Archive for the ‘Service Dog Tips’ Category

For a person living with anxiety or depression, even the most trivial tasks can feel exhausting. To deal with their mental illness, some take medication or schedule consistent therapy sessions. But it’s not widely known that anyone with diagnosed anxiety or depression also qualifies for a psychiatric service dog.

What is a psychiatric service dog?

A psychiatric service dog is a dog that assists a person with a mental illness with their everyday activities. According to the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), these dogs perform tasks for their handlers which relate directly to the disability. These dogs typically accompany their handler both inside and outside of their homes and will spend the majority, if not all day, assisting, alerting, and supporting.

Having a service dog does come with some dismay from other individuals who may not understand the handler’s needs. Thus, some handlers decide to also register their Service Dog in order to make the dog’s purpose more transparent.

Who qualifies for a psychiatric service dog?

Potential handlers must undergo a psychiatric evaluation from a healthcare professional. This may be a:

Physician Nurse practitioner Licensed social worker Psychologist Psychiatrist

The professional will discuss the mental experiences and evaluate the particular symptoms. They will provide a diagnosis that is most closely related to what their patient is experiencing.

A person that is diagnosed with a mental illness qualifies for a psychiatric service dog.

The most common mental illnesses that service dogs can assist with are:

Anxiety Depression Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder Disordered Eating Panic Disorder Agoraphobia  Service dogs can help overcome diagnosed anxiety or depression. I have anxiety and/or depression. How do I get a psychiatric service dog?

In order to get a psychiatric service dog for anxiety or depression, these steps need to be taken:

1. Get an official diagnosis.

To comply with the ADA, each individual with a disability needs to have a recorded diagnosis from a healthcare professional. Make an appointment with your general practitioner to discuss your symptoms. Your general practitioner may be able to diagnose you, or they may refer you to a mental health professional. If you already see a mental health professional, obtain written proof of your diagnosis and keep it for your records. Common symptoms of anxiety and depression include:

Feelings of helplessness Loss of appetite Loss of interest in daily activities Stressing or obsessing that is out of proportion to the actual event Feeling nervous Increased heart rate Trouble concentrating  2. Obtain your new service dog.

The ADA doesn’t have requirements for where you get your dog. You may purchase a dog from a breeder, from a site that trains service dogs, or you could rescue one from your local shelter.

When selecting a dog, be sure to look for one that has the temperament needed to be a service dog. They must be calm, patient, eager to please, a fast learner, determined, and have no history of aggression. Without these particular traits, your dog may struggle and become distressed and unhappy. 

3. Train your service dog to complete tasks relevant to your particular symptoms.

The ADA requires that all service dogs must be trained to perform tasks that will assist you directly with your mental illness. Service dogs for anxiety and depression may complete the following tasks:

Detecting panic attacks before they happen Providing grounding and physical stimulation during panic attacks  Fetching medication and water   Accompanying their handler outside  Fetching a phone during emergencies  Start your new life

A person with anxiety, depression, or any other mental illness could greatly benefit from a service dog. These dogs can help individuals navigate through their day-to-day lives, and provide the extra support needed for them to feel more comfortable. With the support of a psychiatric service dog, a person has the potential to live a happier, more fulfilled life.

The public holds service dogs in high esteem. Service dogs have the honor of being welcomed into areas that are not usually open to other animals. Being able to enter these locations allows service dogs to fulfill their essential duties of helping their handlers.

For all service dogs to be able to execute their duties, the public’s trust must be maintained through the vetting of service dogs. Any dog can enter service dog training, regardless of breed or age. However, unless they have a certain set of characteristics, they might not do well. In addition, service dogs usually wear a vest in public for easy identification.

A public service test for service animals provides a standardized method to gauge how safe a service dog can be in public situations.


The Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) requires a service dog to be trained or be able to execute an essential life task that its handler can not do for themselves because of a disability.

Due to numerous requests from dog owners with disabilities, International Association of Assistance Dog Partners (IAADP) has listed minimum training standards to fulfill the ADA requirements regarding training. If successfully trained, these standards guarantee that every service dog is safe to go almost anywhere, regardless of who or where a service dog was trained.

Test Expectations 

Below is a list of PAT test requirements for service dog handlers. The training can be done through a professional trainer or by the handler themselves. The following commands are for service dogs, which are “On-Leash.” They can be executed through hand commands, voice commands, or a mix of both.

Controlled Unload Out of a Vehicle

Before coming out of a vehicle, the service dog does not immediately exit the vehicle. The service dog waits to be released out of the car.

After release and exiting, the service dog must then await instructions quietly. It cannot ignore any commands, move around, or be off lead. The service dog should be able to unload from a vehicle safely and calmly.

Approaching a Building

After a service dog unloads calmly from a vehicle, the dog should not continue immediately on its own towards a building.  It should remain in heel until it receives further directions to proceed.

Upon moving toward the destination, the dog does not become distracted by traffic or noise or show any showing. The service dog must be relaxed and calm. If the trainer stops, the service dog should also stop.

A disabled handler training the service dog. Controlled Entry

When the service dog reaches the building, the dog should remain relaxed and focused. The dog should not be easily distracted or seek attention from others. The dog should not wander away, push forward, or strain against the leash, but instead, calmly walk alongside its trainer.

Heeling Through a Building

Inside the building, the service dog should walk with the trainer in a calm and controlled way. The service dog should always be no more than one foot away from the trainer, and be able to adjust to changes in speed and turns quickly. The service dog should be able to calmly follow its trainer through crowded areas full of obstacles without becoming anxious or seeking attention from others.

Six Foot Recall on Lead

The trainer should be able to sit a service dog and walk away to a distance of six feet, then call the service dog.

The dog should respond immediately, without ignoring the command or being distracted by the public. The dog should return to its handler by approaching in a calm a deliberate manner, without any detours or stalling.

Sits on Command

The service dog must immediately respond to every sit command, needing no more than two prompts. 

A handlers training their own service dog for the public access test. Downs on Command First Down:

After your service dog follows the down command, food is dropped onto the floor. The service dog should make no effort to go down to the food or sniff at it. Controls may be provided to keep the dog at the down position. But the dog should not need excessive management. Your service dog should not attempt to go for the food or try to smell food.

Second Down:

Another down is called, and an adult or child approaches the service dog. The dog should remain in the down position and not seek attention. If the child or adult attempts to pet the dog, the service dog will stay in place. The trainer may provide corrections to the service dog.

Noise Distraction

The service dog should be aware of any noises nearby, but not show any signs of anxiety or aggression towards sounds. Although the dog may be startled, the service dog can recover promptly and continue in the heeled position. The service dog should not begin growling or shaking at the noise.

Inside a Restaurant 

When the trainer is eating at a table, the dog should remain under the table or, if too large, should remain near the handler. If the dog is a smaller breed, it can be placed in a seat next to the trainer–but the dog must lie down. Throughout the meal, the dog should remain calm and should not need much correction. 

Off Lead

The trainer is asked to drop the lead while walking with the service dog, and the dog should be aware that the lead was dropped. The trainer should be able to keep control of the service dog until the trainer is able to regain the lead. The main purpose of this exercise is to ensure the dogs’ awareness of the lead and the handler’s ability to maintain control of the dog should the lead be dropped. 

A service dog’s off-leash training for public access. Controlled Unit 

When the trainer exits the building the dog should not display anxiety or aggression at the sound of vehicles or change in scenery. 


The Public Access Test maintains the integrity of the service dog institution by ensuring the safety of the public, the service dog, and the dog trainer. By vetting every service dog through this process, every dog handler understands what the expectations are for a dog to become a service dog.

Quality doesn’t come cheap. Neither does a Service Dog. However, when considering how beneficial a well-trained Service Dog can be to the quality of life of its handler, then a Service Dog is priceless. 

Nonetheless, according to the Freedom Service Dogs of America, the cost of a Service Dog is approximately $25,000. Let’s take a moment to break those numbers down. 

What does a Service Dog entail?

The ADA defines a Service Animal as a dog that is trained to perform tasks for the benefit of a person with a disability. The disability can be a physical disability or any form of mental illness that limits one or more major life activities. Service Dogs must be specifically trained to assist in easing the symptoms caused by the disability. In return, Service Dogs can accompany their handlers almost anywhere.

Acquiring and training a Service Dog is costly. And, as with any four-legged friend, follow-up expenses are needed to make sure the Service Dog can perform at their best. Having a Service Dog does come with some dismay from other individuals who may not understand the handler’s needs. Thus, some handlers decide to also register their Service Dog in order to make the dog’s purpose more transparent.

Purchasing a Service Dog

Some handlers choose to buy an already trained Service Dog. Out of all the options, this is the costliest, but the most convenient and efficient choice. 

Service Dogs for full purchase are bred to be Service Dogs. There are specific breeders who select dogs for their health, temperament, intelligence, etc. These dogs are chosen for qualities required in Service Dogs. Some dogs are also purchased from other non-service dog breeders if a dog shows exceptional traits that would be fit for Service Dogs. In short, fully trained Service Dogs for purchase are selected and trained to be service dogs from birth, thus a higher price tag.

Professionally trained Service Dogs run from $25,000-50,000. Young girl with her professionally trained service dog. Training Costs Hiring a Dog Trainer

The training a Service Dog receives is not the same kind of training that a regular dog receives at the pet store.

Depending on the dog and what services are going to be required, obedience training can take anywhere from four to six months of extensive work.

Afterward, the potential Service Dog will need to be able to perform all the tasks in different environments–from shopping malls to hospitals and sporting events. Training in various settings may take months or years, depending on the dog and service. Because training depends on many variables, dog trainers are typically paid by the hour, which can cost $150-$250.

On the whole, training can cost from $20,000-$30,000.  Training the Dog Yourself

As always, the cost to train your own Service Dog is dependent on a number of variables, making the prices fluctuate:

The dog’s age  The dog’s temperament  The dog and the handler’s ability to learn  The amount of time, effort, and consistency spent 

Some people are surprised to find that Service Dog training is very rigorous and regulated. However, this ensures that the dogs can accomplish their tasks safely and continue to be held in high esteem as a whole industry. 

Mandatory introductory seminars, an initial evaluation, a planning session, an application, a Working Dog Good Citizen Class, and a public access test costs start at about $1,000-$2,000. Ancillary Costs

Service Dogs are living, breathing, thinking animals. They require adequate veterinary care like all pets and need to be fed and groomed.

Depending on the dog, veterinary care may cost an average of $1,000-$2,000 a year, along with grooming costs. Feeding costs for an average dog maybe $300 a year. Registering a service dog can cost $100-$200.  A specially trained service dog hugging their handler. The Cost of Your Well-being

Obtaining a Service Dog is a big decision and a substantial investment. However, the long-lasting benefits on the handler’s well-being could by far excel the costs. A Service Dog may be the key to living a fuller life. And there is no price you can place on that.