Posts Tagged ‘anxiety’

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.

Service Dogs are used for a variety of purposes, ranging from guiding individuals with visual impairments to notifying those with medical disorders of impending episodes. Under the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), Service Dogs can also be used for those with mental illnesses, such as post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD), and anxiety. These support animals fall under the category of Psychiatric Service Dogs.

Psychiatric Service Dogs are trained to complete specific tasks that aid a person with a mental illness. Emotional Support Animals provide a sense of security and comfort through their companionship.

Psychiatric Service Dogs should not be confused with Emotional Support Animals (ESA). Before a person looks for a dog, they must know the distinction in order to choose the best option for their needs. The difference between the two lies in the training.

How to get a Service Dog for anxiety

One of the most common reasons a person requests a Psychiatric Service Dog is for anxiety. In order to qualify for a Psychiatric Service Dog, an individual must first have an anxiety diagnosis from a medical health professional. Upon the diagnosis, the individual needs to either train or obtain a dog that meets ADA standards. These state that the Service Dog must be able to perform certain tasks to aid the person with a disability. Only after the dog meets these requirements, they will be ready to begin assisting their handlers. 

Comparison of (Psychiatric) Service Dog, ESA and Therapy Dog Where to get a Service Dog for anxiety

Psychiatric Service Dogs need to be specially trained to assist a person with debilitating anxiety in order to detect when their handlers will need assistance. These dogs can be trained independently by the owner or can be bought through an organization that raises and trains dogs to support people with mental health needs. Some organizations train all types of Service Dogs, while others specifically produce Psychiatric Service Dogs.

At this time, it is not necessary to register a dog as a Service Dog. However, certain organizations have national registries that can provide documentation and identification for the dog. 

Service Dog at home How to train a Service Dog for anxiety

A Psychiatric Service Dog will best suit its handler when it’s trained to complete tasks that assist their handler with their disability. In order to meet these standards, the dog must have demeanors that allow them to be trained to follow their handler’s commands.

Young Service Dog in training

Traits that a psychiatric Service Dog should have include:

Capability to learn basic obedience skills, such as sit, lay down, and stay No signs of aggression Calm demeanor with no hyperactivity  Ability to ignore distractions in public Doesn’t jump or lunge at others

If a dog obtains these qualities, they will likely have the ability to learn their handler’s tasks and qualify to become a Service Dog. An individual can take training upon themselves, or hire an organization to perform the training. 

Service Dog tasks for anxiety

A person with severe anxiety may not be able to complete various tasks needed to go through everyday life. In these moments, a Psychiatric Service Dog may be able to step in and assist their handler. Here are some basic tasks that can be beneficial to a person with anxiety:

Identifying distress related to anxiety  Calming down their handler during an anxiety attack Retrieving medication Applying pressure to their handler to relieve stress  Retrieving a telephone Notifying others if they sense their handler needs additional assistance 

The tasks that the dog is trained to perform will depend on what is valuable to the individual person. Not all dogs need to learn all tasks, and not all tasks will be helpful to every person. Each individual needs to determine how their dog can help them, and train them accordingly.  

Man and his Service Dog side by side Best Service Dog breeds for anxiety 

Certain dog breeds exhibit specific traits that are beneficial for Service Dogs. For example, dogs are easier to train if they’re naturally intelligent. They should be calm and even-tempered in order to stay focused and on task at home and in public. They should be eager to please and happy to work for their handler. Not all dog breeds fit these prerequisites, but the ones that do excel as Psychiatric Service Dog.

Among the more suitable Psychiatric Service Dog breeds are:

Labrador Retriever  German Shepherd  Border Collie Golden Retriever 

With patience and proper training, a dog can be taught to become the Service Dog a person with anxiety needs. Having a properly trained Psychiatric Service Dog will allow the individual to live their lives without having to worry about being limited by anxiety. 

If you have a physical, emotional, or mental disorder, then you will most likely qualify for a service dog. Below are the laws and a list of mental, emotional, and physical disabilities that may qualify you for a service dog.Read more →