The psychiatric assistance dog team: who uses the dogs and why?

Johnston, Laura, Lewis, Julia, and Lloyd, Janice (2018) The psychiatric assistance dog team: who uses the dogs and why? In: [Presented at the 19th International Mental Health Conference]. From: 19th International Mental Health Conference: our treatment, our environment, our strategies, 8-10 August 2018, Gold Coast, QLD, Australia.

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Introduction: Psychiatric assistance dogs are a specific type of service dog trained to assist their handler with psychiatric disabilities. Little is known about the population who own psychiatric assistance dogs, the dogs or the functions they provide.

Methods: Psychiatric assistance dog owners in Australia registered with the charity mindDog were invited to participate in an online survey created using cloud-based software from SurveyMonkey to gain a better understanding of the psychiatric assistance dog team.

Results: 199 people completed the survey. Participants learned about psychiatric assistance dogs through a health care practitioner (32%), friends/family (30%) or the internet (37%). The dogs in the sample were of varying age, gender and breed. The most common reasons for choosing the dogs were size, weight and temperament. Just over half had been acquired specifically to train as an assistance dog. Participants median age was 47 years [10-75] and 77% identified as female. Depression (84%), anxiety (generalised 60% and social 60%), PTSD (62%) and panic attacks (57%) were the most common mental health diagnoses of this population. The most common tasks the dogs performed were: reduction of anxiety through tactile stimulation (94%); nudging or pawing to bring back to the present (71%); interrupting unwanted behaviour (51%); constant body contact (50%); deep pressure stimulation (45%) and blocking contact from other people (42%). Owning a service dog had decreased (46%), increased (30%) or not changed (24%) participants use of psychiatric or other health care services.

Conclusions and relevance: Psychiatric assistance dog owners have a variety of mental health conditions and their dogs fulfil different tasks to help in daily life. Understanding this population and the relationship between the owners and their dogs may help inform the appropriate choice, training and use of assistance dogs for people with mental health issues.

Item ID: 55203
Item Type: Conference Item (Poster)
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Date Deposited: 26 Nov 2020 00:49
FoR Codes: 11 MEDICAL AND HEALTH SCIENCES > 1117 Public Health and Health Services > 111714 Mental Health @ 50%
07 AGRICULTURAL AND VETERINARY SCIENCES > 0707 Veterinary Sciences > 070799 Veterinary Sciences not elsewhere classified @ 50%
SEO Codes: 92 HEALTH > 9202 Health and Support Services > 920209 Mental Health Services @ 50%
92 HEALTH > 9202 Health and Support Services > 920299 Health and Support Services not elsewhere classified @ 25%
97 EXPANDING KNOWLEDGE > 970111 Expanding Knowledge in the Medical and Health Sciences @ 25%
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