The beauty of service dogs

A recent item on the BBC website provides a welcome reminder of the power of the relationship between dogs and mankind.

Practically no-one is unaware of the role that dogs provide, for example, as guides for humans with sight impairment.  But there’s much more to the ‘service’ dog than that.

A service dog might be described as,

“any guide dog, signal dog, or other animal individually trained to do work or perform tasks for the benefit of an individual with a disability, including, but not limited to, guiding individuals with impaired vision, alerting individuals with impaired hearing to intruders or sounds, providing minimal protection or rescue work, pulling a wheelchair, or fetching dropped items.”

That definition is taken from the United States Code of Federal Regulations for the Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990!

Carrie and Lilly

But then cast your eye over this, as I mentioned, from the BBC on the 26th May, 2011.

Dogs can help reduce stress in parents of children with lifelong developmental disability autism, a study suggests.

The University of Lincoln compared 20 families with dogs with 20 without.

Daniel Mills told a Royal Society of Medicine conference early results suggested any breed could improve communication and relationships.

The veterinary behavioural medicine professor hopes to use video footage to show how dogs can improve child eating, sleeping and tantrum behaviour.

At a three-day Parents’ Autism Workshops and Support course, the families listed more than a thousand ways their dog had helped – from developing language and establishing a routine to using the pet to request action in a non-confrontational way.

Full story is here in which is included Professor Mills saying: “While there is no shortage of opinion on how dogs can help, there has been little money given to scientifically look into this.”

Autism is a challenging condition and anything that can establish a scientific underpinning for the role that dogs can have is to be welcomed whole-heartedly.

Finally, there are quite a few videos online that provide more information about the special, almost magical relationship between dogs and autistic people.  Here’s one that is the first part of a series of five.

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