More Than Just “Man’s Best Friend”

As my first semester at Penn State begins to come to a close, i’ve been reflecting back on how many absolutely adorable puppies i’ve seen around campus. However, these aren’t your typical animals. These are dogs that are being raised to positively affect someones life. In one of my previous posts I discussed animal testing and why you could argue that it is a waste. That is definitely a controversial topic, however, the fact that we (as humans) NEED services dogs surely is not. More specifically, I am interested in how animals can help veterans– people who have sacrificed and possibly lost so much from their lives after not having to rely on anyone for anything up to that point.

Service dogs have been proven to help with physical disabilities such as hearing and vision difficulties in addition to balance and anxiety issues. The The Military Times has even been publishing recent studies that research how dogs may be able to help veterans with PTSD. Marguerite O’Haire, an assistant professor of Human-Animal interaction at Purdue University, is conducting an experiment consisting of 100 post-9/11 veterans split into 50 with dogs and 50 without. Tests to measure different variables will be conducted and will provide the basis of a pilot study that could eventually lead into further exploration of the importance of service animals in relation to veterans.

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image found here

The null hypothesis is that dogs used to help veterans cope with PTSD will not be successful and won’t have a positive impact on their lives. The alternative hypothesis is that these animals will positively influence veterans and their overall quality of life by providing them with a constant companion.

For this longitudinal study, O’Haire addresses the fact that non biased data is necessary in order to find a reliable foundation of data to build off of. The study was paused and then restarted in 2012 with a larger sample size. This emotional support service dog study was still ongoing when the article was published, but it is safe to assume that Purdue’s research in pairing veterans with PTSD dogs will be progressive in finding ways to comfort fellow americans who were so selfless that quality of life was lessened upon their arrival.

It is clear to see how much potential this research has. To myself along with so many others that I know, pets are just companions– “extra” things that do make us happy and can arguably make life better, but we don’t necessarily rely on them. But to those who are less fortunate, or who deserve to have some emotional outlet, canines have the potential to be so much more.

4 thoughts on “More Than Just “Man’s Best Friend”

  1. Cassandra N Kearns

    This was a really good blog! I enjoyed how the material was thoughtful and backed up by a lot of logical evidence. The most interesting thing about dogs to me is how they are known to sense our emotions. When I had a dog a few years ago, she was able to sense when my parents were in a fight. She would whine and bark continuously. Here is a link that contains more information about how they can sense how we are feeling: https://www.google.com/search?client=safari&rls=en&q=dogs+can+smell+our+emotions&ie=UTF-8&oe=UTF-8 . Service dogs must be trained to sense and react to our emotions as well!

  2. Tyler Mitchell Azar

    This was an informative blog! Every time I see a service dog on campus, my first thought is “I want to pet it” and my second thought is “I wonder how helpful they are to people with physical or mental disabilities”. I would be very curious to see the results of the study you mentioned. You did a great job of bringing in things we’ve learned in class to your blog post as well. One thing you sort of glossed over was the ways in which service dogs help people. This article gives an overview of what services dogs do, among other information that you may find interesting. Great job

  3. Angela Maria Napolitano

    Honestly I don’t think there are many things that make me happier than when a dog is around and is happy to see me too. I seriously miss having a dog because I truly believe they do make us happier. That is, of course, if we’re a “dog person”. This article talks about how pets in general benefit people and it mentions how it affects people’s mental health as well as physical.
    http://center4research.org/healthy-living-prevention/pets-and-health-the-impact-of-companion-animals/

  4. Nicholas E Schneider

    Like many Penn State students, I have a dog at home that I miss more and more each time I head back to State College to begin a new semester. Because there are so few opportunities for students to see, let alone play with dogs while at school, I think we’d all agree it’s wonderful to see service dogs walking around University Park, aiding their owners. Of course it is nice just to see a cute puppy while strolling through campus, but the fact that these dogs mean so much and are so essential to the daily lives of their owners makes these animals that much more special. If service dogs can make a significant impact on/brighten the day of a random passerby, imagine the profound effect they could have on a veteran suffering from PTSD. As you mentioned in your post, service dogs are not just reserved or helpful for those who have hearing or visual impairments, but can also help people with anxiety and other issues. Although the results of Marguerite O’Haire’s study have yet to be published, I would be shocked if the end results yield evidence that does not support service dogs as a valuable aid to vets with PTSD.

    For your enjoyment, here’s a video from National Geographic’s youtube channel listing some of the dog breeds that make the best service dogs.

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