changes, deals on emotional support animal products, and being part of a larger pet parent community.
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