Not Just Tools: Service Dogs Give Owners More Than Physical Care

Recipient and her service dog stroll by a pond at the world famous Longwood Gardens in SE Pennsylvania, USA. Recipient has MS. Junius was trained by Canine Partners for Life in PA, and this team is going through 3 weeks of "Team Training" for newly matched recipients and service dogs.

(Picture Credit: David Osberg/Getty Images)

Anyone who’s had experience with service dogs knows just how valuable they are. They can help with mobility, medical alerts, and emotional needs. However, there are also other ways that they can help individuals beyond their usual roles.

A new study shows that service dogs may help in terms of impacting people’s lives on an emotional, companionship level. This particular effect goes deep, so much so that it can be compared to having a pet dog.

A Tool, A Pet, Or Both?

Portrait of happy woman with Siberian Husky during winter

(Picture Credit: Cavan Images/Getty Images)

“We are still unsure how having a service dog and a pet dog may differ. Although these service dogs are extensively trained to provide medical or physical assistance, we know that their companionship and unconditional love are important factors in the relationship,” said Kerri Rodriguez, co-author of the study that appeared in Disability and Rehabilitation.

It’s possible that dogs offer a certain level of love with whatever kind of relationship that they build with another person. The best way to see this is for future studies to explore how aspects like well-being and self-esteem may change over time in individuals who have experienced having a service dog.

Understanding The Strong Bond Between Handler And Dog

Much like service dogs do with their owners, dogs trained to serve in the armed forces also form intense bonds forged over challenges and experiences. Being on the battlefield is a very trying and stressful time for the dogs and handlers. Yet they share bonds that go beyond their respective duties.

This is borne out of training, exercises, missions, and sometimes even recovery from physical or psychological wounds. Dogs are able to sense their handlers’ emotions. When handlers experience negative emotions or have a bad day, their dogs might pick up on that and mimic the emotion for that day.

All of this is to say that even dogs who have a purpose, whether it’s providing medical help or serving in the military, grow attached to their handlers or owners, and the feelings are mutual. They go beyond their use as “tools” and make connections with the humans they’re close to.

So even though a dog’s duty might be to help a person walk or sniff out a bomb, they also provide something else. They become our friends and family, whether we teach them to or not.

What do you think of this special bond between handler and dog? How do you think service dogs benefit handlers or owners beyond the emotional factor? Let us know below!

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