Medical students learn that training service dogs to make them better human companions is effective.
I just found out some exciting news, and it made me extremely happy.
Considering the kind of person I am, I do not wish to keep this information with me, so here it is!
Uniformed Services University of Health Sciences just added a new faculty member to their list of professors who loves to be scratched behind the ears. The 2-year old faculty member, Shetland, is half-Labrador retriever and half-golden retriever.
This fall, he became a lieutenant commander in the Navy. Not just that, he is also an instructor in the Department of Medical and Clinical Psychology at USUHS in Bethesda, Md.
He will now be working with his colleagues, Dillon and Sully, who have also been bred and trained by America’s VetDogs.
So, Shetland has some fantastic skills that he loves to show off, which include giving a hug when commanded to do so, carrying around baskets, and picking up tiny to big fallen objects.
But wait! That’s not it. Along with being all smiles and spreading happiness around campus, Shetland also has another big job that he needs to complete.
While proving relief from stress to students at the university is a plus, Shetland has become a part of the faculty group to be able to teach students the importance and meaning of animal-assisted therapy.
There were several studies conducted in the 1980s and 1990s that suggested that animals can affect how humans are feeling and change their human companion’s mood by providing them emotional support.
It was after this decade that people started taking help from dogs. And I’m glad they did!
There are so many types of helper dogs. Each one serves a different purpose. Say therapy dogs could be household pets who are taken to the hospital to visit nursing homes, hospitals, and schools. And then we have guide dogs who are trained to help people with disabilities, like the blind. We also have dogs that are highly trained to help the military.
Now you’ll ask me, “So what kind of helping dog is Shetland supposed to be?”
I’ll have you know that Shetland is a military facility dog who has been trained to provide mental and physical assistance to a wide group of people, including patients.
Then again, in spite of being a part of the military, he does not get salutes. Maybe he should? I mean, he’s cute!
Students at USUHS are going to learn what a therapy dog can do for humans in the military and how, but working with them closely.
If you were to visit any military medical treatment facility, you would find therapy dogs walking around the hallways. You may also be able to find them in the clinics, private rooms, and even the ICU! You know they help patients with post-traumatic stress disorder too.
So, the university has planned that Shetland will be used to help students understand whether or not a dog is an appropriate choice for a patient, or will they have to pick another animal for therapy. They are going to be including this to their set of curriculum.
You can imagine the students’ reaction when they saw their newest teacher!
Students say that having Shetland in their space all the time, has made a big difference in how they learn. While Walter Reed (a National Military Medical Center) dogs would visit them often, it’s refreshing to have Shetland around.
There have been instances where people in pain will refuse to talk to another person. It might be because they think it is shameful to feel pain, or they do not want to involve people in their mess. Either way, chances are they will open up to dogs.
This creates an opportunity for them to begin conversing with a behavioral health specialist.
Dogs at their facilities are trained to help their humans in both physical and mental tasks. Say a veteran were to be having a nightmare, then their dog would realize it and gently wake them from their sleep.
I think this is one of the reasons why Shetland and dogs like him are special, a complete blessing for humans.
Training a dog to be able to work in a high-pressure environment is different than preparing him to work as a civilian helper. He should not be cracking under pressure. It is essential that these military service dogs are able to work for several people at the same time and handle multiple types of situations.
Like spending time with a child is different than with an adult, dogs must learn to see the change and adapt.
Dogs are best friends for so many people, and just by being their friends, they provide so much healing to them. Without any official training also, dogs can heal. Dogs tend to become an invaluable part of a person’s life from day one and stay the same until they die.
I have come to believe that dogs are born with immense amounts of love in their hearts for humans, and it only increases once they begin to receive the same.
Nancie Howell works for Five Star Canine and has a special love towards animals, especially dogs. She/he believes that we need to become the voice of our pets and help them during all the stages of their life. He/she wishes to make people aware of canine health and happiness.