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This year, select Anthem Medicare Advantage plans will offer members the option to receive support for their service dog (food, leash, vest) as part of their health insurance plan. Anthem, Inc.’s affiliated health plans in more than a dozen states will offer wellness, social and support benefits, including support for service dogs, in many of their 2020 Medicare Advantage plans. Consumers who are enrolled in Medicare Advantage plans that offer these benefits and qualify for the service dog support benefit can select this benefit, at no additional cost to them. This benefit includes an annual allowance for up to $500 to help pay for items used to care for their service dog, such as food, leashes and vests. Consumers must have a qualifying chronic condition and service dogs must meet the requirements under the Americans with Disabilities Act and have approval from their healthcare provider. Other social and support service options offered as part of the benefits package in these Medicare Advantage plans include transportation, nutritional support, a fitness device, pest control, and sessions with a dietitian and home-delivered pantry staples. These benefits are part of Anthem’s commitment to whole-person health – an approach to healthcare that takes into account the drivers of health, including medical, behavioral, and environmental obstacles. “When we looked at the underlying medical, behavioral, and environmental obstacles our members face, we designed an expanded menu of wellness services,” said Josh Martin, President of Anthem’s Medicare West Region. “Last year, we led the industry in offering robust Medicare Advantage supplemental benefits, and saw strong demand for services such as alternative medicine, transportation, and the allowance for assistive devices. Our 2020 benefits will help remove hurdles to healthier living for our Medicare Advantage members – from nutrition counseling and fitness tracking to pest control and service dog support – by expanding our social and support benefits.” Members who are enrolled in the Medicare Advantage plans will have access to this package of wellness benefits, at no extra cost. Members should consult their Evidence of Coverage document for specific benefit details as benefits may vary by plan. Pest Control: Quarterly preventive treatments to regulate or eliminate the intrusion of household pests that may impact a chronic condition. (New in 2020) Prescribed Meals: 2 meals per day for 90 days delivered to home. Based on qualifying clinical criteria, health plan consumer receives a prescription for meals and periodic appointments with a registered dietitian. In-Home

Almost everyone knows it takes a lot of training to become a Service Dog, but few people know how much training or what kind of training. Service Dog training includes several areas of study and can take lots of time. Continue reading to learn more about the types of training Service Dogs require

We are always astounded at the variety of jobs that dogs are able to do. The canines at Working Dogs for Conservation (WD4C) are no exception. WD4C trains scent detection dogs to help researchers monitor the health of wildlife, catch poachers, find contraband such as guns and ammunition, find invasive species and more. We caught up with Pete Coppolillo, the Executive Director of WD4C to learn more about how they are changing the world and how you can help. What does Working Dogs for Conservation do? As the world’s leading conservation detection dog organization, WD4C channels dogs’ strong sense of smell in order to protect wildlife and aid in conservation efforts. Pete explained that in the past, wildlife were monitored by catching animals, which is not only very expensive, but also inefficient. However, this all changed when they realized that fecal matter (scats) left over from the species could provide important insights into the current condition of these animals. According to Pete dogs are really good at this task because it’s, “an evolutionary way that carnivores leave messages to other carnivores.” He explains that, “nowadays we can tell individuals apart, who they are related to and we can uncover all sorts of other things from scats like hormones, stress hormones, reproductive hormones. We can tell if they’re breeding or not, if they’re stressed out and even their diets or diseases. So, the value, the amount of information you can get from a scat, just keeps going up and up because the lab techniques are so good.” Currently, along with sniffing out scats, WD4C also assists with anti-poaching initiatives, using trained dogs to locate poaching contraband, such as guns and ammunition, aids in finding invasive species in waterways and natural areas, as well as works to protect endangered and diseased wildlife. Committed to continual innovation, WD4C is always exploring new areas where dogs can work to make a difference. The possibilities are endless. How was the organization started? WD4C was started by four women co-founders who, “were all wildlife biologists, people who had experience working with dogs and all of them were working on species, mostly carnivores that were hard to work with, hard to monitor, hard to count”, explains Pete. After realizing the value of using dogs to aid in wildlife and conservation efforts, they decided to start WD4C which now in its twentieth year works in approximately twenty-five countries, on thirty-nine projects.   What is Rescues2theRescue? WD4C

Uber and Lyft have come on the market as an alternative to traditional taxi services. Using a smartphone app, these services instead allow anyone (after initial screening) to use their personal vehicles to provide rides to those who request them through the app. One of the biggest perks of using these services, is that often riders pay less than they would pay had they taken a traditional cab.

Most people know Service Dogs help people who have physical, psychiatric, or developmental disabilities. Few people can describe a Service Dog's work, though. Here are 100 examples of Service Dog tasks. 

Although Service Dogs first emerged as a method of assisting those who were vision impaired, their roles have now expanded. In fact, many Service Dogs are now being trained to help those with an array of invisible disabilities from mental and psychiatric health struggles to seizures, epilepsy, autism, diabetes and more. Here are just 5 examples of Service Dogs for invisible disabilities.

As the holidays wrap up, it's a great time to reflect on your 2018 and resolve to do better in 2019. Here are ten simple steps that will help you and your Service Dog become a better team. Happy New Year! 2019 Service Dog Goals: Check Your Gear Is your Service Dog gear clean, serviceable and still relevant to your needs? Now is a great time to sit in a warm house and clean gear, spruce up those leather harnesses with some saddle soap, and make sure that that really nice backpack doesn't chafe your partner's underarms. Check the fit of collars, boots, coats, and other working gear. Make sure ID tags are up to date. Since you're probably working on taxes or your budget for the coming year - now's a good time to consider if you'll need to replace or upgrade any gear in the coming year. 2019 Service Dog Goals: Make a Service Dog Binder This is more important than it sounds. Include things like a current vaccination record, microchip information. AKC, breeder, trainer, or even rescue information could be included also. A list of all of the tasks your dog performs for you, and a list of all of the commands and behaviors that your dog has mastered could be included too. Other ideas include a current series of photos that show your dog both dressed and from the front and side, in case you ever need them. There are lots of ideas, these are just a few. 2019 Service Dog Goals: Do a Service Dog Skills Check It's a good idea to evaluate your partner's skill set multiple times per year, but a large scale audit is good at least once per year. This is a good time to see if you need to focus your training anywhere specific, or to simply update your list of what your dog knows. Getting video is a good idea too. 2019 Service Dog Goals: Update Your Service Dog's Task and Behavior List Now is a good time to update their Task/Behavior list. Cell phones make it so easy to get good quality video these days too. It's a really great way to log that your dog can demonstrate a skill when needed, just mak sure that there is sufficient lighting and the behavior is visible with minimal cues and distractions. Storing these files on a USB Drive or even a SD Card makes life a lot

The holidays offer ample opportunity to curl up with your Service Dog and catch up on some reading. One of the books on our reading list this year is A Lowcountry Christmas by New York Times bestselling author Mary Alice Monroe. This Christmas novel features Service Dogs, a Veteran with PTSD, a family in need of help, and tons of feel-good moments perfect for the season. Learn more about A Lowcountry Christmas during our interview with Mary Alice Monroe. A Lowcountry Christmas Service Dog Book Overview From the inside of the book's cover jacket: As far as ten-year-old Miller McClellan is concerned, it's the worst Christmas ever. His father's shrimp boat is docked, his mother is working two jobs, and with finances strained, Miller is told they can't afford the dog he desperately wants. "Your brother's return from war is our family's gift," his parents tell him. But when Taylor returns with PTSD, family strains darken the holidays. Heartbreak and financial stress threaten to destroy the spirit of the season until the miraculous gift of a service dog leads Taylor, his family, and their community on a healing journey to discover the true meaning of Christmas. Interview With A Lowcountry Christmas Author, Mary Alice Monroe AP: What inspired you to write a novel centered around Service Dogs? M: When I was volunteering at the Dolphin Research Center in Florida I worked with Wounded Vets.  One of them had a Service Dog.  He told me how much the dog meant to him and how it woke him from his nightmares. “I love my wife, but I need my dog.”  You can bet that line got into the book!  One day his Service Dog, a black Lab, walked up to the edge of the dock while a curious dolphin kept bobbing up to look at him. The dog walked closer and closer and finally, they touched each other!  It was a tender moment. As a result of that fond memory, I tried to emphasize the bond between a Service Dog and Veteran. AP: What has been your experience with Service Dogs? You mentioned Pets for Vets in the book. Is that an organization you have been involved with? What is unique about their approach in terms of partnering veterans with Service Dogs? M: As I wrote above, I worked with Service Dogs through the Wounded Warrior program.  In South Carolina, I researched Service Dog programs in my area and discovered Pets for

Since the U.S. doesn't require Service Dog certifications, the only way to tell a "real" Service Dog from a fake is by behavior. Read on to learn more about what a Service Dog should act like. Every Service Dog Team is Unique Every Service Dog team has unique abilities, needs, and work styles. No two teams possess the same training since every disability is different. What works for one team may not work for others. However, it's vital to note that every "real" Service Dog has one thing in common: they're individually trained to meet the needs of a person with a disability. This individual training specifically addresses their person's needs. The behaviors, tasks, and work the dog does for their handler aren't "natural" behaviors or things any dog could do. The training is precise and exact. The trained behaviors are on cue, reliable, and replicable. The dog's response to the cue/command is predictable since it's a trained behavior. As an example, a Service Dog who is trained to nudge their handler's hand when the handler becomes frozen in fear is different from a dog who naturally pushes and shoves with their muzzle. The second dog's behavior cannot be predicted and it isn't on cue. Therefore, it's not a trained behavior and does not count as a Service Dog task, even if it's helpful. Emotional Support Is Not a Trained Task This is why emotional support does not count as a Service Dog task. All dogs can provide emotional support. However, you can't train a dog to provide emotional support. You can train a dog to provide deep pressure stimulation to ground the handler during a panic attack or to alert the handler to a person approaching from behind. A dog who is not trained to reliably provide tasks and/or work that help their handler do things they couldn't do on their own in response to specific cues or commands is not a Service Dog. Dogs in public masquerading as Service Dogs who aren't Service Dogs do not possess the caliber of training necessary to work calmly and reliably. Fake Service Dogs create a lot of complications for real Service Dog teams. Namely, they create suspicion and access issues for well-trained teams. Service Dog Behavior: General Manners Service Dogs appear calm, relaxed, and able to focus while working with their partner in public. They should have good manners. They shouldn't jump, bark uncontrollably, growl, appear out of control, or