What is a 'Guides for the Mind' Assistance Dog (Mental Health Assistance Dog)

A 'Guides for the Mind' (G4DM) Assistance Dog, is a dog specifically trained to assist a person with a Mental Health Disability, in accordance to the Equality Act 2010. Like other Assistance Dogs, these dogs are trained to perform specific work/tasks, which mitigate disabling symptoms and lessen barriers to undertaking the average daily activities, which non-disabled people take for granted.

 

Some things 'Guides For the Mind' Assistance Dogs (Mental Health Assistance Dogs) can be Trained to do -

 

 

 

If the person struggles to get up in the morning, the dog nudges the person when the alarm goes off  until they respond and get up. If the person struggles with going to bed in good time/insomnia, the dog can nudge the person at a set bedtime until they respond and go to bed. These tasks help ensure the person maintains a regular sleep/wake pattern, gets to work, appointments, completes activities/tasks and keeps a regular routine, all important to health.





 

 

 

If the person is having a nightmare, the dog nudges the person until they respond. Here too the dog can turn on the light to reassure the person that they are in a safe place. This allows the person then to return to better quality sleep, getting up hopefully feeling more rested than they would otherwise have.  

If the person has hypersomnia (sleeps too much) the dog can wake them up.

If the person suffers hallucinations, the dog can be sent to search the house to reassure them that it is safe. The dog can also be trained to initiate tactile contact and their physical contact can have a calming effect on the person and help bring the person out of the hallucination.

 

 

 

The dog can bring their lead and nudge their person until they take them out for a walk and exercise, important for physical and mental well-being of the dog and their human and also for the opportunity of social interaction.

The dog can bring medication, food or a drink to the person to ensure they don't forget to take their medication, eat or drink, regularly.

Dogs can be trained to “block” — to stand perpendicularly in front to keep other people at a distance — and to “cover” by facing backward covering their partner's back,  or to walk right by their side, if the person needs space or prevent people brushing off them, to feel comfortable in crowded/public venues.

 

 

 

 

 

The Dog can jump up at a having a post traumatic episode, bringing them back to the present or they can tug at them and move them to a safe or quiet place.

The dog can be taught to “search,” before the person re-enters their home, which will have the dog enter alone, turn on lights and check each room, reassuring the person that there are no intruders. The dog can also be sent to “search,” at other times, while person is already inside their home.

If the person is showing apathy the dog can initiate activity such as play or walks.

If the person is tearful/showing sadness/agitation/anxiety/suicidal thoughts - the dog can be trained to provide deep pressure stimulation, where they lie on the person's body and the dogs body weight, heat and heart rhythm helps calm, relax and reassure the person. Here too, the dog can also be trained to give the person a hug. The dog can initiate activity such as play to distract the person and prompt a lighter mood.

If the person is self-harming the dog can interrupt the person by nudging or seeking tactile interaction and possibly initiating alternative activity such as play or a walk.




 

If the person has a problem with memory the dog can be taught to find items such as keys, phone, wallet.

If the person is disorganised the dog can be trained to remind the person to perform specific daily routines.

If the person is having a panic attack the dog can initiate physical tactile contact, seeking to be stroked, as the stroking action can help the person to relax and begin to calm down and breathe more evenly. Here too, deep pressure stimulation, as described earlier, can be implemented to help calm the person down and bring an end to   the panic attack.

 

If the person is feeling overwhelmed, the dog can guide the person away from the situation to a safe place.

If person becomes disorientated the dog can be trained to guide the person home or to a safe place.

If a person has OCD, the dog can be trained to interrupt repetitive/compulsive behaviours, initiate alternative activities such as play or make tactile contact/provide deep pressure stimulation if the person feels agitated or anxious at not undertaking the repetitive behaviour.