Jane Miller, LISW, IAABC-CDBC & AABP-CDBT, Pet CPR & First Aid Certified, works in private practice as a licensed psychotherapist/clinical social worker, with a particular interest in holistic modalities of healing. She currently focuses on educating others about the legal, ethical, and practical criteria of working with Psychiatric Service Dogs (PSDs). Miller has lectured about PSDs in a variety of settings, ranging from The Cleveland Clinic & Metro Health Medical Centers’ Departments of Psychiatry & Psychology, The International Association of Animal Behavior Consultants Conference (IAABC), The ClevelandNatural History Museum, The Psychology of Health, Immunity & Disease Conference (NICABM), The National Association of Social Workers Conference and many other national and local organizations, schools, and dog-training facilities.
Jane has appeared in the PBS program “Health Visions – Animals As Healers” on the healing power of animals and joined world-renowned veterinarian/author Dr. Allen Schoen to present a workshop on the topic of animals as healers at a national conference for medical professionals (See NICABM). She is also a practitioner of QiGong and Reiki and teaches stress reduction techniques to her clients and their service dogs. She has earned her BA in psychology and biology from Oberlin College and her MSSA in Clinical Social Work from Case WesternReserve University. She has received the Irene Sogg Gross Award for Humanitarian Services and has contributed scholar essays for professional journals and anthologies in the field of clinical social work.
Her professional experience includes serving as a counselor at a battered women’s shelter and at a group home supervisor for the developmentally disabled, and as a research assistant in microbiology/immunology at Temple University Medical School. Jane Miller’s lifelong passion for healing has emphasized the human-animal connection, culminating in her certification as a Canine Massotherapist and as a Certified Dog Behavior Consultant by the International Association of Animal BehaviorConsultants (IAABC-CDBC) and the Association of Animal Behavior Professionals (AABP-CDBT). She trains shelter dogs implementing positive reward-based training that focuses on building a bond and relationship of trust, communication, body language, and stress reduction techniques for humans and their animals. These shelter dogs that have the potential to be psychiatric service dogs lives are saved and transform the lives of those severely limited in their ability to function due to mental illness, our dogs are task trained to mitigate the effects of the symptoms of the specific symptoms of the individual.
Twitter: https://twitter.com/PSDHealingDogs“Welcome to the Animal Trainers podcast, where our goal is to introduce you to amazing trainers and behaviorists who are helping animals. This podcast is proudly sponsored by Doobert.com. Doobert is a free platform designed to connect volunteers with rescues and shelters and the only place that automates local rides and transports. Now, on with our show!
Jane Miller’s lifelong passion for healing has emphasized the human-animal connection, culminating in her certification as a Canine Massage Therapist and as a Certified Dog Behavior Consultant. She trains shelter dogs, implementing positive, reward-based training, that focuses on building a bond and relationship of trust, communication, body language and stress reduction techniques for humans and their animals. The shelter dogs that have the potential to be Psychiatric Service dogs transformed the lives of those severely limited in their ability to function due to mental illness. The dogs are trained to mitigate the effects of the symptoms of the individual and help support them through their daily activities.
Hey, Jane, welcome to the show. Hi, how are you doing today? I’m doing great. I’m so excited to talk with you today. I’ve done a little bit of research and I am super super excited to just dive in and learn how you got into this training world. You are with Healing Companions, and I want to know how you got into this. Tell me a little bit about you and your back story. Okay. Well, um, like I was talking to you earlier, in fourth grade, I came home from school and I told my mother I wanted to be Jane Goodall. My life kind of went on a different course, which is that I ended up going to, continued going to school, then going to college and I was a psychology and biology major, and I was premed. Got in the med school and realized I didn’t really wanna study medicine in this country because most people aren’t open to really making changes in their lives. And people would come to the doctor for a quick fix, like a pill. And that wasn’t my cup of tea. Um, and so I really decided that the most important thing was that I want to help people really begin to look at their whole mind, body, spirit and how they function. And I also wanted to figure out how I could integrate animals in the healing process. So I ended up working at a battered women’s shelter and being a Social Worker, being at a nursing home. And then I was a supervisor of a group home for developmentally disabled, and I realized that I really loved working one on one, helping people kind of go on their own journeys and figure out how to live life in a more fulfilling, productive way. And I started volunteering at the free clinic and working with people that are looking for mental health help assistance and then went to grad school. I got a full scholarship to Case Western Reserve University and went to grad school, got my degree and I’m a Licensed Independent Social Worker. I joined a private practice, a group practice, and that’s where the story begins.
Usually, people just know they love dogs and they want to train dogs, and that’s what they want to do. And I love that it was this evolution for you to get to where you are, but I love that you took your passions, right, plural, and you found a way to incorporate them and to not just help people, but to help animals. So I really want to dive in a little bit and learn about that, because you are you. I hate the word, right. But you’re using animals from the rescues and shelters, right? You’re giving them a second life. You’re giving them a second chance. And you’re doing it in a way that they can serve and be happy and find their person, serve them. And so tell me how that kind of happened because that’s interesting to me. How did you know that working with the animals, in the rescues and shelters, was the path for you? Well, I guess the first thing I appreciate you saying that you hate the word “use” and I really steer clear of that word myself because they really aren’t being “used”. They’re really a part of our family, right? Absolutely. And I hate that I don’t like the word family because so many of my clients come from really abusive families. They’re living Centeon beings and absolutely deserve the utmost respect, and I have to just underline, they come first. So it’s crucial for me when I do an assessment of humans, that they understand that if this isn’t the right place for the dog because it’s too closely connected to you in a way that, some dogs are incredibly, and the a lot of the world does not like this term, intuitive and pick up on people. And if you’re really, really stressed out and that’s stressing your dog out, that’s not appropriate.
So what you said about shelter dogs, Why did I end up going that route? And, um what, what has it done for changing the world? Yes, we do save the lives of a shelter dog, that transforms the life of someone with mental illness. So it’s a beautiful win-win situation. Um, so most of the people that I work with could never, ever handle my literally Oh my pup or any pup. Pups are a handful. Yeah. They’re having a hard enough time just being able to function. What I love about shelter dogs is we, all the shelter dogs we’ve adopted have been between a year and 1/2 to 2 years, so they’re out, most of them are out of that puppy stage. They might still have a little bit of the puppy, but they are able to be trained, um, and their potty trained and all those good things, which makes it much easier for these clients. But also, when you think about it, the majority of my clients that are placed with psychiatric service dogs or the people that come to me, are dealing with histories of abuse themselves. And so are the dogs, so that there’s this wonderful connection from day one that these individuals have and brings them. It’s like being in a support group, you know? Right. You’ve got this dog, that really relates to the fact that you’re scared of whatever, and I’m scared of whatever.
For example, I’m gonna go right to a client to share a great story. So we ended up finding a dog that was rescued from Hurricane Katrina. There were about three dogs this woman fostered, brought back to Ohio. Ah, one of which got placed as a dog for someone who is hearing impaired. And then the dog that we have, um, that was placed in it with my client. Um, and so this dog obviously, it’s not any surprise to any of us that the dog did not feel safe and comfortable when it was windy or when it was raining. Sure. Well unbeknownst to me at the time, this individual was raped the night of a horrible windstorm, rainstorm, thunderstorm. And many people know whenever it rained, she was triggered. So we have a dog that’s terrified of the wind and the rain and a human that’s terrified of the wind and the rain. And one day we were out training and a lot of their training is out doing public access training and a trash can started getting blown from the wind. And the two of them were trying to get calmed down. Yeah. So you come up with a plan and it’s kind of a fun plan. But in order for this individual to be able to train her dog to be safe and not stressed and anxious and scared, during a thunderstorm, and for her to not be in that state, we got some umbrellas. We went outside and we partied like you wouldn’t believe the with treats. The human was dancing with the dog and singing. And at this point, this person now loves rainstorms, and the dog has no problem with thunder/rain. It’s amazing. Good things will happen, but it’ll rain and bring treats.
So the creativity of figuring out how to work with people that have triggers and what those triggers are, and then how to train the dog as well, that might have the same triggers. So I think that kind of a nice way of describing the connection that can happen.
I want to go back for a second. How do you go about selecting those animals in the rescues and the shelters? Like, is there an assessment they go through? Walk me through what that looks like? And then also, I’m curious about the partners that you have in your community. Do you work with specific organizations? You know, do you kind of partner across the country like, tell me a little bit about what that looks like for you? Um, I’m very blessed. I have a number of connections with the, of a variety of different rescues and shelters in the area. And so whenever they have a 1.5 or two-year-old come through, that’s kind of like, OK, red light, Jane, you know, and so then they start seeing the temperament of the dog, making sure that this might be a dog, that is potential. Especially one rescue, that’s pretty far, but they get a lot of dogs that are in that age range that also seemed to be that temperament. Maybe, you know, someone thinks, well, I can handle this or, you know, I can, these aren’t dogs that have been there, not cupping dogs. And I don’t want to generalize most of them are, but they seem to have had some training under their belt, but maybe not enough or they are trainable. So we don’t, it’s not about the breed. You know, I have had Red Golden’s. Every one of them has been different. Um, you know, dogs are like people, we’re complicated, so I think it’s and we don’t always know. We can’t guarantee that this is gonna be the right job for that dog But we do what’s called a Temperament Test. And it’s not like the temperament tests that a shelter does to take in a dog. They’re looking to see aggression and things like that. At that point, we know, we’ve kind of come to the point where we know that they’re not gonna have problems with children. And have problems with other dogs. They’re not gonna have issues with being out in the world, whether it’s here in cars or whatever. We really, the Temperament Testing is really done very thoroughly regarding, looking at not only their temperament but their curiosity. Um, I use a lot of training gains and see if they stick with, um, opening the drawers or opening the lids of things. Or do they have a good scent? But I always look at what part of their body they use and how did they use it? Um, for example, if we do the, there are toys that are made by a woman named Nina, what you’re wonderful at and there are other companies that now are making these training games or treats that you put treats and I looked to see, Are you using your paw? Are you using your nose? How are you using your paw? How are you using your nose? What do you use naturally, and that helps us really discover, you know whether or not this is a dog that’s gonna be able to learn how to paw a person that needs to be pawed when in a grocery store started to have a pack attack or when they need to be nudged. Or do they naturally do what we call a lean? Are they comfortable with deep pressure therapy? Um, and now that we look at all those things because then I know which Pete, which person might what? That what their needs are so present. And, well, one of the dogs that we’ve trained, the woman needs the dog to open a drawer to get a bag that has her pills in it and bring it to her every day. So we looked at the dog that could open doors easily on, and that same dog knows how to do targeting. We teach targeting and learn how to target to turn on and off lights, so this woman doesn’t come home to a dark house. Should I walk around every room turning on lights.
So the extent of the training is wrong, and it’s nothing like what you would see in an organization. Say, for example, provides dogs for the blind because every one of their dogs pretty much does the same thing. Helps the person that got to the gate, their life out into the world, not walking into a tree. Sure. I mean, one of our dogs is tailored to the individual’s needs. Not every one of my clients has. Here’s an example of something we trained for one of my clients, she was an overeater, and we discovered that she overeat when she, uh, was that we have a bag of potato chips or some kind of food and she’d be pacing and she’d not realize she was eating. We taught the dog when she starts pacing that, the dog is to grab the sleeve of her shirt and lead her to a chair to sit down and realize she was eating.
What is the biggest challenge? Because you do very customized training. And, you know, I think when people think dog trainers, they think you take your dog to an obedience class, right? That’s a trainer, and not every trainer is the same, and everybody has their own way and their own philosophy, of doing things and what they believe. And I know for you guys, you’re really big on positive and reinforcement and, you know, rewarding them for doing those things that you want them to do and not focusing on the negative, right? What, you don’t want them to do and I appreciate that. Everybody’s got a different thing and I get that. But how did you come to that and how has that really changed and helped you help both the people and animals? I want to know how that’s been for you? Well, I think it’s deeper than, um, techniques and simplify. It is, um, positive reward-based, bond-forming, two-way communication. We have all these lingo, as we do with this, but really what it comes down to these are my values. These are my ethics and these are, the ethics and values that so many people did not receive growing up and did not get. And so for them to realize there’s another way of showing love and compassion and respect is so crucial to really learn how, not like to communicate in a respectful way or compassionate way verbally but nonverbally. And to honor that animals are not that different from us, you know.
We seem to have this way of separating certain animals from other animals, you know, I’ve done. I studied kangaroos. I went to a British School, in Falconry. I love birds. I honored the Hawks, you know, we learned breathing techniques so the Hawks would come flying back and landing on us because we weren’t stressed. You know, I think it’s critical that the communication between folks that are struggling just to get through every day, it gives them a sense of I can do it differently than what I experienced. And I think we all need that, you know, having worked at one point at a prison where many of the inmates just wanted to oh, go on a leash. It was really beautiful to see the inmates cuddling with dogs and learning that, you know, you can do loose leash walking and look at that dog looking at your face and looking up at you with such pride and with such joy because they know they’re doing the right thing and they know that this is working and it’s working with respect and with dignity. And we don’t teach them anything except being scared of us if we don’t treat them with that. And so I don’t want my dogs to be fearful of the people that they’re going to try to help function, and I think it’s just, you know, it’s not just, it’s not certain techniques or other techniques. It’s more, what’s the goal and the end goal for me is to have a really peaceful home where you feel safe, you feel secure, and you loved and you feel capable of taking care of another being, when you weren’t really taking care of yourself very well. And one of the things that occurs that’s not taught is that the one beautiful thing about animals is their routines. People aren’t very good at having routines. Um, we all know that we should brush your teeth in the morning or whatever, but if we have to get up and get out of bed and get dressed because Ohio is freezing cold, you have to then take your dog out for a walk. You feed your dog, you feed yourself. You give your dog their pills, you take your own pills. They’re wonderful at helping my clients really accomplish the activities of daily living because if you take care of the dog, you’re going to take care of yourself.
Yeah, it’s true. And I think you do hear that more and more these days. When you hear about therapy and service dogs and if they have something or someone to care for, then it encourages them. You guys have a beautiful video on your site that I definitely encourage people to go take a look at and just the power of animals in general, I think it is fascinating. And I think again, for me, having you chatting with me today has really been eye-opening. Um, right. It just makes me see that there are many different avenues within this training industry. And I think that’s the beautiful part of what I want to do, you know, when talking to people is just share those journeys and educate people. And if you are, you know, passionate about one specific thing and you can find a way to walk down that path or if you have two things that you’re passionate about, right for you, it’s helping people and helping animals and you found a way to make those two work in and sticking to your values right in what you believe. And that’s what that’s the breath of gratification. And I think you think this. I’ve been a therapist for 30 years and it’s truly phenomenal the changes in my client’s lives with service dogs that I have clients that wouldn’t leave their homes that now have full-time jobs. So not only are they thriving and being productive and being able to be independent and free, they’re also now not living off the government, but giving back. It gives you a sense of knowing that you’re able to take care of yourself and be able to function and work.
And I have another client who went back to grad school because they have their dog. There are so many stories of how these dogs have changed and transformed people’s lives and even the ones that didn’t end up as a service dog, but as an emotional support animal, by helping them feel safe in their own homes, by helping them feel secure. When I say safe, I’m not talking about a burglar I’m talking about, I have a dog to come home to. I can take them for a walk. I can sleep at night and be in bed and cuddle. And the other thing that I want to say is many of the clients I have, didn’t even know how to pet a dog, when they got their dog. They never had safe touch. And so touching an animal was scary because maybe I won’t know how to do it and do it right. They also learn stress reduction techniques and relaxation techniques for themselves and their animals. And what does that mean? I teach them breathing techniques, so the dogs and the human start breathing together. Lots of times I will do 444 breathing or 478 breathing and the dogs breathing changes while they’re breathing. I also do a lot of energy work, I’ve done many different styles and types. There’s Reiki, I’m a Reiki Master, which is energy work to help get the energy flowing through our bodies as well as the animal’s bodies. And, um, I’ve learned acupressure points, and so I teach canine massive therapy. There are points that I can do matt massage on my dog, that help her relax and you can tell she’s relaxing because the breathing slows down and changes. Um, you know, we’ve talked a lot about how Cortisol rises when we’re stressed, and that’s true for dogs as well. Well, we can’t go around with a lot of needles and be taking the cortisol levels 24/7. But you can learn how to take your dog’s pulse and heartbeat and to be honest, you can also just learn how to look at the dog, you know, and see it. You know.
One of the techniques we use with training you went back to training is how essential it is to realize our body has such a huge impact on what our dogs are doing. For example, we teach something from this square. Now the square is taught, so dogs learn right from left because our dogs have to learn turning right, left, and they also look to not go straight into a street. So every time we stop, they sit. Well this is where we do a square with the dog in the heel position and then stop. The dog sits and then you go forward and the dog turns and they end, over a period of time, you teach the dog the cue. That will tell you that the verbal cue is less important than where your shoulders are and where your head is because dogs respond to our body and if our body turns the other way to the left, the outside way, not the inside, to the square. The dog is going to start trying to go that way. Um, so watching our body language and so much communication happens that way. And when you think about people, same thing body language or the hands crossed on the front, you know, just simple things. Like that dog, when I started patting it, it walked, it started pulling away. Well, then you stop patting, you know. Through this, they’re talking their language. You know, if a dog barks, they’re doing it for a reason. So it’s, we do a lot of training before the clients really know how to read body language and understand it.
I think it’s fascinating, right? And, um, again just all the little things that go into training. It’s not just command, all these little things that go along with it. I just care that the dog is comfortable and you’re comfortable. I mean, we’re not here for a performance. We’re here. So, um, here’s an example. Dogs are dogs. Um, so many dogs, after they’ve been lying down, they get up. And what did they do? What’s the first thing they do? They shake. What if you’re in a restaurant and you have your service dog under the table, then I get up. And so we have to teach them, shake. And that a no shake because that’s a natural, that’s a natural behavior, the shaking you have to undo. I had to teach no shake because, you know, I’m not big on telling dogs what not to do if a dog shakes right away after they get out. Okay, we get the dog and we’re in a restaurant. The dog stands up, I put my take my take. They take their hand and they put it across the shoulder blade and just very calmly hold okay. Just hold. Sure. And that keeps the dogs still. No shake, no shake, until you get to the front door. And when you’re out the front door, you take your hand off and then you say, Shake, and the dog shakes. From the time that they get up till the time you walk out the door. Then you keep your hand on their shoulder blades. That’s how you do that? And that’s a pressure point that calms them down to not feel like they need to shake. Yeah, yeah, but I never really thought about that being, I mean, I guess it’s a natural behavior, but I don’t think about that. Right. Well, and their schemes, we have to train that you would never think about. You teach dogs to tuck their tail. Do you want your dog’s tail to be stepped on in a restaurant? No. So they learned how to tuck their tail under so that it’s not sticking out when they’re going on an airplane flight. So we teach them all these things that we just do naturally.
Jane, it was so great to have you on the show today, and I really appreciate you sharing your story and your message and you know everything that you’re doing for the people and animals. I want to give people an opportunity to reach out to you and find you. How do they do that? Do you have a website that you can share with us? Yeah. Um and there are other ways that people can really help support us. Obviously, we’re 501C3 nonprofit. So we desperately need all the help we can get. And that doesn’t just mean money. Um, so I would like to discuss that briefly. Yeah, but let me give you the website. www.healing-companions, That’s with an “s” companions. Healing is not spelled like the heeling of a dog. It’s the healing of people when they have wounds. H E A L I N G-companions.org. And we have lots of videos on the website. We have all the social media, Twitter, Facebook, all the links are on it. We also have a newsletter that you can sign up for and let us know if you want newsletters sent you. You know, we don’t bombard you with some. It’s probably once every four weeks or so, even less than that. And the other thing is, I’d like to share that volunteering with us is very unique. Most of our volunteers are virtual. They use our social media for us, whether it’s Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, all kinds of stuff. And I send the materials to them and then they post them, and where they find things they think would be worthwhile to post. And ask me if it feels like the right thing. Um, we also have people that do photography for us, videography, but obviously those people have to be local. We have someone who does our Google ads. After someone has been, um, volunteering with us for some period of time, frequently, they end up becoming a board member, which we are always looking for board members. So if you have a past history of being on a board, we might be able to have you start without having volunteered with us. But volunteering gives you a sense of this system where I want to contribute.
Now. Many of your listeners I know are probably pet owners or have, and I don’t like the word owners but that have animals in their families or in their homes. Um, that used Chewy.com or might be interested in Chewy.com. It is a wonderful store that does, provides all kinds of animal products, and they shipped them very rapidly. If you end up going to our website and use our link, if you’ve never ordered from Chewy before, we get $20 for every first-time buyer at Chewy.com Wow. So all my dogs’ food comes from Chewy.com. They have a ton of holistic and really healthy stuff. They are a fabulous organization. They also carry prescriptions. So your doctor wants, the doctor gives permission, will send your description. We also have an Amazon Smiles account. So every time you shop at Amazon, it’s not extra money that you’re spending. It’s a part of 2%. It’s .2% I believe it is, of the amount that we spend comes to Healing Companions. And I will tell you we’ve gotten a lot of money from Amazon Smile. So you’re not doing anything extra if you are someone who feels comfortable shopping through Amazon, Um, and the last one we have is one that ‘s a credit card that, uh, you use your credit cards, but you do something called round up, so rounds it up. So if you pay 9 .65 it’ll round up 10 and we get the difference in the change. But you decide how much per month you’re willing to donate as the top number. So if you only want to donate $5 a month, that’s up to you. Um, and so those are just some of the ways in which you can help us. We’re always looking for people to volunteer. You can learn more about psychiatric service stones by reading my book, Healing Companions-Owner Dogs and Their Extraordinary Power to Transform Lives. And I would love to hear from people. Feedback is great if you have any issues with anything, I said, let me know. You can use my email address, my phone number. I love to have discussions, and I love to hear other people’s views. Yeah, Jane, again, thank you so much for taking the time today to chat with me and teach me a little bit. I really appreciate your time.
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