What is your dog to you? Your companion? Your furry best friend? Your confidant? Any pet parent will answer yes to all of these questions. Many pet parents will also unanimously agree to the fact that there are very few things in this world that can compare to the love and loyalty of their dog. Apart from providing us humans with these attributes, did you also know that dogs could one day actually save your life? Medical response dogs have been trained successfully by their handlers or by organisations all over the world to come to the aid of human beings in situations of emergency. In several countries around the world, these medical detection dogs are used to detect life threatening diseases. They are also qualified to alert their owners and respond to an imminent attack or episode (of a particular disease).
What they are trained to do
Different types of response and detection dogs are trained to carry out a variety of tasks. There are for example, dogs that are experts in detecting changes in blood sugar levels. These canines can literally sniff out when blood sugar levels reach dangerously high or low levels. Others are especially proficient in detecting epileptic fits. They alert their owner by the means of vigorous licks or barks. Many a times their skill set ranges to assistance as well, where they bring the owner a telephone or emergency medication.
The importance of therapy dogs are also coming in the forefront of medical research. From minor cases of depression to fighting Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD), trained therapy dogs have successfully helped cure people. Anxiety, depression and PTSD are majorly debilitating conditions that often require the use of heavy medication. The psychology behind using a therapy dog here is that they provide the patient with a much needed sense of motivation, love and companionship. The dependence on medication is thus reduced. Depending on the type and severity of the disorder in question, special therapy canine units are provided to aid veterans of war in many countries. From calming panic attacks and waking their owners up during nightmares to visiting the sick and the elderly in hospitals or hospices, there isn’t much these intelligent canines can’t do.
Dogs possess approximately 300 million olfactory receptors in their noses. Their sense of smell, therefore, is exponentially better and more accurate than ours! No wonder bio-detection dogs are now being used to pinpoint cancer in human beings by sniffing out their breath and samples of urine and swabs. As malignant or cancerous cells increase in the body, changes occur within cellular proteins. Many studies prove that these changes can be detected in urine samples as well as on the breath of the patient.
New studies are also lending support to the belief that children with autism benefit greatly from interaction with therapy dogs. Autism is a disorder characterised by difficulty in communicating and forming relationships with others. People with autism also have difficulty in using language and abstract concepts. Children with autism who tend to shy away from contact and people are known to find solace in the companionship of these four-legged babies. Research has proved that children who have a canine companion are shown to bond strongly with these pets and develop greater social skills. These same research further states how social behaviour in autistic children has shown to change even after a short period of play and interaction with dogs.
How therapy dogs are chosen
Many medical response dogs and therapy dogs are trained by individual handlers or by organisations that specialise in assistance therapy. The main criteria required for the training of these dogs is that they have to be work-loving and well socialised with humans. There is absolutely no restriction when it comes to breed or size. Temperament is all that matters here. The training for these canine superheroes starts when they are between the ages 12 to 18 months.
Therapy, assistance and detection dogs provide invaluable services to their human families. The intelligence and the dedication with which these fur babies help their human parents is astounding. No wonder they say that a dog is a man’s best friend. So let’s raise a paw to these bright and gifted beings who help us in ways we cannot even imagine!
Have you come across service or therapy dogs in India? We would love to hear about your experience. Please reach out to us in the comments section below.
Happy pet parenting!