Mental illness affects about 1 in every 5 Americans. That number may not seem like much, but if you break it down, that’s about 63 thousand people. There are many different ways to combat mental illness, such as therapy and medication, but there’s one method that a lot of people prefer. Dogs are a great tool when it comes to therapy and battling mental illnesses, but how do they actually help?
When trained properly, a therapy dog is a great alternative to a therapist. Most people find it hard to open up about their problems to another person because they feel that they will be judged and looked down upon. But with a dog, he will listen to you and still love you, regardless of what you are going through. Most people find it easier to open up to a dog than to another human, especially if they are shy about their situation. Therapy dogs are known for being gentle, which helps the patient with coping with their mental illness. If the mental illness requires a person to become hospitalized, a therapy dog will make things easier and less scary for the patient. However, let it be known that a therapy dog can’t cure a mental illness. They help with coping and make the patient feel better about themselves.
With all of the different dog breeds out there, it can be hard to decide which breed is perfect to be a therapy dog. Golden retrievers are widely known for being therapy dogs due to their gentle and friendly behavior. Some people may not enjoy the presence of a larger dog, so a small dog would be a better choice. Most people tend to avoid terrier dogs due to their high energy. Some small dog breeds that work well include pugs, schnauzers, and Boston terriers, just to name a few. With a small dog, it’s able to curl up on the patient’s lap, which most people enjoy.
If you do have a mental illness and currently own a dog, it is possible to register your dog as a therapy dog. You need to evaluate your dog to make sure he is a good candidate. It is recommended that your dog is at least one year of age and you have owned him for 12 months. If your dog has a history of aggressive behavior, then he is not a good candidate. Enroll your dog in an obedience class, as they will need to pass a test that requires your dog to understand basic commands and is comfortable with strangers. You will need to find an evaluator that will test your dog and grant you the certification. Ask your vet about evaluators in your area. For more information, please visit http://usdogregistry.org/.
Remember, you are not alone in dealing with a mental illness. Resources are readily available and there are people willing to help you out. Don’t let it control you, get the help that is needed.