What Are Service Dogs?
The Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) defines service dogs as dogs of any breed or size trained to perform a task (or tasks) directly related to their owner’s disability and the challenges that accompany it. This umbrella term covers various types of dogs, such as a service dog for anxiety and a guide dog for a blind person.
Examples of service dog tasks include retrieving objects for someone with mobility limitations, reminding someone to take medication, or keeping someone with epilepsy safe when they detect a seizure.
The ADA states that service dogs can go almost anywhere with their owner, even places where pets aren’t allowed. For example, they can enter restaurants, stores, schools, hotels and hospitals. They are also allowed in apartments and housing units (such as university dorms and government housing programs) that don’t allow pets.
Psychiatric Service Dog
A psychiatric service dog (PSD) is a service dog that aids those with mental health conditions.
For example, a service dog for anxiety could perform deep pressure therapy (laying on top of the owner’s body) when they have a panic attack. A service dog could also be trained to retrieve medication for someone with depression or stop their owner from performing self-harming behaviors.
Service Dog for Anxiety Benefits
Psychiatric service dogs offer numerous benefits to those with anxiety and other mental health challenges. They offer support and promote a sense of calm.
Simply being around dogs regularly can also provide additional benefits. For example, they encourage regular exercise and time outdoors, reduce feelings of loneliness, and help to combat stress.
Psychiatric Service Dog for Anxiety Tasks
Psychiatric service dog training for someone with anxiety may include some or all of the following tasks:
- Detecting signs of anxiety attacks
- Fetching medication or water
- Finding someone to help their owner when they’re in distress
- Stopping strangers from getting too close when the owner is in distress
- Calming someone during an anxiety attack by licking their face or giving them a paw
- Performing deep pressure therapy
- Retrieving the phone for someone having an anxiety attack
- Reminding someone to take their medication regularly
- Performing safety checks or turning lights for veterans and other people with post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD)
- Waking someone up when they have a nightmare or night terror
How to Get a Service Dog for Anxiety
Before you move forward with getting a service dog for anxiety, you should ask yourself some crucial questions, including these:
- Do I have a diagnosed anxiety or mental health disorder (such as Generalized Anxiety Disorder or Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder)?
- Will this dog perform a task related to my condition I couldn’t otherwise perform myself?
- Do I have the time and resources to train this dog?
- Can I afford to purchase a dog that has already been trained?
You will likely qualify for a service dog if you can say “yes” to these questions.
You can talk to your healthcare provider and ask them to provide you with a PSD letter. However, documentation is not required (nor is registration).
As long as you have a diagnosed condition and your dog has been trained to perform a specific task related to that condition, you are allowed to have a service dog and take them with you in public places.
What Kind of Training Does a Service Dog for Anxiety Need?
Training is a critical factor in separating service dogs (including psychiatric service dogs) from emotional support animals (ESAs) and regular pets.
A service dog for anxiety must be trained to perform at least one specific task that helps its owner manage their symptoms. They should be able to perform this task in various environments without getting distracted or missing important cues.
Online Psychiatric Service Dog Training
Online psychiatric service dog training is one of the most common and simplest ways to teach your dog the skills they need to support and assist you.
Many organizations, including Pettable, offer online courses that connect you with certified trainers and provide guidance throughout the training process. These training programs are cost-effective and convenient, as you can participate from the comfort of your own home (which is especially beneficial to those with anxiety).
In-Person PSD Training
If you prefer to work with a face-to-face trainer, you can also look for dog trainers in your area who specialize in training psychiatric service dogs. These trainers may come to your home and work with your dog there, or they may ask you to bring your dog to their home or training facility.
Purchasing a Psychiatric Service Dog
If you don’t have time to train a PSD yourself, you can also purchase one that has already been trained to perform certain tasks.
Some breeders specialize in raising and training dogs to be service dogs from the time they’re puppies. They consider important factors like the parents’ temperament and overall health to provide people in need of service dogs with the best match.
Qualifications for a Service Dog for Anxiety
There are no size or breed restrictions for service dogs for anxiety (or other conditions). However, the dog should be well-behaved in public places. If they cause problems in public — such as destroying property or scaring others — you and your dog may be asked to leave.
ESA vs. PSD
An ESA is any type of animal (including dogs) that offers comfort and companionship with their mere presence.
Psychiatric service dogs are trained to perform certain tasks and are typically held to a higher standard. PSDs also have more protections (ESAs aren’t protected by the ADA) and access to more places.
Psychiatric Service Dog Training with Pettable
If you’re looking into training a psychiatric service dog, Pettable can help. We offer online psychiatric service dog training with certified trainer Lisa Gallegos CDPT-KA.
Lisa will guide you and your dog through 15 training sessions. Then, you will receive a certificate verifying that you completed the program.
Our training program comes with a 100% guarantee. If you’re not satisfied with the results, we’ll give you your money back!