Many people benefit from a treasured companion, but how does the animal itself seem to be a helper? † correct

service dogs, training horses, cuddle puppies; Increasingly, animals are used for the mental well-being of people. Many people benefit from a treasured companion, but what does the animal itself look like to be a service animal?

As a “rotating agent” in the mental health sector, Isabel Den Hollander, 26, is trying to get a help dog through crowdfunding. “I hope the service dog can put an end to my endless search through the maze of help,” she says. Den Hollander has had complaints since she was 12 years old. “My parents divorced when I was four and I had a huge wine stain that wears me out a lot. All of this caused difficulties in my childhood. So my high school started very bleak.”

Countless treatments and treatments later that still don’t feel better. “What I miss in healthcare is experience, human therapy, personalization and good aftercare. When I finally got a little better from treatment, I often immediately fell into a deep hole again.”

animal welfare

She was especially close to despair when she was admitted to a clinic with an eating disorder. The environment was disgusting and Den Hollander wondered what the hell she could do to give her life some direction. Until she saw that her friend, who also had mental problems, had benefited greatly from her service dog. She suffered from panic attacks and hyperventilation. I was there once when she had a seizure. The dog started licking her to calm her down, barking to connect with him and laying on her chest for it deep pressure Therapy (DTP). It was great to see how calm my girlfriend was and how quickly she recovered from her seizure. I thought: I want this too. “


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Dogs can bite, horses can kick, and the relationship should be good for both parties

Ninke Van Endenburg

Nienke van Endenburg (59) is a healthcare psychologist who has been associated with the University of Utrecht’s School of Veterinary Medicine for 35 years as a specialist in human-animal relations. She investigated, among other things, the effect of dogs on veterans with PTSD. And the effect on the dogs themselves. “I always take the welfare of animals with me, otherwise I won’t start,” she says firmly.

The relationship should be good for both of them

According to Van Endenburg, the well-being of humans and animals always go hand in hand. When an animal is not feeling well, it will not be a good service animal and can also cause dangerous situations. “Dogs can bite, horses can kick, and the relationship should be good for both parties.”

According to Van Endenburg, there is sometimes the idea that if this is beneficial to man, then the animal must be subservient. In America, for example, capuchin monkeys were used for dementia patients. “People like monkeys quickly, but these monkeys don’t like us. They bite so often, and then have their teeth and molars removed. When puppies are used to cuddling stressed students, I wonder how well it would be to let such a small animal do the job.”


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Veterans are known to have a positive feeling about working with horses

Ninke Van Endenburg

Animal welfare is measured in different ways. “In our next study with dogs, we will look at telomeres, parts of dogs’ DNA. The older they get, the shorter their telomeres. For example, we want to check whether dogs age faster due to their auxiliary tasks. In the current research on stress. In dogs, we have not yet found any adverse effects.”

dog shake

Van Edenburg is now also working on Horse Power, a study of the effect of horses on veterans with PTSD in which heart rate, cortisol (the stress hormone) and oxytocin (the hugging hormone) are measured in both veterans and horses. The investigation is not over yet, so I can’t give concrete results yet. Veterans are already known to have a positive feeling about working with horses. For animal welfare, Van Endenburg is calling for more regulations, such as quality certifications and quality labels in the service animal world.

Den Hollander is very aware of animal welfare. “The organization I will be working with, Bultersmekke, has a comprehensive entrance, two-year training program and you have to come back every year to test with your dog. I saw with my girlfriend that the dog itself was not nervous, but rather happy to be able to do something for its owner. I mainly saw a dog Shake. And when the dog’s jacket goes off, the dog can be a good dog again.”



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