Dogs are the best. They’re man’s best friend and their loyalty is unparalleled. Yes, you’ll sacrifice your personal space and if you opt for a larger breed you’re probably going to spend half of your salary on pet food, but you’ll also find nothing but unconditional love and support from your furry friend.

Having a dog goes a lot deeper than just a constant companion though. For someone with a disability or illness, it can be life changing.

A number of studies have shown that Animal-assisted therapy (AAT) is highly effective. Maggie O’Haire of the College of Veterinary Science at Purdue University in the United States, reviewed 14 clinical trials on the effects of animal therapy on children with autism. All the studies showed that the children significantly improved. Other researchers have found similar results when looking at dogs and how they positively influence those with Alzheimer’s, schizophrenia and Down’s syndrome. One pooch was even awarded a Masters degree for assisting his legally blind owner through university.

So, what is it about a dog that provides such positive results? And, why should you buy one?

Here’s eight reasons a dog could be good for you (or your loved one):

1. For Guidance

First, lets start with guide dogs, also known as seeing-eye dogs. We all know them as the Labradors and Golden Retrievers with the beautiful temperaments, who ensure their owners are safe. They are specially trained to guide their owners around various obstacles and they can even recognise an unsafe command when it’s given. These dogs know exactly how to handle dangerous situations and will often stop those with sight limitations from walking into oncoming traffic or tripping on a curb. Even if you’re not visually impaired there are options to help train guide dogs and raise the puppies that will make a difference down the track.

2. For Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder

Thousands of Australians suffer from Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) and military veterans who have returned from overseas deployment are especially susceptible. Healthy relationships have proven to help sufferers work through their PTSD and more recently a healthy relationship with man’s best friend seems to be working for many. Dogs are now being trained to perform tasks that help PTSD sufferers. They are learning to create a buffer in public places, wake up their veteran from nightmares and are even able to detect a panic attack. When they do, they lie on the person’s chest until they calm down. Having a dog to cuddle up to might play a huge role in saving a life.

3. For Hospital Visits

There are incredible organisations that any dog owner can get involved in. Delta Dogs is one of them. They organise for various pooches to visit sick patients in hospital. For many of those patients a cuddle from a pet can brighten their whole experience. There are some people who spend weeks in hospital at a time, missing their own pets back home. As a result, the opportunity to spend just a few minutes with a volunteer’s dog can be priceless. It’s just a matter of signing up and taking a couple of hours a week to make a positive impact.

4. For Mobility Assistance

Mobility assistance dogs can be super helpful for those who need a little extra help. They’re trained to perform a variety of tasks for their humans, such as opening automatic doors, bringing out-of-reach objects within reach and they can even be taught to help pull wheelchairs up ramps if it’s needed. They’re incredible companions who can act as a brace for those with strength and balancing problems and if they’re in a properly equipped home, they can even turn lights on and off and signal for help if necessary.

5. For Seizures

There are dogs that can pick up the symptoms of a seizure even hours before their owner is actually feeling any symptoms. These pets can be trained to bark or alert their human companion when to sit down or relax in order to alleviate the onset of a seizure before it happens. Pretty cool.

6. For Mental Health

Assistance dogs can help alleviate some of the symptoms surrounding mental health. Our furry friends have a way of sensing our emotions and helping calm us when our minds might take over. They can also be trained to remind their owner to take medication or wake them up when they need to get moving with their day. They’re also pretty good at picking up on anxiety and distracting their owners when it’s needed.

7. For Hearing

These pooches are trained to alert their owners of noises that are necessary for day-to-day independence and safety. It’s great for those with hearing impairment as it gives a degree of freedom and independence that they wouldn’t necessarily have in other formats. These dogs can provide increased awareness for their owners and help keep them safe in public.

8. For Others

Dogs have a way of lighting up a person’s day. Even just taking a dog down the street can put the biggest smile on the saddest face. There is a tonne of volunteer options to get dogs in hospitals or in places where people need them and not all of them require specific training. To own a dog is to own a loyal friend for life and it could quite possibly be just the positive difference you or someone near you needs.

So, if you do bring home a dog someday soon, not only will you make a home for an animal with a whole lot of love to give, you’ll also be given much needed assistance in return. Whether you need a pet to help with a disability or a companion to help you work through the struggles of PTSD, man’s best friend could be your perfect solution!

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