Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD) has long been misunderstood as simply a lack of attention. As a result, ADHD can carry a significant stigma in the mental health community. It is important to recognize that ADHD is a legitimate diagnosis and can have a substantial negative impact on a person's life.
Psychiatric service dogs (PSDs) can be a unique benefit to someone with ADHD who struggles to accomplish the activities of daily life. If you are considering a psychiatric service dog, or already have a dog you may be able to train, this article will cover some of the ways a service dog for ADHD could help.
ADHD Service Dog
ADHD service dogs provide valuable support to individuals with Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD). These specially trained dogs offer companionship, emotional grounding, and help with maintaining focus, making them a valuable part of a comprehensive ADHD management plan.
What is a Psychiatric Service Dog (PSD)?
A psychiatric service dog (PSD) is a specific type of service dog that is trained to assist someone with a mental health disability. To be considered a psychiatric service dog a few requirements must be met:
- The handler needs to have some form of mental health disability, such as anxiety, depression, or ADHD.
- The dog must be trained to behave obediently in public places, as service dogs are allowed into areas that typical pet dogs are not.
- Importantly, a psychiatric service dog must be trained on a task that assists and helps alleviate the symptoms of their disability. This can be as simple as putting their body weight on their handler to physically guide them around.
You don’t need a special certificate or license to train a service dog, just the proper know-how. If you want to train an ADHD service dog yourself, consider our online PSD training program.
What is Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD)?
ADHD is a neurodevelopmental diagnosis that impacts many areas of functioning in a person’s life. It is a common belief that ADHD only impacts schoolwork or professional work, however, we are learning more about ADHD every day. ADHD is ideally diagnosed in childhood due to its developmental nature. ADHD symptoms include but are not limited to:
- Persistent pattern of difficulty sustaining attention and/or hyperactivity
- Difficulty paying close attention to details resulting in errors in schoolwork or work projects
- Difficulty organizing projects or tasks
- Often does not follow through on instructions
- Difficulty maintaining timeliness (often running late or losing track of time)
- Often avoids or dislikes tasks that require sustained mental effort
- Often loses things necessary for daily tasks including but not limited to cell phone, keys, wallet, glasses
- Impulsivity which can present as mood swings, overspending & irritability
- Is often forgetful in daily activities (forgets to take medicine, forgets to brush teeth, return calls, pay bills, keep appointments)
- Difficulty completing assigned tasks
- Often leaves the seat when remaining seated is expected (in-person meetings, classroom settings, zoom meetings)
- Often interrupts, blurts answers before the question is complete, and/or talks excessively
How a Service Dog for ADHD Can Help You
Psychiatric service dogs can assist people with a wide array of mental health disabilities, including ADHD. How a PSD can help you is likely to differ from others, and there is no single right solution for any individual mental health condition. With that in mind, here are some of the ways an ADHD service dog can help you.
1. They Provide Mental Health Benefits
ADHD can cause forgetfulness, fatigue, and if left untreated for long enough, social isolation. Having a service dog can tremendously improve the quality of life of a person with ADHD if they are trained on the right tasks that target the unique symptoms of their ADHD diagnosis.
Beyond disability-related tasks, having a companion in the form of an ADHD service dog can provide numerous mental health benefits unrelated to ADHD. Dogs provide companionship, unconditional love, and an infectious positive demeanor. Furthermore, dogs encourage us to go outside and interact with others, helping to meet our specific social, emotional, and mental health needs. By helping to ensure your general mental health needs are met, an ADHD service dog can allow you to focus on treating the specific symptoms of your ADHD.
2. They Provide Physical Health Benefits
Research has shown that participating in exercise can significantly reduce symptoms of ADHD. Because ADHD impacts both physical and mental aspects of your life, physical exercise is of the utmost importance when considering reducing overall symptom interference.
Having a service dog, or any dog for that matter, requires a certain level of physical activity, either to take your dog for a walk or just play with it around the house. If you have a pet that provides you with these benefits, you can likely make them an emotional support animal and legally recognize their importance. All you need is an ESA letter prescribed by a licensed mental health professional (LMHP).
3. They Can Perform Specific Tasks to Help with ADHD
ADHD service dogs can perform specific tasks to alleviate symptoms of someone's ADHD. With that being said, not everyone will have the same experience with their ADHD so no one specific task is guaranteed to help everyone. As a result, when training your own ADHD service dog you will have to consider what could help you in your unique situation.
Some examples of helpful ADHD service dog tasks we’ve heard from Pettable clients include:
- Fetching medication
- Signaling to take a break due to hyperfocus
- Locating frequently misplaced items (phone, keys, wallet, etc.)
4. You Can Take Your Service Dog With You
Service dogs are protected by federal law under the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA). This act prohibits discrimination against people with disabilities amongst other things, and importantly offers specific rights to service dogs and service dog handlers. If you have a service dog that helps you with your ADHD, or any other disability, you have the legal right to take them with you to a variety of places where pet dogs are not allowed.
Places where service dogs are allowed include:
- Houses (including properties with “no pets” rules)
- Public places (grocery stores, malls, etc.)
- Airlines (sometimes dependent on weight or breed)
What’s the Difference Between an Emotional Support Dog and a Service Dog?
While emotional support dogs and psychiatric service dogs can both work to alleviate the symptoms of a mental health condition, they are not the same thing. Emotional support dogs are beneficial to their owner solely as a result of their general disposition, not any specific training. For example, if your dog naturally loves to cuddle with you when you’re experiencing panic, this would be an emotional support animal. Furthermore, emotional support animals (ESAs) are not limited to being dogs, an ESA could be a rabbit, a cat, or even a snake.
The primary difference separating a psychiatric service dog, and an ADHD service dog, is that they are specifically trained to help with your disability. For example, if your dog is trained to recognize when you’re in a panic, and then cuddle you as a result, they can qualify to be a service dog.
How to Get an ADHD Service Dog
There are a couple of steps you need to take to get a psychiatric service dog, including choosing a breed and training the dog.
Any dog can be an ADHD service dog, though some breeds are more suited than others. Ideally, the dog you choose has a calm demeanor, as it will need to appear under control and non-reactive in public spaces. After considering the breed of your service dog, you will also need to think about how you will train them. You have two primary options for training:
- Hire a trusted service dog trainer (in-person training can range from $2,000-$10,000)
- Train an ADHD service dog yourself
While it is possible to train your service dog without any professional insight or knowledge, the process is made much easier by spending some time learning about service dog training. At Pettable, we offer an online psychiatric service dog training program led by an experienced service dog trainer. With this program, you’ll be equipped with all the tools to train a service dog yourself.
Online PSD Training with Pettable
Our online PSD training program teaches you everything you need to know to train a service dog from home. The program consists of self-guided video lessons guided by a professional dog trainer meaning you can complete them at your own pace. The benefits of our PSD training program include:
- Learn how to train your service dog
- Entirely online
- Complete on your schedule
- Option for 1 on 1 support
- 100% satisfaction guarantee
If you are interested in enrolling in the program, get started today.