Posts Tagged ‘training’

We’ve probably all seen a service dog helping to guide a person that is physically challenged but did you know you can also have a service dog if you suffer from anxiety?

Dogs can be especially helpful to those that suffer from any number of mental or emotional issues such as PTSD or social anxiety. However, unlike a service dog that has been trained by professionals to work with their owner, you can train your own dog to help you cope with your emotional trauma. Here are some basic steps on how to train a service dog for anxiety.

Step #1 – Choosing the Right Service Dog

It is highly recommended to start out with the right breed for being a service dog. Some canines just do not exhibit the right temperament to do this important and demanding job.

To ensure you are getting a pup that can be trained for service, it’s advised to look to those reputable breeders that are raising dogs for this specific purpose. You can also find great service dog candidates at your local shelters too!

According to Psychiatric Service Dog Partners when choosing a puppy for service work, look for these qualities;

Social – quick to greet Does not startle easily Follows Eager to be held Alert Step #2 – Determine the Service Dog’s Job 

Once you have your puppy you must determine what you will need the dog to do for you in order to guide its training. Once this is established you can begin bonding with your puppy. This helps create a baseline for your dog to recognize when you are in a relaxed state and when you are beginning to experience anxiety – dogs are very intuitive so the right dog will pick up on this naturally.

Step #3 – Develop Socialization Skills

Reputable breeders will have already started the socialization process with their puppies. This means the puppy has been handled extensively, been introduced to new people and new situations as well as being taken outside of the home.

When you get your puppy, it’s important that you keep up the socialization. The last thing you want is a dog that is frightened or stressed each time it encounters something new.

Step #4 – Start Basic Training Skills

All dogs should have the basics of training and good behavior, but it is doubly important if you plan to bring your dog with you into public areas. These skills include;

Sit Stay Drop Heel Leave Come

If you feel you cannot teach your canine companion the basic obedience skills needed, then enlist the help of a professional trainer. These people have the knowledge to, not only teach your dog, but also teach you how to continue the training outside of the weekly sessions.

Step #5 – Fine Tune Public Access Skills

Once your service dog-in-training has mastered his/her basic commands, then you can begin to work on public access skills. Use those pet-friendly areas like retail pet stores, outdoor cafes etc. to help your dog become accustomed to the hustle and bustle of public places.

Step #6 – Individual Response Training

It may be difficult to train a dog to alert a person before a panic attack, but with a close bond, your dog may pick up on your different body language and, if you are completely fear-stricken, the chemical changes in your body.

Some people who suffer from anxiety and stress have reported that giving the puppy/dog a treat when they are experiencing the symptoms is a helpful way to teach your dog to respond; however, not everyone is capable of this type of action when in the midst of anxiety, stress or fear.

Cuddling your dog close when you feel stressed is not only a great way to help bring relief to you, but will also allow the dog the chance to pick up on your “tell” signs. This is why it is crucial to find the right breed and/or temperament of your canine service dog.

Training a Service Dog for Anxiety

When training a service dog for anxiety you will have to have patience and persistence, especially with puppies. Begin with the basic training skills and socialization, then work your dog up for public access. Having a dog that helps with severe anxiety, PTSD, panic attacks and so on is a therapeutic way to get your life back on track.

Service dogs can be of great help to people with disabilities. However, in order to get the most from these loyal companions, they need to go through extensive service dog training.

Just to give you an overview of requirements, the dog needs to be able to perform a disability-related task for their handler/owner. In addition, you must be familiar with acceptable training techniques and be educated about canine care and health. Furthermore, understanding of local public access laws and proper behavior is a must.

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Other than just being your living medical device, these dogs will also become your best pals. They will take care of you, but they will also depend on you to provide food and shelter. You can build an incredible bond with your service dog and make both your lives better.

Basic rules about service dogs

Service dogs are recognized by the law as trained working dogs that perform tasks for persons with disabilities. Disabilities can include both physical and mental impairment. It’s critical that the dog can perform specific tasks that directly relate to owner’s disability. This can include anything from opening doors for people in wheelchairs to warning the owner of an impending seizure.

They are not considered pets and must be desensitized to distractions. Service dogs need to focus solely on their owners and ignore all distractions such as traffic, children, etc.

Although training is essential for service dogs, that doesn’t mean that you can’t train the dog yourself. Many people choose to train their service dog themselves because professional service dog training can be a long and expensive process. And in the end, even professional trainers can’t guarantee that your dog will be able to become your service dog.

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Service dog training can take up to two years and these dogs usually wear a vest in public for easy identification. 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.

Service dogs need to be:

Willing to please Ready to follow owners everywhere Calm and friendly Alert Socialized Nonreactive to public and strangers Quick to learn Able to retain information Guide dogs

Guide dogs go through specific service dog training to help people with a visual impairment. These dogs bring a new sense of freedom and safety to their owners by:

Helping avoid obstacles and moving vehicles Signaling changes in elevation levels Locating persons or objects on command Retrieving and carrying objects Hearing dogs

Hearing dogs assist people with hearing impairments by:

Alerting to sounds or presence of other people Retrieving dropped objects Carrying messages Warning people to approaching vehicles Service dogs

As stated before, service dog training enables these loyal animals to perform a variety of tasks. Depending on the owner’s disability and needs, service dogs can undergo training for mobility assistance and medical assistance. Medical assistance can also include autism assistance and psychiatric assistance.

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What these superhero canines can do for their owners is amazing and it’s all achievable through training.

Check out a list of service dog tasks and services below:

Open and close doors, drawers, and cabinets Turn lights on and off Help people get dressed or undressed Assist persons to an upright position Move feet and arms onto wheelchair footrests and armrests Prevent falls and provide stability Call 911 in case of emergency Identify and alert to symptoms Bark or find help on command Find places, vehicles, or their owner when disoriented and bring to safety Assess owner’s safety and guide away from stressful situations Help with insomnia and interrupt nightmares Interrupt flashbacks and prevent self-harming behaviors using tactile stimulation Detect allergens, low and high blood sugar levels Provide deep pressure therapy General service dog training

As you can see, some of these behaviors are pretty complex for a canine (such as calling 911 in case of emergency). And some of these behaviors are something that even humans couldn’t do (sense and alert owner to seizure or diabetes attack).

For those reasons, service dogs require extensive and complex training. Even then, there’s no guarantee that a dog will be able to become a full-time service animal.

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As for the US, there are no specific regulations regarding service dog training. However, international standards prescribe at least 120 hours of training over six months. Out of this quota, a minimum of 30 hours should include public access skills. Sometimes, service dog training can last up to two years as all dogs are different. Some canines need more time to learn to heel while some have a problem with handling distraction. In addition, learning specific complex tasks can be extremely time-consuming.

If you want to train the animal yourself, an ideal service dog training guide would include a few things.

First, you should assess whether your dog is fit for the position. Secondly, it’s important to establish a sequence for training. Less complex tasks and commands should be taught first.

This means the fundamentals include standard Service Dog commands such as “come“,“sit“,“stay“,“lie down“ and “heel“. Then, you should test the dog’s obedience in different environments and ensure that he follows commands no matter where you are and what’s going on around you. Finally, you can start teaching the dog specific tasks you want him to perform.

Arm yourself with lots of patience if you decide to go down this path rather than getting a trained service dog. If you get stuck, ask a professional trainer for help.

Disability-related service dog training

If your dog behaves well, is eager to please and intelligent, he’s a good candidate for service dog training. Focusing on their handler at all times and performing disability-related tasks is not all service dogs do. Other than these, they need to perform a number of other tasks on command. In order for the dog to pass a test, he must respond to handler’s first command 90% of the time, regardless of the environment.

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This even includes potty on command. Yes, you heard that right. Instead of staying outside forever, when you give the order to go, the dog must do his deed. Sounds like every owner’s dream, right?

Public access skills are another requisite and you need to train the dog in a variety of different settings. This part of training is called desensitization. It’s basically teaching your dog to ignore all distractions and to focus on his handler and tasks.

As for the specific disabilities that can benefit from service dogs, they include a number of conditions. These conditions can be either physical or mental, obvious or not obvious.

Here’s a list of common tasks service dogs perform for their handlers:

Guiding the blind Alerting the deaf to noises Pulling a wheelchair Retrieving items Alerting to seizures or diabetes attacks Reminding persons to take prescribed medication Calming people with PTSD during anxiety attacks

Keep in mind that if you have a service dog, you can access all public areas with your companion. In addition, people can’t ask you about specifics regarding your disability. All they can ask you is whether your dog is a service animal and what tasks he can perform for you. You don’t need to answer any other questions or show them what the dog does for you.