Yes, even the fearless superheroes we typically refer to as service dogs eventually reach retirement age or suffer from an injury or illness which could leave them handicapped. Yet, this doesn’t mean we should lose hope. A service dog’s professional training, experience, and skills can be utilized to help those who require a different kind of help. From emotional support to aiding with severe disabilities, aging or handicapped canine assistants can enrich our lives in wonderful ways.
Why Do Service Dogs Retire and What Happens to Them?
Assistance animals, mostly service dogs, are specially trained to assist people with physical and mental disabilities. Depending on the need and problem, a service dog will usually provide help with everyday tasks. Such as opening or closing doors, retrieve medication, provide physical stability, or just keep their owner company. Not to mention, service dogs can be trained to aid in medical emergencies. Aiding patients with a seizure disorder or other emergency, a service dog can be trained to raise the alarm or seek help.
When a service dog becomes unable to provide the needed help and assistance anymore, he will no longer be considered on duty. Most often this occurs when the dog is too old to adhere to his obligations or the fact that it suffers from a disability himself. In this case, a service dog may be surrendered for adoption. In the best-case scenario, their owner will keep them as a loving pet as they get a new, younger service animal to step in.
Although they are not able to provide physical support and assistance as before, these smart, patient, and well-disciplined dogs can redirect their unconditional love and attention to those who lack emotional support, encouragement, and understanding. Due to their maturity and experience, senior service dogs are more easily adaptable to new owners. Comfort-oriented and ready to be there for a fellow human when anxious and upset.
Dogs and Emotional Support
People who have a physical disability may find other life situations challenging and develop problems. Difficulty socializing, dealing with chronic anxiety and stress, and experiencing panic attacks to name a few. Just by being there for their human friend, a service dog can provide much-needed stability and companionship.
Studies have shown that war veterans find therapy and emotional-support dogs extremely successful in diminishing the consequences of war trauma. Dogs lower the severity of a soldier’s panic attacks, nightmares, and anxiety levels. The presence of a friendly and assertive dog lowers a person’s blood pressure and heart rate, while boosting positive emotions, and improving focus.
Helping Children with Special Needs
Developmental issues like Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) and similar can very much alter the way a child will go through life and build relationships. Social impairments and behavioral problems in Autistic children can trigger emotional distress that only worsens the problem. Service and therapy dogs can help ASD children more willingly react to instruction. Allowing to more readily comply with rules and control tantrums and aggression, which is necessary for proper improvement and healing.
Dogs want to please their owner. Meaning dogs are masters at soothing a restless child and help calm them. Dogs provide comfort and refocus their child from bad or upsetting thoughts. Some kids will deal with stress by creating rituals in the form of repetitive actions, like hair-pulling, scratching, hitting, and other ways of harmful behavior. Playing with or caressing a service dog can be an effective distraction. Allowing them manage disruptive thoughts and impulse for self-harming.
Service Dogs and Children with Communication Impairments
The presence of a therapy of service dog helps a child address speech problems. Helping children with mild stuttering to more severe issues like developmental dysphasia. And research has shown that canine-assisted therapy, when combined with traditional or online speech therapy is more effective in yielding results. A dog’s influence positively impacts a children’s emotional state.
Patients working with service dogs are more willing to cooperate. They are more ready and confident to use verbal communication and are more motivated to deal with challenging tasks.
When with their fellow furry playmate, children can more effortlessly relax and perceive therapy as less threatening. Although dogs are unable to participate in a conversation, they are great listeners. And can make useful interlocutors for children to practice speaking and work on their communication skills.
Handicapped Dogs Connect with Children with Disabilities
Animals have an incredible way of connecting to people. When a child who is missing a limb meets an amputee dog or a child who is unable to walk sees a dog in a wheelchair there is an instant connection.
The children see someone who is “just like them” thriving and enjoying life helps to build confidence. Organizations and rescues like the Safe in Austin Ranch, help to make these human animal connections. A mutual connection to build confidence and give kids hope.
While they may age and weaken, dogs’ love and devotion are eternal. Think of retired service dogs as senior furry companions full of wisdom and acquired compassion, ready to share them with you.