Service dogs assist people with disabilities in all kinds of ways. Whether a person’s condition is physical or related to mental health, a psychiatric service dog makes a big difference in their life. Among other mental health conditions, it’s a known fact that service dogs with proper training can ease the symptoms of post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). Here’s how to train a service dog for PTSD.
How to Train a Service Dog for PTSD
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What is a Psychiatric Service Dog (PSD)?
Psychiatric service dogs (PSDs) are a type of service animal specifically trained to assist with a mental disability. Some of the conditions that PSDs can help with include autism, bipolar disorder, anxiety, depression, panic attacks, schizophrenia, and of course PTSD.
Psychiatric Service Dog Training Requirements
To be eligible for a psychiatric service dog you must have a qualifying disability that’s been documented by a health professional and limits one or more major life activities. Psychiatric service dogs don’t have to be trained professionally, but they do have to be trained specifically to assist with tasks directly related to your disability.
How to Train a Service Dog for PTSD
Training a psychiatric service dog for PTSD can be challenging, but the benefits of being thorough are well worth the effort. The time you’ll spend working together will build trust and a strong bond between you and your dog, setting you both up for success in your working relationship.
Make Sure Your Dog is Fit for the Job
Your dog’s age, size, breed, and personality are all factors that have to be considered when you’re ready to start training.
Young puppies are of course trainable, but their attentiveness can sometimes be a challenge. This is especially true if they haven’t had much experience with basic obedience training before beginning service dog training. Older dogs, on the other hand, may be a little more set in their ways and take longer to train since they’re learning on top of habits they’ve already formed.
Some of the best service dog breeds for PTSD include golden retrievers, German shepherds, Great Danes, and border collies among others.
Train Your Dog to Be Obedient
Making sure you train your dog to be obedient before you start training them as a service dog will make the task much easier to accomplish. Having already been through the process of training for basic dog commands like “sit,” “stay,” “down,” or “watch me” will give them the groundwork for learning more complex training tasks. It will also make it easier for you to teach new skills and regain focus when you have the basic commands at your disposal.
Teach Tasks that Can Help with Your PTSD
Individuals with PTSD can experience a range of symptoms. These might be intrusive thoughts, avoidant behavior, mood changes, or reactive responses to stressful or unexpected stimuli. Teaching your service dog tasks that can help with your specific PTSD symptoms is the best way to get the biggest benefit out of having a psychiatric service dog.
Make Sure Your Dog Can Behave in Public
This is another scenario where basic obedience training is important. In addition to being specifically trained to perform service tasks, service dogs also have to maintain a certain standard of behavior in public. Completing basic dog training and mastering obedience commands before you start training for service tasks is essential.
Get Help from a Professional Trainer
Getting help from a professional trainer takes the guesswork out of training your psychiatric service dog. Pettable’s expert certified psychiatric service dog trainer, Lisa Gallegos, is an amazing resource for all things dog training. Through Pettable’s online service dog training programs, Lisa has helped hundreds of dogs and their owners achieve service dog training success and live a more fulfilling life.
Self Training vs. Professional Training
When it comes to training a psychiatric service dog, there are generally two main options: self training or professional training. Taking on the task of training your psychiatric service dog yourself isn’t just any old walk in the park. While it certainly can be done, tapping into professional training resources like Pettable’s online service dog training classes gives you the guidance to succeed.
PTSD Service Dog Tasks
Psychiatric service dogs can support people with disabilities with a wide range of tasks. Some of the tasks that service dogs perform to help those with PTSD can include deep pressure therapy (DPT), interruption tasks, and guide tasks among others.
Deep pressure therapy is when a dog utilizes their body weight to apply pressure to their handler, providing a calming and soothing physical presence. Interruption tasks can look like licking a person’s face or hands to help to break up difficult or stressful emotions associated with PTSD or waking them from a nightmare to help the individual regroup.
Guiding tasks can be helpful to those with or without vision impairment, especially for those with PTSD. Psychiatric service dogs can guide individuals with PTSD to an exit, to safety, or home when needed without running into trouble along the way.
Online Psychiatric Service Dog Training with Pettable
Online psychiatric service dog training with Pettable is one of the best ways to properly train your dog to perform service tasks. Expertly crafted lessons designed by certified PSD trainers will guide you through the steps for service dog training at your own pace. Train your dog from the comfort of your home with access to our online resources, all backed by our satisfaction guarantee.