Service Animals & How they Help Us

Dog Professionals, last updated 14th, Oct 2020, DogSpot

We love all animals. In our endeavour to bring education to pet parents, we collaborated with Subadhra Cherukuri, is a certified Equine Assisted Therapist and riding instructor for special needs individuals. She is also the co-founder of Wag-Ville. In conversation with Preeti Narayanan, Co-Founder of Happy Tailz Games and Consultant Trainer at Anvis Inc., she spoke about service animals and the benefits they bring. Read on more insights.

Service animals are a blessing. For people with autism, depression, anxiety, and many more disorders, dogs, and other animals such as horses have provided therapy. Not only, specific issue therapy, even petting animals have also proved to be extremely beneficial. It increases the serotonin levels in humans and ensures well-being. 

(AP Photo/Julio Cortez, File)

In India, the activities of service animals are still at a nascent stage. We have seen successful results among many children and older people through animal assisted therapy. Many interesting methods are used with the right temperament and breed of a dog. As rewarding as the experience has been, we still have a long way to go.

Frequently Asked Questions about service animals:

1. What are the types of service dogs?

Guide dogs: these are dogs used for visionary impaired people. To find the way around the house and other public places. These dogs are trained to be the seeing eye.

Hearing assistance dog: To hear cues like an alarm, doorbell, phone when they ring. These dogs help alert the person in different manners. They also lead the person to the source of the noise.

Mobility assistance dogs: Help people with routine mobility functions like turn on the light. These dogs also help fetch things for the person. 

Diabetic alert dogs: Such dogs can sniff out variations in insulation levels in a diabetic person’s body. Oral factory senses are very high in dogs. Any secretion will also be detected and the dog alerts on the underlying condition. 

Seizure alert dogs: The dog is trained to pick up very small details so that the person can beforehand move to a safe environment. 

Allergen alert dogs: Such dogs are trained to sniff out very particular allergens, for example, peanuts. They will be able to alert the person before eating any highly processed foods with some traces of peanuts in it.

2. How can dogs help with autism in children?

Children, in this case, feel a disconnect and cannot seem to make an eye connect easily. Dogs can work wonders to make a connection with the children. When children are put through this therapy, they benefit from the fun of interaction with the dog. Senses start working and children enjoy the interaction. It also helps to calm down children, even when they are having a breakdown.

3. Do psychologists or psychiatrists who work with therapy dogs at their clinic?

Yes, a lot of doctors are practicing with their therapy dogs. Please connect with us to find out about such professionals in India. Please only see a licensed professional.

4. Are there any courses available for therapy dogs in India?

Yes, there is a course for Animal Assisted Therapy at Christ University. You wouldn’t need any pre-requisite background to enroll for the course. There are some online courses available.

5. Does the Government Of India recognize service animals?

At the moment, the GOI does not have an official system to recognize service animals. But some work is being done in this space to ensure recognition in the future.

Doctors are aware that such practices happen abroad. In India, parents are more aware of these options available for their autistic children.

6. What are the traits of a therapy dog?

The selection and training of the dog is extremely important. The dog must be outgoing in nature, but very stable at the same time. The dog shall be very calm in all situations without reacting to the external stimulus. For retrieving, they have to be gentle to pick up the object without harming it. 

There are multiple steps involved in selecting and training a dog. The parents and grandparents of the dog have to be known to be selected for the therapy training. Temperament testing of the dog in various situations is also critical. A lot of conditioning and socializing is required during the training duration of a therapy dog.

7. How much time does a therapy dog work in a day?

Due to the nature of work, they should not work for more than 2 hours. Anything beyond this time will be too much for the dog. And usually, therapy dogs retire at the age of 7 or 8.

8. How long does the training process take?

It takes anywhere between 6 months to a year after public access training for a dog. 

9. Apart from dogs, are there any other service animals in India?

Yes, horses make great service animals. Therapy through a horse are called hippo therapy. A lot of horses are trained to be therapy horses. The horses must have appropriate temperament and their health should be at the best. The purpose of the horse can only be served if they are very healthy.

Moving around on horsebacks is extremely beneficial for people for proper movement. It is challenging to train and retrain a horse for the required purpose. They require 24*7 monitoring and a lot of discipline. went live with Subadhra Cherukuri, is a certified Equine Assisted Therapist and riding instructor for special needs individuals. She has been riding since she was 10 years old.  She is also the co-founder of a pet services company called Wag-ville which is based in Bangalore. She is a full-time canine trainer and behaviorist. 

Subadhra is also a forest volunteer and naturalist. She got certified from the Forest Department of Karnataka. She has also worked closely with the forest department of Karnataka on multiple wildlife conservation projects as well as wildlife awareness sessions and campaigns. In conversation with Preeti Narayanan,he Co-Founder of Happy Tailz Games and Consultant Trainer at Anvis Inc. they spoke about all kinds of service animals and how therapy animals are not limited to dogs. 

We hope we answered all your queries regarding service animals. In case you have any further questions about the topic, please feel free to leave it in the comments below. An expert will be happy to guide you! 

Transcribed by: Prekshita Patwa


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