This Is Why You Need a Therapy Dog If You Have a Mental Disorder

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Guest Post By: Paige Johnson
LearnFit.org

Most of us are familiar with service dogs that help people with physical impairments such as blindness or paralysis. We see them assist with crossing the street, opening doors, and performing other tasks that make their owners’ lives more manageable. Now, studies show that dogs are effective at treating depression and anxiety and improving people’s overall health. If you have a mental disorder, you need to consider getting a therapy dog. We’ll show you why below.

Dogs help peopleTherapy Dogs Help People with Mental Disorders Navigate Social Situations

People who have depression and anxiety often avoid social situations because they worry about what may happen when they are around too many people or strangers. They often have negative thoughts and fears. As Pet Wellness Academy co-founder Dr. Katie Kangas explains: “Anxiety and depression involve emotional turmoil and negative internal ‘self-talk.’ These thoughts typically spiral into unrealistic negativity and this continues in a vicious cycle.”

Dogs, whether they are pets or trained therapy animals, provide comfort and companionship for people with mental disorders by providing them with a reason for leaving the house and being in social situations. For example, your dog requires exercise such as a daily walk. Having a dog by your side can help you stay calm and provide comfort because you have a friend with you in situations that make you uncomfortable.

Trained dogs also can recognize the signs of a panic attack and calm their owners when one begins. Some trained dogs nudge their owner’s hand or leg or lick them to provide a stimulus to distract or calm them. They also know how to block strangers from approaching their owners and help them remain calm when they are among too many unfamiliar people.

Therapy dogs also help people navigate social situations by providing a starting point for conversations. When you walk your dog, for example, people may ask about your dog or try to pet him, prompting you to explain that your dog is working and how he helps you navigate day-to-day life. The dog acts as an icebreaker for conversations that otherwise may be difficult or uncomfortable for a person with a mental disorder. Plus, dogs are nonjudgmental and can provide a great listening ear for you when you’re struggling with difficult situations. Continue reading

How an Emotional Support Dog Can Help You Get Through a Tough Day

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Guest Post by: Brad Smith, TherapyPet.org

If you have a dog as an emotional support pet, you already know how much affection and fun they bring. However, did you know that dogs also offer powerful physical and mental health benefits? They can greatly minimize anxiety, stress, feelings of loneliness and depression, along with encouraging playfulness and exercise, and even strengthening your cardiovascular health. During the days when you are feeling down, an emotional support dog can help you in the following ways:

Acceptance and Unconditional Love

As much as we know, dogs don’t have prejudices, opinions and critiques. Even if you are reeking of alcohol after a bad day, they will be more than willing to cuddle with you. If your relationship with your friends or family is frayed and complicated, and you don’t really have no one to come home to and vent, your dog will be ever-present as the best antidote to your sadness and stress. They will not judge, nor complain and will certainly not give you advice you don’t want.

Distraction from Your Pain and Anguish

Dogs are just as good as books and movies. They take our minds off the worries and into another dimension, one where there’s only playfulness, clowning around, a wet nose and lots of kisses. This type of distraction is the best type since it makes you forget how awful your day went when you have a furry friend breathing in your face all the time.

More Physical Contact

Touching has undisputedly strong healing powers. Studies suggest that 45 minutes of massage can lower stress levels and enhance your immune system by promoting the growth of white blood cells. Hugging produces a hormone that lowers blood pressure, stress levels and heart rates. The touch of another human or animal can stop certain parts of the brain from reacting to threat clues. Thus, it is not surprising how handling a dog, i.e stroking and cuddling it, can regularize heart rates and lower blood pressure while boosting dopamine and serotonin levels.

Increased Levels of Activity

After a tough day, the last thing you probably want to do is be active. Slouching down and binge eating while crying over your miseries can worsen your physical and mental state. However, if you have a friendly support companion waiting for you at home, you are sure to get some physical activity. Dogs need to be walked, fed and followed which will mean extra physical activity on your part.

More Social Interaction

Dogs are natural icebreakers, which mean they subtly push you towards more social interaction. On a tough day, you may decide to walk your dog and find yourself chatting with other dog walkers and befriending them in the process.

Better Health

Research suggests that dog owners experience protection against heart disease, reduced stress hormones, and increased levels of feel-good chemical present in the brain both while and prior to performing stressful mental tasks. A study with Chinese female participants found that owning a dog can help with better sleep, better fitness due to increased exercise and improved overall health resulting in fewer sick days.

Create a Routine

Having a daily routine helps people fight depression by utilizing their time efficiently. An emotional support dog’s natural routine, i.e. walking in the morning, demanding for food and playtime, can help you direct your attention towards the activities instead of sulking about your day.

These are just some of the ways that your emotional support dog can help you get through a bad day without breaking down.

How Dogs Improve Your Health

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When I first heard from a guest poster about this subject of dogs improving my health, I thought of how much our dog has improved our mental, emotional, and physical health by being such an awesome companion and member of our family.  But I didn’t realize how much they can improve our health because of a fine blend of human and canine microbes.  – Julie

Guest Poster: Katie Connor
APlaceForAnimals.com

Has it ever occurred to you that keeping a dog at home is not just a momentary bliss but a permanent health regimen? A few licks and tail-wagging from your pet can surprisingly change your mood right then and there, and it makes everything a whole lot better, even with the most depressing of circumstance. Truly, their magic never fails to amaze us.

But did you know that dogs can improve our health too? Not only do they make a great companion and become our best friends but new evidence suggests that having a pet dog can’t only decrease stress in their owners but the microbes from dogs may also be aiding the dog owner’s overall physical health and well-being.

Thanks to microbiome – a single celled organism which is present just about everywhere in our environment; they outnumber the cells in our body by 10-1. As science starts to understand the importance of the microbiome, we are starting to realize just how important they are to our general health and well-being.

After all, it’s not just simply about emotional attachment, it does have something to do with how these micro-organisms are wired on the planet. It’s the connection between one living thing to another that drives us all into existence. These organisms may not be visible to the naked eye, but with enough ratio, it can be truly beneficial to everyone. In fact, they are often shared through a dog’s mouth, fur, and its other parts of the body. Science and emotional well-being does have something in common, doesn’t it? Continue reading

BURNING FAT: BEST DONE WITH A CANINE PAL

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Jordan Walker considers dogs as one of the best pets because of their loyalty and natural gift of intelligence. He encourages other people to treat pets better through his written works for Coops And Cages and in blogs such as this one. In this article, he will be telling you how dogs are great as exercise buddies.

Walking the  Dog

Exercise is for everyone. People of all ages and different sizes, whether you are size 4 or a size 10, you need exercise. Why?  For those who consider themselves healthy, it will keep your bodies working  always at an optimum level. For those who are on the heavier side, to finally  do away with the excess weight. For the adults, to keep muscles, joints and bones stronger through time. Who exercises with you? If you have been doing this alone at a gym for several years now, you may want to consider getting a real exercise buddy that can keep up with you – a dog exercise buddy.

Why Dogs Are Best As Exercise Buddies

Why a dog and not just enroll in a gym that has the state-of-the-art facility? Here’s why:

Dogs

  1. Friendly company. A loyal dog will always consider you his best friend. Get its leash, take it outside, and it will happily wag its tail as the two of you walk or jog around the neighborhood. It beats being alone on a treadmill or being with other people minding their own businesses lifting weights at a gym.
  2. You become more motivated. Since dogs, especially the sporting breeds need exercise, you will be committed to take this out for its needed exercise. This means that you get to exercise as long as your dog is able to do so. No more missing your exercise regimen because the very thought that your dog needs to exercise its muscles will motivate you to take it for a walk on a regular basis.
  3. It keeps you in touch with the environment. You will be doing most of the exercising outside, either around the neighborhood, at the yard, or the nearby park. Exercising with your dog will keep you in touch with nature and the environment as a whole, something that many people nowadays tend to miss when they choose to just stay indoors most of the time.
  4. You meet other people. Dogs are cute. Take care of your dog to a point that it looks shiny or clean and you will find a person or two commenting on how this looks amazingly great. You see, there are many people out there who love pets. Walking or jogging alone may not elicit you a conversation from a stranger, but you won’t find this a problem when you are holding a canine pal on a leash. That is why dogs are considered the best weapon for the singles looking for romance. People tend to fall in love with the dog first, then notice its owner.
  5. No cash needed. The best gyms will charge you unreasonable fees unless you can get discounted membership rates, usually offered when they are having promotional stints to boost their business. With a pet dog, you need not break the bank. Although you will be investing it food, toys, pet grooming treatments and for its healthcare needs, you won’t feel like you were cheated with these splurges.
  6. Your emotional well-being improves too. Experts recommend getting a pet because it can make you happier and calmer. Dogs have the ability to lower your cortisol levels, the chemical that has been linked to elevated stress. Their ability to calm people has also seen them enter hospitals where they are used therapeutically to help patients recover from illnesses such as cancer. Similarly, exercise has shown to increase happy hormones in people. If you combine the two, exercise plus being with a dog, it’s a sure and quick way to beat stress.
  7. It protects your brain. Even when you are not exercising with it, having a dog is still considered a great thing. Psychologically, it can keep you happy. Physically, you lessen the risk of stroke. According to the American Heart Association, owning a dog can improve your circulatory processes and this, in turn, can protect your brain from stroke.

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The Rescue Dog That Rescued Us

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By: Murry and Julie Walton – Boise, Idaho
December 7, 2012

Why We Needed to Be Rescued

Imagine yourself in our situation. The wife goes through two thyroid surgeries and cancer diagnosis. After being home from the hospital for just one week, your beloved 5 year old dog dies. This was our sad circumstance in the fall of 2012.

Having lost our treasured pet Maggie to sudden sickness and death, we were both devastated. Life was a struggle. Oh how we missed our early morning puppy play before going off to work. There was no longer a loyal companion to greet us when we entered our home. No longer a best friend to play fetch, find the hidden squeaky squirrel, sit up, roll over and to give praise with a treat. Our routine dog walking workout came to an abrupt halt. Our tail wagging puppy had filled our home with smiles and laughter. Our happy feelings were replaced with grief, a strange emptiness and a great big hole in our hearts.

Together we soon decided that we needed to look for another dog as our home was not the same without a canine companion.
We wanted a young beautiful really smart dog (preferably one that would never die) We both realized the responsible thing to do was adopt another rescue dog. We started to camp out on the Petfinder.com web site to find a dog that we felt might best fit our family situation. We preferred a female dog of the herding breed, since that was the type of dog we were most familiar with. Murry found a nice female border collie named Misty that was in Thayne, Wyoming at the Animal Humane Association of Star Valley, also known as Lucky’s Place.  Julie really liked the look of Misty so she contacted Mary Ann Ahrens, the President and Director of the animal shelter.  It looked like Misty was already going to be adopted, but Mary Ann thought we should look at a dog named Bella. Continue reading