Emotional support animals (ESAs) are now used to help treat a whole host of different mental illnesses including anxiety, depression, PTSD, loneliness, panic attacks, and more. These animals have proven very effective in improving both the mental and physical health of their owners. In fact, 99% of ESA owners feel that emotional support animal companionship increased feelings of security and 97% said having an ESA gave them more independence and energy.
Can Emotional Support Animals Experience Burnout?
Emotional support animals seem like the perfect solution to hand anyone struggling with a mental illness. They can even be leveled up to psychiatric service dogs with proper training and do tasks to assist their owners. However, there is one catch to remember as Support Animals Experience Burnout similar to human beings.
They are living beings, and like any living being, they can get tired. Just like human caregivers, ESAs can experience caregiver burnout without proper rest and care. Psychiatric service dogs especially can work long hours doing complex tasks in chaotic environments and can begin to have health and behavioral problems related to stress. Here are some simple tips to make sure that your emotional support animal or psychiatric service dog stays happy and healthy both physically and mentally, so they can continue to care for you.
Before adopting an emotional support animal, discuss with your mental health professional if it is the best option for you. Make sure that you are able to care for the animal properly. Animals need to be fed, watered, walked, and paid attention to, which can be overwhelming if you are struggling with mental or physical illnesses. Remember, Emotional Support Animals Experience Burnout too.
Identify Signs of Stress
If your animal begins to lose hair, eat less, lose weight, display aggressive behavior, avoid being petted and uncharacteristically shy away from people, these may be signs of stress or illness. Take your animal to the vet first, to rule out any physical ailments it may have. If it is indeed stress, take the necessary steps to help your animal relax.
Take Training Slow
If you are training your psychiatric service dog yourself, it is tempting to get through the training phase as fast as possible. If your dog seems to be doing really well, it can be tempting to push through training at a faster pace. This can create an unstable foundation of training, cause problems later down the road, and cause your dog unnecessary stress. Take your time with the training process.
Just like humans need downtime, animals do as well. Schedule time for your support animal or service dog to be off duty doing something it enjoys. For example, a sniff and explore adventure in a quiet nature space, new toys, and stimulating activities like slow feed bowls offer the perfect mental break for your animal.
How and When to Remove a Dog from a Situation
If your service dog or support animal is showing signs of stress or aggression, remove them from the situation. Service animals are trained to be calm in every situation, but sometimes, just like people they have bad days as well. In order to avoid any behavioral problems, remove them from the stressful situation, and work on this more in training later to help them manage it in the future.
Impact of Aging
Be aware of your support animal’s age. As they age, stress can impact them more, and they may not be able to do the tasks that they once were able to with ease. They may also need much more rest and recovery time as well.
In conclusion, emotional support animals and psychiatric service dogs can experience caregiver burnout similar to human beings. This is avoidable with proper training, care, and downtime. Prioritize scheduling relaxation time for your animal to give them the break they need. Discuss whether getting an animal is best for you and get an emotional support animal or psychiatric service dog letter of certification with one of our experts here at United Support Animal today. Go to United Support Animal Shop.