People have numerous resources to cope with mental health conditions, including using a service dog. Training these dogs is an immense responsibility that also enhances the trainer’s well-being.
Here are things to think about if you’re considering that as your future job.
Anyone’s mental health can decline if they don’t have a purpose. Without a goal, they’d become directionless and more likely to sink into depression. Training a service dog takes time. It’s also a repetitive responsibility. This new lifelong purpose will help stabilize your mental health.
A happy puppy creates contagious joy for anyone around them. Research shows that petting and being around dogs of any age creates additional dopamine in your brain that stimulates happiness. Being around puppies in training classes will encourage that dopamine release.
Stress becomes less of a problem when your happiness is undeniable. Extra dopamine production from working with dogs is an excellent way to decrease and maintain your anxiety. Although all jobs have challenges, training service dogs produces less work-related stress.
Whether you’re experiencing anxiety or depression, your emotional wellness will weaken if you have low self-esteem. However, service dog trainers continually develop fortitude throughout their careers. The habitual schedule of feeding and grooming a dog allows recovering addicts to build self-esteem and the same effect applies to anyone raising the puppy before adoption.
Communicating effectively is an essential part of feeling confident about yourself in your life. Training service dogs hones the strength you need to never fall for depressive or anxious thought patterns. You’ll learn how to communicate effectively with your co-workers during training. You’ll also learn how to communicate with the dogs on a level they’ll understand and talk with each adoptive family about their unique needs and concerns. Doing this boosts your confidence and strengthens your mental wellness.
Spending too much time alone can be harmful. Isolation can cause people to develop PTSD and severe depression. By training service dogs, you’ll bond with other team members and create new friendships over the unique experience your jobs present.
Impatience can harm your mental health in numerous ways and may keep you from processing grief, anger or another emotion that would otherwise lead to healing. With service dog training, there’s no way to speed up the process. You cannot force them to learn helpful behaviors in the same way. You must adapt your training to each dog’s personality and take time to understand their new behaviors. As you become more patient with dogs, you’ll show yourself the same kindness and enjoy your life more.
Loved ones might caution you against becoming a service dog trainer. Many believe it’s heartbreaking to watch dogs leave after training them for so long. While you won’t spend forever with each dog, you get to know their families well. You’ll learn what conditions prompted their need for a service animal and their post-training concerns. You’ll gain an extended family in each adoptive household, so you won’t feel too much loss when saying goodbye to one of your trainees.
Mistakes can trigger mental health episodes sometimes but are unavoidable when training an animal. Dogs won’t understand you right away, and you’ll have to learn how they communicate best. You’ll also have to make mistakes to train better. Purposefully learning from each error results in greater compassion toward yourself and others, which fortifies your mental health against future bumps in the road.
It doesn’t matter whether a service dog alerts their person to a potential seizure or stabilizes them while they walk. No matter the service, that dog will change someone’s life for the better. Trainers make that change possible. You’ll find greater peace with your life, what you do every day and your capabilities. That peace blankets your mental health and grounds you each day.
The mental health benefits of raising a service dog for someone else are nearly endless. Living with anxiety, depression and other chronic conditions becomes easier when interacting with dogs every day and making the world a better place for their adoptive families.
About the Author
Kara Reynolds is the founder and editor-in-chief of Momish Magazine, an inclusive parenting magazine filled with parenting hacks, advice and more to keep your beautiful family thriving.