Helping your child deal with the death of your dog

 

As much as we hate to think of it, every life eventually ends and there comes a time when every pet owner has to face the death of his or her pet. The average lifespan of a dog is 10 – 13 years. Even if you have one of the breeds that can live to around 17 years such as a Chihuahua, health issues or accidents can occur along the way that can mean your dog’s life is brought to an end earlier than that typical of the breed.  This can be devastating to pet owners and can be particularly hard for children to deal with. As a parent, you want to help your child learn how to tackle what life brings whether happy or sad and helping them to cope with the death of a pet fits into this category. So, this somewhat sombre post considers how you can make things easier for your child during the saddest of times.

Child walking dog

 

What to say to your child when a pet dies

Your child may see the family dog as not only a family member but also a best friend.  The pet is often a source of comfort when your child is upset, so how can you help your child through this time when that source of comfort is now the source of their biggest grief?  A lot of how you will approach this depends not only on the age of your child but also on the level of maturity.

If your pet died as a result of illness, don’t avoid talking with your child about this.  Explain that the dog was very sick and that the veterinarians tried everything possible to help him.  Telling your child that the dog dying was the kindest outcome, because if the dog lived he or she would be in too much pain can make it more bearable. Don’t confuse younger kids by using phrases such as “put to sleep,” as this can send mixed messages and children should view sleeping as a good thing, not something with scary consequences.

If your dog has died because of an accident, that can be more of a shock for everyone as it is an entirely unexpected event. Be truthful about what has happened, explaining events in a calm way, but keep it simple and don’t go into elaborate detail.

Although the death of a pet is difficult, it is a way for children to learn about how to cope with loss later in life.  It is important for them to learn that they can work their way through grief.

 

Why is dealing with a dog’s death so intense? 

When your dog dies, your entire daily routine is affected.  It is not always as easy to have the grieving time normally afforded to those who lose a human family member. For many people, who view dogs as their children, it is the same feeling as losing a family member.  Children sometimes view their dogs as they would a sibling, so it can be similar to losing a brother or sister for them.

As with any loss, the grieving process may mean going through a whole series of emotions at different times, ranging from sadness at the loss itself, guilt for not being a better pet owner, and anger that nothing could be done to save the pet. Let children know that it is perfectly OK to feel all these emotions and that they are not alone with that because other family members are feeling the same way too.

Sad child being comforted

Moving on

Having a small memorial ceremony to remember your pet can be helpful. Some families like to put together a memory book so that they can look through it together and remember the good times. Explain that you’ll always have happy memories of your pet and talk about some of those good times together.

Child hugging dog

 

If you have helped your child through this experience, please share what was helpful for you and your family during this time.

Dog's live are too short

 

 

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Five dog-specific apps to Help you Live Better

Today, there are mobile apps for almost every conceivable topic or need and because so many people now own smartphones and tablets, mobile app usage has seen huge growth worldwide.  It is estimated that by 2020, mobile apps will generate a staggering $189 billion worldwide.1 

There are some really interesting apps that have been developed specifically for dog owners.  We’ve taken a look at five free apps (all available for Android and iOS), which could potentially assist dog owners with many aspects of dog care.

Dog Vacay

Despite the boom in dog-friendly hotel options across the nation, there are times when you need to travel but just can’t take your favorite companion with you.  Although there are excellent kennels available in the US, some people prefer their dogs to have a more personalized pet-sitting service and this led to the development of the DogVacay app.

Dog Vacay allows you to connect with dog sitters in your area who offer services ranging from dog walking, to taking your dog to vet appointments, or caring for your dog in your home or theirs when you are out of town.

With a 24/7 customer support service and daily photo or video updates, you can travel or use the daycare option knowing that your dog is in good hands.

dog-vacay
Pet First Aid

Just like people, pets get sick and have accidents too.  Although many of us are familiar with the correct first aid procedures when dealing with people, we’re not necessarily as confident when required to be first responders in pet emergencies. The Pet First Aid app developed by the American Red Cross remedies that situation, allowing you to check symptoms and watch videos on how best to respond to common emergency situations.

You can learn about early warning signs, learn first aid steps, and take quizzes on pet health and safety. For more serious conditions, the app will also tell you the location of the nearest emergency animal hospital or veterinarian’s office.

A great app to use in emergencies and a great resource to help you provide emergency care for your pet until you can get to a veterinarian.

pet-first-aid

BarkCam

If you’re a dog owner, you will know that no matter how adorable your dog’s appearance, trying to capture “that look” in a photo can be extremely difficult.  This is where BarkCam comes in.  Using a variety of different sounds to get your dog’s attention, the sounds are linked to the camera’s shutter button, so you trigger sound and take the photo at the same time.

When you’ve got your favorite picture, you can edit to your heart’s content using filters, stickers or even text.  You can share pictures on the platform itself or share it on either Instagram, Facebook or Twitter.

bark-cam

Whistle

This app requires a phone for you and a Whistle GPS collar for your dog, which then allows you to track not only your dog’s location but also his heart rate.  Designed to help avoid dog’s getting lost, it also allows you to create custom activity goals for your dog, based on breed, size, and age and can be modified depending on which family member is walking the dog at that particular time.

It is important to keep in mind that because this app has nationwide GPS coverage in the US, there is potential to run down your phone battery much faster on longer walks.

Although this app is free, the required collar costs around $50*.

 

whistle-device
Whistle GPS dog collar

 

 

MapMyDogWalk

There are plenty of apps on the market for runners and walkers and this app is quite similar, but designed specifically for those who walk dogs. The app gives you information on the best dog walking routes in your area and if you use one of these or add one of your own, the app allows you to track progress made and allows you to save this data to compare against future walks. Information on dog parks, waste-bag dispensers, dog-friendly areas and water fountains are all given in this dog-friendly app.
Once again, it is important to note that continually using GPS, does dramatically drain battery power.

map-my-dog-walk

 

We have only taken a look at 5 free apps, but there are far more on the market for dog owners to use. Why not look for one that would make your lifestyle easier?  As businesses are increasingly being encouraged to develop apps, it is possible that in the not too distant future we will see an even greater number of dog-friendly apps, which will likely become more interactive and more personalized to meet user need.

Do you currently use any apps on your cell phone or tablet that make your dog care duties more manageable or is there an app that you would love to see available for dog owners? Let us know which apps make your life with your dog better.

*Price correct at time of article posting.

References

  1. https://www.statista.com/topics/1002/mobile-app-usage/

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Why we Want US Healthcare to go to the Dogs

Have you ever had to spend any time in the hospital as a patient?  If you have, it is likely that you may have experienced periods of feeling low, anxious, stressed, and frustrated as a result of your illness or injury and because of being away from family, friends, and your home. If any of this sounds like your hospital experience, you were not alone, as it is not uncommon for hospitalized patients to experience a downturn in mental wellbeing, sometimes with physiological changes too.

In order to counteract some of these multi-factor stressors that hospitalized patients experience, many hospitals have introduced a variety of therapeutic programs.  One program that you are increasingly likely to see on that list is animal-assisted therapy sometimes simply called pet therapy.

Why is animal-assisted therapy being used?

The idea of animal-assisted therapy is not new.  For many years, it was considered to be a “nice” thing for hospital patients to experience, but thanks to increasing amounts of research into the topic by clinicians, there has been proven to be a wider range of benefits.

boy-with-pet-therapy-dog

What are the benefits of animal-assisted therapy to patients?

An article by Cole, Gawlinski, Steers, and Kotlerman1 in the American Journal of Critical Care showed that when patients had only a 12-minute visit from a pet, there was an improvement in heart and lung function and a significant lowering of blood pressure, a reduction in the release of harmful hormones, and a decrease in anxiety.  The study was conducted with hospitalized heart failure patients. It indicated that there was far more benefit shown in those patients that received a visit from a pet than in those patients who were only visited by a human volunteer or those who were left alone.

Specifically, the benefits to patients of animal-assisted therapy include:

Mental health benefits

  • Reduced depression
  • Reduced problem behaviors for patients with dementia (less agitation, less verbal aggression, and more social behavior)
  • Reduced fatigue
  • Reduced tension
  • Reduced confusion
  • Improved self-esteem and self-acceptance
  • Increased socialization
  • Reduced boredom

Physical health benefits

  • Lower systolic and diastolic blood pressure when exposed to stress
  • Reduced serum epinephrine concentrations
  • Lower pain perception
  • Endorphins (oxytocin) released giving a calming effect
  • Reduced need for medication

man-petting-dog-in-hospital

What are the dangers for patients?

If patients are allergic to pets, animal-assisted therapy cannot be used. Guidelines from the Society for Healthcare Epidemiology of America (SHEA) indicate that only dogs should be used, not cats. Cats cannot be trained in the same way as dogs, with more likelihood of scratches and bites from cats.  Additionally, people are more likely to be allergic to cats than to dogs.

There has been a lot of research done on the benefit of having dogs in the hospital, but not much research on the spread of bacteria from having dogs in the hospital rooms. The SHEA developed new guidelines for how hospitals can approach having pets visiting with patients at the hospital. Dogs used for pet therapy purposes and their handlers need to undergo specific training and be evaluated prior to having hospital access and ideally should be certified by a pet training organization. The American Kennel Club (AKC) lists the organizations through which it accepts dogs to have received their certification and to be given the official title of AKC Therapy Dog.

A study done in a Canadian hospital tested dogs’ paws and fur prior to hospital entry and then again after visiting patients.  Of the 26 dogs studied, one picked up C Difficile on his paws during the visit and one had MRSA on his fur and on the handler’s hands following the visit.2 This highlights that although sanitizing pets is difficult, there is a definite need for thorough handwashing by anyone visiting patients prior to visiting and following the visit. When visiting with multiple patients, handwashing between visits is essential.

Hospitals have very distinct protocols in place to ensure that the transmission of infection is kept at a minimum. The animals have to be clean, vaccinated, trained, and have a good temperament before being allowed into the hospital in the first place.  In some cases, such as patients in isolation units or patients in the intensive care unit, pet therapy can only take place with extra measures in place, but in certain situations it is unsuitable.

lady-receiving-pet-therapy

Examples of successful animal-assisted therapy?

There are two types of patient-pet interactions: animal-assisted therapy and animal-assisted activity. Animal-assisted therapy is specifically directed toward patients with cancer, heart disease, or mental health concerns and needs to have a credentialed staff member involved in the process.  Animal-assisted activities have a wider scope and are typically used to provide comfort and enjoyment focusing on mental health benefits rather than trying to achieve specific physiological outcomes such as reduced blood pressure, etc. This latter form of activity is typically staffed by volunteer handlers.

Memorial Sloane Kettering Cancer Center in New York City is an example of a hospital where canines have successfully been introduced in the Caring Canines program.

 

memorial-sloane-kettering-caring-canines
President of Memorial Sloane Kettering Cancer Center with Caring Canines employees

 

There are many programs of a similar type being introduced across the nation as the full benefits are increasingly being understood.  Dogs are not only being used in surgical and treatment settings but are being used for physical therapy and rehabilitation. Tasks such as brushing a dog can make for more interesting arm strengthening exercises for patients than just doing weight training.3  Dogs can also be used to encourage walking and other rehabilitative exercises.

More and more research is being done on the subject of pet therapy to ascertain the relative merits.  Here at Pet Barrier, we think the answer is simple.  If having a therapy or activity session with a dog can at the bare minimum brighten a patient’s day during difficult times, pet therapy is absolutely worth it. It has been clinically proven that animal-assisted therapy achieves far more than that, with benefits to patients’ mental and physical health being achieved across all age groups, from children through to seniors.  Animal-assisted therapy and activity should be available at all healthcare facilities across the nation. Is US healthcare going to the dogs? We welcome it!

We’d love to hear about your experiences with pet therapy – please share if you are able.

References

1.       Gole, Gawlinski, Steers, Kotlerman. Animal-Assisted Therapy in Patients Hospitalized With Heart Failure. Am J Crit Care. November 2007 vol. 16 no. 6 575-585

2. https://well.blogs.nytimes.com/2009/05/11/therapy-dogs-and-hospital-infections/?_r=0 Tara Parker-Pope May 11, 2009

3. Haggard, A. (1985). A patient’s best friend. American Journal of Nursing. 85(12), 1374-1376

 

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Love Me, Love My Dog!

Change can be hard.  This is true for people and dogs alike and as we progress through our lives with inevitable changes along the way, we may encounter some interesting situations with our loved ones, whether human or canine. Dating or embarking on a new relationship can be one of those times.  Relationships are complex and if there are animals involved, things can get more complicated. A study published in a British newspaper in 2012suggested that dogs can cause more than 2,000 arguments in a household over the dog’s lifetime. In a poll conducted in October 2010 by the Associated Press-Petside,approximately 14% of people would choose their dog over their own spouse.  These remarkable statistics prove that Shakespeare was not wrong and “the course of true love never did run smooth.”3  If you’re reading this and seeing some parallels with your own life, what can be done to make things a little less choppy?

Is your partner a dog lover?

a-house-is-not-a-homeWhether your partner is a dog lover or not is a question that ideally needs to be answered at the beginning of a relationship, because if he is not and you are, there could be trouble ahead.  Some people cannot possibly imagine being without a dog in their home, whereas others cannot imagine sharing their home with a pet.  It can be very difficult for someone who does not like (or is perhaps afraid of) dogs to adjust to having a pet in his or her space. If your partner is allergic to pets, it can be downright disastrous. A dog sensing fear or dislike from your partner does not make for a comfortable situation. Determining what will work for you both at the outset, could be a smart move in the long term.

Blending households

Introducing a new person into a household can be extremely confusing for dogs who are pack animals and enjoy the comfort of knowing where everyone sits in the pecking order.  Your dog’s home is his territory and he will protect that territory as much as possible. Introduce a partner gradually with initial contact being on neutral ground.  By the time you get to the moving-in stage, your partner and your pet should be very used to being around one another. When the partner does move in, try to make sure that the pet’s normal sleeping areas are not compromised, as dogs are creatures of habit and will not necessarily feel comfortable with lots of change.  If you are blending households that both contain pets, you have another variable to add to the equation.  Again, make sure that initial pet introductions are done on neutral ground.  The pets should be very familiar with each other before living under the same roof.

cake-topper

Compromise

For many dog owners, the dog is often treated like a substitute child or grandchild, but just as parents would with regard to raising children, owners should discuss how they both feel about dealing with training, behavioral issues, and how much time, money, and attention should be devoted to the dog.  As with any relationship, compromises should be made while respecting wishes on either side.  Disputes over the dog can include who should walk the dog, where the dog sits in your vehicle, money spent on the dog, feeding the dog from the table, or damage caused by the dog, to name just a few.  Sit down with your partner and determine what the issues are in your household and how you can resolve them. For example, pets on the furniture may be acceptable to one person, but not to the other.  This is particularly an issue if you like your dog to share the bed, but your partner doesn’t. Talk about what you can both tolerate and when you decide on a household rule, stick to it.

dogs-on-the-bed-cartoon

Don’t expect your partner to love your pet as much as you do.  As long as your pet is treated well by your partner and your pet is friendly in return, that can be OK.  Try to share out tasks involved in the care of your pet between you, but if your partner is just not keen, be prepared (and content) to take on the lion’s share of the work.

Coping with jealousy

You mean everything to your dog and you mean everything to your partner! Sometimes it can be difficult for your dog and for your significant other to see affection being directed elsewhere.  Don’t neglect to spend time with your dog after your partner has moved in and try to ensure that your partner also builds a relationship with your dog by spending time, giving treats and other attention.

Tackle issues before they escalate

If your normally well-behaved dog starts acting out or behaving badly, that could be a sign that your pup is not happy with the new situation.  Don’t allow your dog to get away with bad behavior, and try to tackle the issue as soon as possible.  It may be that you need to call on the help of an expert, whether a trainer or a veterinarian, to see if there is an underlying concern that needs addressing.

Whatever the problems that you encounter, don’t just let them fester.  Communicate with your partner so you are aware of each other’s feelings.  If you are comfortable talking with friends about your situation, they might be able to assist in problem resolution. If this doesn’t help or is not a good option for you, a licensed marriage and family therapist, who will be familiar with these kinds of issues, could help steer your relationship to a better place.

If you’ve had some pup-induced relationship challenges, why not share how you were able to resolve them?

Sending love to all our Pet Barrier blog readers this Valentine’s Day.

dog-with-rose-in-mouth
Hope your Valentine’s Day is pawsome!

References

  1. http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-2084835/Mans-worst-friend-Average-dog-causes-2-000-family-arguments-lifetime.html#ixzz4W2PLYhQ2
  2. http://www.apgfkpoll.com October 2010.
  3. Shakespeare, W. A Midsummer Night’s Dream. Act 1, Scene 1. 1600.

Manners Matter: Etiquette at Pet-Friendly Hotels

Dreaming of your next vacation?  When you start making firmer plans, why not include your dog?  Only 10 years ago, if you wanted to stay in a hotel, it was a little difficult to take your dog with you on vacation, but things have definitely changed for the better for dog owners. With far more hotels accommodating pets, people are increasingly welcoming the opportunity to take their canine friends with them on their adventures.

Regardless of whether you are going to be staying in a 5-star resort, or a basic motel room, it is important that the way you (and your pet) behave will ensure that pets will always be welcome at these hotels.  So, what is the best way of achieving your dream vacation and ensuring you will be able to return for future visits if desired?

kid-and-dog-in-hotel-room

Before you go

When you make your reservation, ensure that the hotel is aware that you will be bringing a dog or multiple dogs.  This is important as pet-friendly hotels also welcome those without pets, so you may get a more dog-friendly room location if you can let the hotel know about your dogs ahead of time. Be aware that although some hotels allow dogs to stay free, others have additional charges and these fees can vary greatly from one hotel to another. Make sure you know exactly what the fees are ahead of your visit and whether the charge is per room or per dog. Ask how many dogs are permitted in your room. There may be a one-dog or two-dog limit per room, so do check on that if you want to have multiple animals with you.

At certain hotels, although dogs are welcome, they may not be permitted to remain in the hotel room unattended.  If that is the case for the hotel you are interested in, ask about local pet sitting services for days when you cannot take your dog with you on excursions.

Some hotels, particularly the larger chains, may offer a pet welcome package with items such as dog bowls, pet food mats, and dog treats, but not all do. It is preferable to bring your own pet food, and bedding as this allows the dog to feel at home right away with familiar tastes and scents to provide comfort and reduce her stress levels.  If your dog sleeps in a crate at home, try to bring it with you. Don’t forget to add waste collection bags to your packing list too!

 Checking-in

FlLovesDogs

If you arrive at the hotel by car, make sure your dog has traveled there securely at the rear of the vehicle. It can be a shock for the valet to open the car door and have an unrestrained pet leap out.

Inform the hotel staff at check-in that you have your dog with you. This is a good time to find out where they prefer guests to take their dogs to go potty. Also find out if there are areas of the hotel that are no-go zones for dogs. The concierge is a mine of information, so take the opportunity to ask about dog-friendly restaurants, beaches, or other attractions in the surrounding area.

During the stay

dog-in-hotel-room

Check your room for any hazards and put these out of reach of your pet. If your dog has a penchant for drinking from the toilet, try to keep him away from the one in the hotel room as the chemicals used could be toxic.

Follow all the rules and regulations set by the hotel.  They have been set for a reason, so please respect them. Just because the hotel is pet-friendly doesn’t mean that there will be access to all areas. Don’t take your dog to areas of the hotel that are off-limits. If pets are allowed in the dining areas, do not allow your dog to eat from the plates.

You may be a dog lover, but not all people are. Chances are that in a pet-friendly hotel the staff are likely to be comfortable with animals and happy to be around them, but the same may not be true of the other hotel guests. Be respectful of other guests by keeping your dog at a distance, unless they are keen to introduce themselves to your dog. For everyone’s benefit, try to ensure that your dog does not bark incessantly in your hotel room or in common areas of the hotel.

Plan to take your pet out on excursions with you where possible, but there may be some days where that is not possible.  On those days, and if the hotel permits dogs being left in rooms, the following tips may help to ensure your pooch is content during your absence.

  • Leave the lights on, so your pet is not alone in the dark.
  • Leave the TV on during the day, to keep your dog relaxed and distract him from noise in the hallway.
  • Ensure that your pet is left with plenty of fresh water.
  • Make sure your dog is not bored when you are out.  Items such as chew toys and treat puzzle balls can help distract a dog from your absence and ensure that he chews on them and not the furniture in the room.
  • Keep your pet leashed or crated when you are out of the room

treat-puzzle-ball

On vacation, your daily routine may be dramatically different from usual, but don’t neglect to walk your dog in the way you would at home.  If your dog normally requires two long walks every day, then do the same while on vacation.  It’ll be good for you too!

Checking-out

At check-in, you will probably have been required to leave credit card details to which a security deposit may have been added.  Be honest and if your pet has caused any damage, report it and be prepared to pay for repairs.

It might also be helpful to leave a tip for the housekeeping staff, who may have had extra work to do in your room.

dog-on-bell-boy-cart

Stop dreaming about your next vacation and make it a reality. Wherever your travels take you, may your vacation be wonderful and memorable with your favorite pooch alongside. Keep the above tips in mind and keep America’s pet-friendly hotels pet friendly.

What experiences have you had when staying at hotels with your dog? We’d love to hear about them and see vacation pictures!

To pet or not to pet: That is the Question

 

When asked to consider animals who assist people, most of us immediately think of dogs that aid blind or partially sighted individuals. This is thanks to organizations such as Guide Dogs of America and The Seeing Eye who work hard to ensure that those with vision challenges receive assistance. Over the last couple of decades, different types of animals are increasingly used to help people dealing with a broader range of physical and behavioral conditions.  The benefits of using these animals are numerous, with the result that they are being employed more widely and with greater frequency. Today, chances are that you are more likely to meet service animals in your daily routine than in the past. As they are actually “at work” and are not pets, what are the best approaches to take when encountering these animals?

Categories of assistance animals

Assistance animals fall into differing categories depending on the type of assistance required.

Service animals

Service animals are specifically trained to perform tasks relating to the handler’s needs. Not just for the visually impaired, hearing dogs for the deaf, and mobility dogs have become available allowing people with differing needs to be able to go about daily tasks with a greater level of autonomy and liberty than in previous generations.  People dealing with issues such as seizures, post-traumatic stress disorder, autism, anxiety, and diabetes also benefit from using service dogs.

Working dogs

Police or military dogs are in the working dog category. Sadly, with terror threats being a more common occurrence over the last 15 years, we tend to see more of these dogs on duty.  This is particularly true at airports where they are now an intrinsic part of the security process, rather than just used to detect contraband at customs.

airport-security-dog

Therapy animals

In recent years there has been a rise in the number of therapy dogs used in various settings such as hospitals, nursing homes, schools, and even in courtrooms. These dogs differ from service dogs in that they are used to provide affection and comfort to people, helping to reduce anxiety, stress and sometimes acting as an intermediary between the care recipient and professional staff.

dog-with-person-in-hospital

Emotional support animals

Typically used by people with specific behavioral health conditions requiring extra support and comfort, these animals may accompany an owner or may be employed by a business to help improve customer experience.

Only dogs allowed?

According to an article in the Huffington Post,¹  the cost of a service dog in 2016 was around $20,000. At that time, one Web site that places 75-100 service dogs a year, had a wait list of 1,600 people. This equates to a potential wait time of 16-22 years, which for people requiring assistance is simply too long.

Fortunately, given the level of need, dogs are not the only animals being used in this capacity. Other animals are also suitable to assist with different medical conditions. Ferrets alert owners of seizures. Boa constrictors (yes, you read it correctly!) are used for seizure alerts, bipolar disorder, obsessive-compulsive disorder and panic disorder. Parrots have a calming influence on those with bipolar disorder. Miniature horses help the visually impaired. The Guide Horse Foundation believes that miniature horses are a great option for people who love horses, for those allergic to dogs, and for people wanting longevity from their service animal.

CUDDLES 11

Capuchin monkeys are great for people with dexterity issues who struggle to pick up or hold items. Pigs can help visually or physically impaired individuals or can act as therapy animals. For example, San Francisco airport employs Lilou a Juliana breed pig to comfort anxious travelers in the terminal.

Dos and Don’ts of interacting with working animals

Dos

Do interact with the owner or handler

Interact with the owner but not with the animal.  The owner and animal are a team and the owner’s life could depend on his team member staying focused on the job.  It is better (and not considered rude) to ignore the service animal altogether. Let the owner know if his dog approaches you, and allow him to correct the situation. Therapy and emotional support animals are slightly different.  For example, if the animal is employed by an airport to help calm passengers, then do ask the handler if it is OK to interact with the animal.

Do be respectful

Be respectful of the owner. Just as a police officer will not be prepared to discuss details of why she is on duty with her dog, other service dog owners will not want to discuss their personal details with a stranger.  If you cannot figure out why the owner needs a service animal, don’t ask them. Equally, if your offers of help are refused, don’t be offended, just accept that this can interfere with the work of the service dog and can confuse commands previously given by the owner.

Do keep your own dog on a tight leash

Keep your own dog away from the service dog completely as other pets can be distracting for the working animal.

Do allow service animals into your business

If you are a business owner in an establishment that normally does not allow pets, make sure you do allow service dogs and their owners to enter. This is required under the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA). The law applies to any service animal that gives assistance when there is a disability.

Do educate children about service animals

Explain to children that service animals and working animals are not like regular household pets and that they have a special job to do to help the owner.  Keep children at a distance from a service dog and do not allow them to pet the dog.

Don’ts

Don’t pet the animal

You may be the biggest dog lover in the nation, but don’t be tempted to pet a service dog unless you have the owner’s permission. Petting the dog distracts him and may prevent him from following out a complete command.  An example of this is with dogs trained to detect seizures, who need to give a 10-minute warning so that the owner can get to a safe place or get help.  If you distract the dog by petting him, he may not be able to warn the owner in time, which could be catastrophic.

dont-pet-me-im-working

Don’t give treats

You may love giving treats to dogs, but please don’t give treats to dogs that are on duty. Not only can it distract the dog, making for a dangerous situation, but many service dogs are on specific diets and should not be given anything that does not meet the diet criteria.

Don’t make assumptions

  • Don’t assume that if a service dog is asleep he is off duty. If he is out with his owner, he is working.
  • Don’t assume that these dogs have a worse life than other dogs.  They have fantastic bonds with their owners and when off duty they get to relax like any other dog.
  • Don’t assume that the owner has a certificate proving the dog is a service dog.  Not all states require such certification and, in the states that do, owners are not always required to carry the paperwork.
  • Don’t assume that only dogs and only certain breeds of dog can be service animals. Many breeds of dog and different types of animal are trained to work.
  • Don’t assume that service dogs are only for adults.  Many children with many different needs benefit from service dogs.  Interestingly, one county in Colorado now uses dogs in the courtroom to help comfort children when giving testimony.

autism-service-dog

Don’t fake it

Don’t pretend to have your own service dog.  You may be tempted to put a special coat on your pet and take him to places where pets aren’t ordinarily permitted, but please don’t. Not only does it confuse the distinction between pets and service animals, it is actually a federal crime.  Allow people with genuine needs to be helped by genuine service dogs.

The best approach

For a moment, put yourself in the shoes of an individual living with physical or mental conditions, which in some cases are life threatening.  If an animal gave you the opportunity to live the fullest, most independent life possible, how would you react to someone interfering with and compromising the hard work of that service animal?

The following YouTube clip shows Windsor, a remarkable service dog, assisting his handler in running errands.

To pet or not to pet: that is the question. The answer?  If you are not the individual receiving therapy or service, do not pet. Encountering a working service animal is perhaps one of the most appropriate situations in life to adopt a don’t-touch approach. Following this guideline and the others mentioned above, we can allow these incredible animals to carry out their invaluable work. You can’t help but be in awe of them – I know I am.

Reference

  1. Lillibridge L. What’s the Harm in Faking a Service Dog? Huffington Post. August 13, 2016

5 Amazing (but true) Things About Dogparents

Encouraging kids to grow up to be well-rounded individuals is something that every parent or caregiver tries to achieve.  We already know that having a pet in the home makes for a memorable childhood, but we perhaps fail to appreciate the more profound effects that pet ownership has upon child development. It is typical to ask friends to become godparents and be involved in our children’s lives, but what about the role of dogparents that our pets perform, sometimes without us even realizing. Aspects such as physical and social development, to name just a couple, are enhanced if a child helps to nurture a pet at home.

Benefits of pet ownership for children

Physical development

Dog walking is a great form of exercise and an easy way to burn calories. In a world where our kids live more sedentary lives and are more prone to obesity than previous generations, going for a daily walk or run with the dog is a great habit to form. Fantastic for the child’s physical and mental health, it is a habit that can be continued into adulthood.

boy-running-with-dog

Social development

Encouraging a child to be respectful and caring of a pet, also transitions into his or her treatment of other people. There are obviously exceptions, but for the most part, children who have been shown how to behave with pets and have looked after a pet have a tendency to become more caring, more compassionate and more responsible adults. Emotional intelligence, interpersonal interaction, and impulse control are vital attributes to have. Acquiring and further developing these strengths can be facilitated by pet ownership. It is very important to note that simply having a pet in the home is not sufficient for these skills to be acquired. It is vital that kids are shown the best ways in which to interact with and treat other living creatures and they often learn these skills from examples set by parents or caregivers. Kids with dogs have plenty of opportunities to learn patience, kindness, sharing, and generosity; all character traits that can help them to develop closer human friendships. In providing care for an animal they also start to develop some basic parenting skills useful for later in life.

Cognitive development

Cognitive development is the way in which information processing, intelligence, reasoning, language development, and memory all develop through childhood into adulthood. As we know, not all learning takes place in a classroom. Having a pet in the family can help with all aspects of cognitive development.  Encouraging a child to read about his own dog’s breed, to be involved in puppy care and the training of the dog, and to be involved in learning how to care for the dog are all valuable ways of learning. Reading skills and confidence improve when a child reads to a pet, and some school districts are introducing READ (Reading Education Assistance Dogs) programs with these benefits in mind.

child-reading-to-a-dog

Emotional development

Caring for a dog allows a child to interact with a live being without being judged. This enables self-esteem to build and can help a shy kid overcome timidity.  Dogs also make superb service helpers for children living with physical or behavioral health conditions.

Interacting with dogs also releases endorphins in a child’s body, making the child happier, more relaxed, and less anxious. Additionally, as dogs have a relatively short life cycle, children learn about life and death and how to work through the bereavement and grief process.

girl-whispering-to-dog

Immune system development

In a 2015 study published in JAMA Pediatrics1, Swedish scientists analyzed the relationship between dog ownership in the first year of a child’s life and the incidence of asthma in children up to the age of six. They found that children in Sweden who have grown up with dogs in the house since birth had a 15% decreased risk of asthma by the time they attended school compared with children whose families did not have a dog. The researchers believe the findings would also be applicable to other developed countries such as the US.

How do you increase kid-dog interaction?

Get the kids involved! There are lots of little tasks involved in pet care and if your children are involved in some of them it can make them feel important and responsible.  For young children, setting up a chart with small rewards for tasks completed can be a good way to start – there are even apps for that these days! Carrying out simple age-appropriate duties like filling the dog bowl with fresh water or measuring out kibble can make children feel more grown up, trusted and helpful.

girl-feeding-dog

Give your dog extra praise and attention, for being a terrific dogparent, helping you in your quest to raise your kid to be a balanced, content adult.

Why not share how having a pet has enhanced your child’s development?

Reference

  1. Fall T, Lundholm C, Örtqvist AK, et al. Early exposure to dogs and farm animals and the risk of childhood asthma. JAMA Pediatr. 2015;169:e153219. doi:1001/jamapediatrics. 2015.3219. Epub 2015 Nov.