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10 Types of Emotional Support Animals

Have you ever wondered about emotional support animals and service animals? Canines are exceptional at reading our facial expressions and body language because they have coevolved with us for tens of thousands of years. It is no wonder that they can and do a variety of crucial jobs for the benefit of man. Today therapy dogs play an ever increasing role in our fast-paced, stressed-out lives. Here is a list of 10 types of emotional support animals and service dogs!

1. Hospital/Recovery Therapy Dogs

Many hospitals in the U.S. have pet therapy programs as a major part of their daily operations.  Recently, a friend was admitted to the Craig Hospital in Denver after an accident left her paralyzed from the waist down.  Watching her struggle with the physical and emotional changes after the accident and hearing how the visits from therapy dogs provided a break in what she described as a “waking nightmare,” we have a whole new appreciation for how big of an impact therapy dogs in hospitals are making. If you’re curious to see the story of another young person and their time spent at the Craig Hospital, check out Kevin Pearce’s HBO Documentary, The Crash Reel.

2. Mental Illness Patients

Animal Assisted Therapy (AAT) has also been proven to help patients with disorders like schizophrenia and bipolar disorder.  The low demands of human and animal interaction proved to reduce anxiety more effectively than “traditional therapy.”

3. Post Disaster Therapy Dogs

Therapy dogs are often brought in to help victims that have witnessed a terrifying event and may be suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder.  After the shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary, golden retrievers from “K-9 Comfort Dogs” were brought in and comforted children and adults alike. These same service dogs moved on to visit Boston-area hospitals, churches and other locations to comfort victims and witnesses of the Boston Marathon bombings.

4. Pups in Prison

Prisons partner with animal shelters and animal advocate groups for dog training programs. The prisoners work with the dogs, socializing them and teaching them basic obedience skills, making them more adoptable. Once the dogs have successfully completed the program, they will be adopted through their original shelter. These programs help animals get adopted, but also have a positive influence on the prisoners, equipping them with skills necessary to support successful rehabilitation and improving public safety.

5. Reading Therapy Dogs

This is a fun and creative way to lure children to the library and get them reading! The kids enjoy the company of the dogs, having fun while reading. And for children with anxiety surrounding reading, they find that reading to dogs is less stressful than reading to other humans.

6. Wartime Companionship

Operation Baghdad Pups pairs U.S. troops in Iraq and Afghanistan with local animals as a way to help them cope with the emotional hardships they endure while deployed in a war zone.  The Operation Baghdad Pups program provides vet care and coordinates the often extremely complicated logistics and transportation requirements in order to reunite these pets with their service men and women back in the U.S. These animals not only help our heroes in the war zone, but they also help them readjust to life back home after combat.

7. Post-War Companionship

Dogs not only assist wounded return veterans in a variety of physical capacities but they also provide emotional support for veterans suffering from Post-Traumatic Stress Disorders. Former soldiers often face panic and anxiety so debilitating they are unable to leave the house or function like they did before going to war.  Service animals are proven to help veterans re-acclimate to civilian life while helping stave off depression. There are many wonderful programs and organizations, like Pets for Vets, that pair shelter dogs with veterans in need, often at little or no cost to the veteran.

8. Juvenile Detention Center Therapy Dogs

“Many teens in detention centers have been through trauma and painful relationships before entering the system,” says Department of Juvenile Justice Secretary Wansley Walters.  “Therapy dogs provide teens with unconditional empathetic non-verbal feedback.” Or in layman’s terms, the dogs provide an unconditional love vibe, radiating it and letting the teens know “I’m here for you.”

9. Airport/Travel Stress and Anxiety

The PUPS (Pets Unstressing Passengers) program at LAX is easing air travel in a variety of ways. Emotional support animals and their handlers roam through the departures levels in the gate areas of each terminal, visiting passengers awaiting flights, providing comfort and offering airport information.

10. Colleges and Universities

Colleges and Universities bring therapy dogs to campus during midterm and final exam weeks to help students destress, relax and smile. These campus events are often referred to as “Therapy Fluffies,” a term coined by Torrey Trust, the original founder of the UC San Diego therapy dog destress event.

Thanks for reading our article on emotional support animals and give your pup an extra hug for us!