Psychiatric assistance dog use for people living with mental health disorders

Lloyd, Janice, Johnson, Laura, and Lewis, Julie (2019) Psychiatric assistance dog use for people living with mental health disorders. Frontiers in Veterinary Science, 6. 166.

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Abstract

A psychiatric assistance dog (PAD) is a service dog that is trained to assist its handler (owner) who has been diagnosed with a mental health condition such as post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), schizophrenia, depression, anxiety, or bipolar disorder. Literature searches reveal that little is known about the population of people who own PADs, the types of dogs used or the functions they provide. One third (n = 199) of PAD owners in Australia registered with the charity “mindDog” participated in an online survey designed to better understand the person and dog team. Participants learned about PADs through the internet (37%), health care practitioners (32%), or family/friends (30%). The dogs in the sample were of varying age, gender and breed. The most common reasons for people to choose a dog to be a PAD were temperament (60%) and size/weight (48%). Just under half (48%) of the dogs had been acquired by the owner specifically to be trained as a PAD, and the rest were existing pets. All the dogs were trained by the owner or a combination of the owner and a qualified trainer; none were trained exclusively by assistance/service dog provider organizations. The median age of the participants at the time of data collection was 47 years, ranging from 10 to 75 years. Most (77%) identified as female. Depression (84%), anxiety (social 61%; generalized 60%), PTSD (62%), and panic attacks (57%) were the most reported mental health diagnoses. Tasks the dogs performed for their owners included: reduction of anxiety through tactile stimulation (94%); nudging/pawing to bring back to the present (71%); interrupting undesirable behavior (51%); constant body contact (50%); deep pressure stimulation (45%) and blocking contact from other people (42%). PAD usage decreased (46%), increased (30%) or did not change (24%) participants' use of psychiatric or other health care services. Decrease in service use was mainly due to reduced suicide attempts, and less requirement for hospitalization and medication; increased use was mainly due to enhanced ability to attend appointments. Results of this study show that PAD owners have differing mental health diagnoses, and their dogs perform different tasks to support them in daily life. Every participant described the relationship with his/her PAD as positive, suggesting that a successful working partnership does not require the dog to have been bred or raised specifically for the role. A better understanding of this population and the person-dog relationship will inform the appropriate choice, training and use of PADs for people living with mental health problems.

Item ID: 58559
Item Type: Article (Research - C1)
ISSN: 2297-1769
Keywords: assistance dogs, disability, human-animal bond, human-animal relationships, mental health, psychiatric assistance dogs, service dogs
Copyright Information: © 2019 Lloyd, Johnston and Lewis. This is an open-access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution License (CC BY). The use, distribution or reproduction in other forums is permitted, provided the original author(s) and the copyright owner(s) are credited and that the original publication in this journal is cited, in accordance with accepted academic practice. No use, distribution or reproduction is permitted which does not comply with these terms.
Date Deposited: 08 Jul 2019 01:53
FoR Codes: 07 AGRICULTURAL AND VETERINARY SCIENCES > 0707 Veterinary Sciences > 070799 Veterinary Sciences not elsewhere classified @ 33%
11 MEDICAL AND HEALTH SCIENCES > 1199 Other Medical and Health Sciences > 119999 Medical and Health Sciences not elsewhere classified @ 34%
17 PSYCHOLOGY AND COGNITIVE SCIENCES > 1799 Other Psychology and Cognitive Sciences > 179999 Psychology and Cognitive Sciences not elsewhere classified @ 33%
SEO Codes: 92 HEALTH > 9299 Other Health > 929999 Health not elsewhere classified @ 60%
83 ANIMAL PRODUCTION AND ANIMAL PRIMARY PRODUCTS > 8399 Other Animal Production and Animal Primary Products > 839901 Animal Welfare @ 10%
97 EXPANDING KNOWLEDGE > 970111 Expanding Knowledge in the Medical and Health Sciences @ 30%
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