Author Topic: CAUTION: Using SD to interrupt self-harm behavior?  (Read 899 times)

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Offline kdten

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CAUTION: Using SD to interrupt self-harm behavior?
« on: May 09, 2017, 11:56:10 AM »
Hey guys, I wasn't positive if this should be labeled a "caution" subject or not but decided its best to be safe :smile:












One of my self-harm behaviors is chewing the inside of my mouth until it bleeds. Do you think this is something a service dog could be taught to recognize and interrupt?

Offline Summertime.and.Azkaban

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Re: CAUTION: Using SD to interrupt self-harm behavior?
« Reply #1 on: May 09, 2017, 01:00:28 PM »
Depends.

Are you aware of the behavior? If you're aware of it and willfully engaging in self harm then there's no point in teaching a dog to interrupt it. What's stopping you from blowing the dog off, or going into another room? That's going to hurt the dog's training and it won't stand up in court.

If you're unaware or unable to stop the self harm then think about how useful it would be to have someone gently tap you on the shoulder or have a watch beep every time you chewed your mouth. Would that make you stop? Do you have the appropriate coping skills necessary to handle self harming urges? Because that's about all a dog is going to be able to do.

My dog interrupts compulsive self harm, meaning I'm painfully aware I'm doing it but since it's a compulsive behavior it is extremely hard for me to stop or use coping skills to stop. Much like a very intense anxiety attack my mind is consumed by the need to scratch myself. My dog nose boops, then puts his nose in between my hands, then escalates to prying my hands apart with his feet. This breaks the hyperfocus on the self harm and allows me to use coping skills from there. A dog is not going to be able to prevent me from hurting myself completely and he can't continue to pry my hands apart should I want to continue to engage in self harm.

For a dog to help you you have to want to stop.

Cheek chewing would be a hard one to train. I don't doubt that it's possible but the dog would have to have a natrual or well trained interest in eye contact and good focus to notice cheek chewing. I've heard of seizure alert dogs that pick up on facial twitches visible to the human eye before a seizure, but since I do not have seizures I've never done much research. Kirsten, our administrator, believes seizure alert dogs pick up on micro-expression like tremors in the face that are not visible to the human eye. So teaching a dog to signal to that is probably possible, especially if you pull your bottom lip into your mouth or suck in your cheek while you do it.

That said, you need to consider what I said earlier about how useful a dog would be and whether or not you're engaging in self harm willfully with the full ability to stop.

I know you weren't talking about this specific kind of self harm but I feel the need to say that it is never, ever safe to train a dog to interrupt self harm if you are using instruments, such as those to cut and burn yourself.
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Offline kdten

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Re: CAUTION: Using SD to interrupt self-harm behavior?
« Reply #2 on: May 09, 2017, 02:09:28 PM »
Thanks for the great response! The behavior is compulsive and I definitely want to stop. It would be nice to not grimace in pain every time I brush my teeth. :smile:

Re: cheek chewing being hard to train - that's what I'm wondering. Some episodes are more enthusiastic (for lack of a better term) than others so I'm curious if you guys think he could be trained to recognize it consistently?

Offline Moonsong

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Re: CAUTION: Using SD to interrupt self-harm behavior?
« Reply #3 on: May 09, 2017, 03:42:23 PM »
Well, like Summertime said: it just depends on how attentive the dog is. It's possible that the dog may only pick up the more 'enthusiastic' ones, but that's at least better than nothing. It's also possible that they may be able to pick up on the subtlest of clues. It's also possible that they may not be attentive enough to notice it at all.
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Offline Katrianah

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Re: CAUTION: Using SD to interrupt self-harm behavior?
« Reply #4 on: May 09, 2017, 04:16:01 PM »
Thought. I have a bad having of chewing my lip and tongue up pretty bad. I tend to do it in bursts also. Might not for months, but then can't stop for days on end. My partner tends to notice and point it out everytime I start. It helps. I mention this because he notices the sound. We can be out walking even and he'll notice. Something about it makes distinct sounds, however subtle. If a human can pick up on it, a dog definitely should be able to also. Might be a possible angle depending on your specific situation and if you make any unique noises that the dog can tell apart from normal chewing.
« Last Edit: May 09, 2017, 04:18:19 PM by Katrianah »

Offline RealmOfMyImagination

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Re: CAUTION: Using SD to interrupt self-harm behavior?
« Reply #5 on: May 09, 2017, 07:58:40 PM »
I do the same thing when I get anxious and I do it without realizing.  It's such a small thing I never trained the dog to interrupt it as I'm not sure how successful it would be.
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Offline kdten

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Re: CAUTION: Using SD to interrupt self-harm behavior?
« Reply #6 on: May 09, 2017, 09:17:21 PM »
Thought. I have a bad having of chewing my lip and tongue up pretty bad. I tend to do it in bursts also. Might not for months, but then can't stop for days on end. My partner tends to notice and point it out everytime I start. It helps. I mention this because he notices the sound. We can be out walking even and he'll notice. Something about it makes distinct sounds, however subtle. If a human can pick up on it, a dog definitely should be able to also. Might be a possible angle depending on your specific situation and if you make any unique noises that the dog can tell apart from normal chewing.

Great point! I assumed my husband had never noticed, but when I asked him just now he said he has noticed it. So maybe it's more obvious than I think it is? Definitely food for thought.