Category Archives: service dogs

The Life of a Certified Service and Therapy Dog

By Ambassador Doc-Barker

My name is Ambassador Doc-Barker. I’m a 2 year old Chocolate Labrador Retriever and Team CANIDAE Member.  I am a service dog certified through Canine Support Teams, Inc., a therapy dog registered thru Delta Society®, and a Canine Ambassador for the Make-A-Wish Foundation® of America through the Wishes Forever® endowment campaign, as well as my family’s loving pet.  I have eaten CANIDAE dog food my whole life! I started out eating the All Life Stages (ALS) formula, and for the past year I have eaten Grain Free pureSEA, and I love them both.

As a balance and mobility service dog, I help my mama do many things. I pick up items she has dropped like her car keys, money, credit cards, etc. I help her by pulling her wheel chair or scooter and a grocery cart, which is a huge assistance to mama. I also help her get up from chairs and up and down stairs and inclines. Because I am a therapy dog, my fur needs to be soft, shiny and petable for all whom I visit, and my CANIDAE food keeps it that way.

As a canine ambassador, I travel around the country accompanied by my family, bringing awareness about service and therapy dogs and the important jobs they do, and also bringing awareness about a children’s charity through a canine connection. Ambassador Barker, my mentor, was mamas first service and therapy dog as well as a canine ambassador. He ate CANIDAE All Life Stages (ALS) too!

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How Pets Help Children with Autism

By Langley Cornwell

Most people who share their life with a pet enjoy talking about how strong their connection is with their animal. They like to discuss how much they delight in spending time with their pet. They share stories that illustrate how well their dog or cat understands them. I’m one of those people; I can talk about the power of the connection I have with my dog and my cat for hours. I am completely convinced that living with pets is good for my mental and physical health. What’s more, I know living with a cat has helped my mother-in-law tremendously. My husband and I are amazed at the positive influence a little gray tabby cat from the local animal shelter has had on his 87-year-old mother’s life. It’s as if she’s awakened from a long sleep. She and ‘Skeet’ are a perfect match, and getting her this cat is one of the best things we’ve ever done for her. 

With this in mind, it’s not a far leap to believe that being around domesticated pets can be a helpful, positive and enriching experience for children with autism.

How animals help autistic children

First hand testimonials from parents and documented reports from clinicians confirm that interacting with animals (sometimes called animal-assisted therapy) offers emotional and physical benefits to autistic children. Structured programs like horseback riding or swimming with dolphins are beneficial, but the animal interaction doesn’t have to be that organized to be helpful. Something as simple as having a dog in the house can have a positive influence on a child with Autism Spectrum Disorder; it helps with their physical development by improving their coordination and strength. Additionally, a joyous relationship with an animal will help an autistic child develop more self-confidence and a deeper sense of well-being.

Colleen Dolnick, a Missouri mother who has a 10-year-old son with autism, tells Everyday Health: “Animals can be amazing for children with autism. Animals can relate to these children. And these children, who have a hard time relating to peers, can really relate to animals.”      

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Dogs Helping Humans with Invisible Disabilities

By Linda Cole

For those of us who are writers, comments from our readers are special. We write because it’s something we love to do, and having an opportunity to write about the pets we love makes it even better. Sometimes a reader will ask a question or make a suggestion that sends us on a quest to find more information. My topic today, dogs that help humans with invisible disabilities, was suggested by a reader. After doing some research on it, I discovered another wonderful example of how important dogs are to us.

My mom developed Rheumatoid arthritis when she was pregnant with me. In the early stages, she didn’t really show any outward signs of the disease. She worked outside the home, took care of three kids, was active in our church, and appeared to be perfectly healthy. As I grew, her pain increased and the crippling effects of the disease began to take hold. By the time I was in grade school, she was spending more and more time in and out of the hospital for operations to repair damaged joints and continuous monitoring of new arthritis drugs she was taking. Mom was a fighter and refused to let her arthritis get the better of her, but I saw how hard it was for her on her worst days. As an adult, she told me on many occasions how important her dogs were to her. Without them, there would have been a lot of mornings she never would have gotten out of bed. Rheumatoid arthritis is one of the invisible disabilities.

One important lesson I learned growing up is that just because someone looks fine on the outside, inside they may be dealing with crippling and life changing disabilities. Diabetes, anxiety disorders, bipolar disorder, depression, schizophrenia, lupus, sleep disorders, Lyme disease, food allergies, PTSD, epilepsy, lactose intolerance, chronic pain, autism, and ADHD are just a few of the invisible disabilities people live with every day. An invisible disability is any disease or disability that affects normal everyday life and hinders a person’s ability to perform daily activities, and it isn’t obvious to people who don’t know you.

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How Peanut Sniffing Dogs Help Kids With Allergies

By Linda Cole

We use a dog’s nose to find lost people, hidden explosives, termites, drugs and other contraband. Now we can add sniffing out life threatening allergens to the list. People with food allergies spend hours reading labels and questioning a waitress about what’s in a particular dish. For those with a peanut allergy, even a minute amount of peanuts can cause a severe, life threatening reaction. One solution to help those who suffer from peanut allergies is Allergy Alert Service Dogs – canines trained to search for and find hidden allergens in food or on everyday objects.

One of the more common food allergies is peanuts. In children, peanut allergies tripled from 1997 to 2008. A severe allergic reaction to peanuts is responsible for an estimated 100 to 150 deaths every year. Millions of kids and adults have to be vigilant about making sure they don’t come into contact with peanuts in any form, in their food or on everyday objects. They have to constantly stay on alert to what’s in food. Even if there are no peanuts in the food, traces of peanuts could have been introduced without anyone knowing about it.

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What Does a Psychiatric Service Dog Do?


By Ruthie Bently

Dogs help many people, in many different ways. There are dogs that sniff things out, such as bombs and explosives, cancers and drugs. I even heard a story recently about a man training a dog to sniff out emeralds. There are assistance dogs that help people who are deaf or blind, even dogs that assist people with cerebral palsy, who may need help picking things up. One of the newer kinds of service dogs is a psychiatric service dog.

A psychiatric service dog (PSD) is specifically trained to assist an individual or perform tasks for someone who has been disabled by severe mental health issues. This can include but is not limited to someone that suffers from Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder, depression or anxiety, Autism, Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder (OCD), Social Anxiety Disorder, Schizophrenia, Bipolar Disorder, Panic Disorder, eating disorders and Agoraphobia. Anyone who has been diagnosed as mentally disabled is eligible for a PSD.

A psychiatric service dog can assist their person by providing a safe presence that grounds them. They remind their owner to take their medication on time. They have been used to relieve paranoia and manic attacks. They can interrupt the repetitive behaviors of someone with OCD. They can be taught to discern the onset of a hallucination. A PSD for a soldier suffering from Post Traumatic Stress Disorder can use their training to interrupt a flashback or dissociative episode, or to alleviate fear and hyper vigilance.

A PSD can be trained to let their owner know when an attack of dissociation, mania or panic is about to occur. For someone suffering from panic attacks they can help their owner during the attack by warming their body and attending to their emotional distress. An agoraphobic can take their PSD outside and experience less stress. For people who may be fearful inside their own home, psychiatric service dogs have been used to turn on the lights and search the rooms for intruders.

Psychiatric service dogs are allowed where most service dogs are allowed. There are several things that a responsible pet owner of a potential PSD should consider. There is no one breed of dog that is better for this service. The dog’s size and exercise level should be considered when looking for a PSD. If the dog is an older dog, they should be well socialized. If you do a lot of traveling by air, size should be considered carefully as it can get expensive the larger dog you choose. As with any dog, this is a long term situation. The person receiving the PSD should be aware that this is for the dog’s lifetime which could be fifteen to twenty years. It should also be remembered that this dog will be a companion 24/7, as they are a service dog and are with their human to help.

A psychiatric service dog can be trained by their potential owner, but it is suggested that a professional trainer be used in private lessons. Before choosing a PSD, a trainer should be consulted to help pick the best dog for the job and situation. A PSD does not have to be certified, but I would recommend it as the owner will have to be able to prove that the dog is a service dog. Three areas of training evidence that the owner should be able to show are basic obedience, disability related task or therapeutic functions, and public access skills.

Jane Miller, author of Healing Companions: Ordinary Dogs and Their Extraordinary Power to Transform Lives, has been working with PSDs for some time now and is the leading authority in the field. She’s had remarkable results in this emerging field. She was even approached by the Veteran’s Administration to speak on the subject of psychiatric service dogs for soldiers returning from combat with Post Traumatic Stress Disorder.

Most of us know the emotional support and unconditional love that our dogs give us, but a psychiatric service dog allows people to gain or regain assertiveness, self confidence and self esteem, as well as nurturing their emotional well being and inspiring confidence.

Read more articles by Ruthie Bently

The personal opinions and/or use of trade, corporate or brand names, is for information and convenience only. Such use does not constitute an endorsement by CANIDAE® All Natural Pet Foods of any product or service. Opinions are those of the individual authors and not necessarily of CANIDAE® All Natural Pet Foods.

Therapy Dogs Live a Life of Community Service


By Suzanne Alicie

CANIDAE sponsors several outstanding animals, and are exceptionally proud to be able to include therapy dogs Stitch and Riley as well as their newly certified partner Sophie. Because of the CANIDAE sponsorship and even the attendance of some company employees at events, these dogs are able to spread their love and comfort in an ever growing way including hospital visits, community events and the Make a Wish foundation.

Johne and Jane Johnson volunteered their time at the VA hospitals before they got involved with the therapy dogs. Johne bought Stitch as a puppy for the express purpose of training him to be a therapy dog in order to expand their outreach program with the VA hospitals in the area. Along the way they adopted Riley whose owner claimed that she was a terrible dog who didn’t like men. Riley became a certified part of the team and loves being around people, men included. This just goes to show that the way an owner thinks and feels about a dog does affect the way they behave.

Jane, a marathon runner, found a Maltipoo in a gutter while out training one day. She brought her home ,and now Sophie is the newest certified therapy dog on the team. Sophie is small enough to claim a lap to cuddle in when she visits, and usually does so. The Johnsons have also rescued another dog, a Bluetick hound named Bella who is in the process of training. These wonderful dogs visit VA hospitals as well as children’s hospitals and many community events to spread love and companionship.

Pets in general have a positive effect on people, and therapy dogs are trained to provide the attention and love that the people in the hospitals need. Mr. Johnson tells of many times when visiting the VA hospital there were patients who were despondent and non- responsive to him and the others who visited with him. However, when the dogs began to visit, these same people opened up and began talking about pets they used to have, and really enjoyed their visits with Stitch and Riley. Eventually those same patients began to look forward to his visits, although if he went without the dogs the main thing he heard was “Where are the dogs? Why didn’t you bring the dogs?” This lets him know that his therapy dogs are truly something special, and that they make a big difference to these patients.

The difference between therapy dogs and service dogs is that the service provided by therapy dogs is purely social. Service dogs are trained to stay with a specific person and assist them with different tasks, while therapy dogs are welcome visitors who provide their services to everyone they encounter. Many times veterans need physical therapy to aid with their recovery from illness and injury; this can lead to a boring and repetitive routine. Therapy dogs introduce something a little different and bring some excitement into the day. Lonely or depressed patients have shown remarkable improvement after a visit from Riley and Stitch. The unconditional love and acceptance of a dog can lift the spirits and distract patients from dark thoughts and loneliness.

Imagine being a bored patient who is in pain and all alone. Suddenly these two gorgeous golden labs and their tiny white partner burst onto the scene, three special dogs who love to be petted and played with, who are happy to just be in contact with you. Interaction with the dogs breaks up a dull routine and makes the patient feel so much better.

The training to become a certified therapy dog involves learning several important things. Besides basic obedience, these dogs learn to deal with loud noises, ignore food when it’s dropped or eaten in front of them, how to handle crowds, and the fact that everyone will reach out towards them. The mentality of a good therapy dog is that any attention is welcome, and that love is the name of the game. Little Sophie recently got to take a trip to Disneyland as part of her training to become certified.

Mr. Johnson says that any dog can be trained to be a therapy dog, but some may have learned behaviors that must be worked through first. Dogs that have been abused in any way may shy away from strangers wanting to pet them. The Johnsons now have three certified therapy dogs and only one of them has been trained for his job since he was a puppy. There is a difference, Mr. Johnson says. All three dogs are good at their jobs and love what they do, but Stitch is the one who has been raised with love from the beginning and simply has no understanding of anyone being mean.

Besides being beneficial to the hospitals and the people they visit, therapy dogs like Stitch, Riley and Sophie are also helping to spread the word of the importance and legal allowances for certified service dogs. Mr. Johnson often takes Stitch to dinner with him and his wife; this is not only a training enforcement for the dog but also a learning opportunity for the people who work in restaurants as to when a dog is allowed in, and the purpose of the dog for the person he is with. There have been several instances where Mr. Johnson has been told he can’t bring the dog in. This leads to educating and informing the employees and management as well as other diners about the legality of service dogs and their purpose. By taking on this challenge, Mr. Johnson is making the world more aware and hopefully making it easier for the people who need to take their service dogs everywhere with them.

The Johnsons, their wonderful dogs, and the Masonic lodge they are a part of have received awards for their community service. They plan to continue with breeding and training therapy dogs in order to make life a little better for all of those they encounter.

Read more articles by Suzanne Alicie

The personal opinions and/or use of trade, corporate or brand names, is for information and convenience only. Such use does not constitute an endorsement by CANIDAE® All Natural Pet Foods of any product or service. Opinions are those of the individual authors and not necessarily of CANIDAE® All Natural Pet Foods.