Can A Service Dog Really Help With Anxiety And How
Pets are amazing sources of support for humans. No matter how old you are, interacting with a pet comes with surprising benefits. Research suggests pets can lower cortisol levels, decreasing stress and blood pressure. Being around animals can also help us practice mindfulness and bring comfort during illness.
Service dogs often assist people with physical disabilities.Seeing eye dogs assist the blind, and some dogs alert deaf people to things they cant hear. Similarly, psychiatric service dogs provide support, but in different ways.
Psychiatric service dogs offer a comforting, therapeutic presence, but they also take action to help you through a crisis. Whether youre living with anxiety, depression, PTSD, or another mental health condition, service dogs can be trained to help you through debilitating episodes.
For example, a service dog might bring you your anti-anxiety medication if you have a panic attack. Or, they may just remind you to take scheduled medications. A dog could be trained to lead a support person to you during a crisis or bring you the phone to call someone.
A service dog may keep people from coming too close to you if thats a trigger. If you have anxiety or PTSD triggered by entering empty rooms, the dog may be trained to go in before you turn on a light. Or maybe they bring you a weighted blanket or a glass of water during an anxiety attack.
Acquiring A Service Dog For Anxiety
There are significant benefits to having a service dog if you suffer from anxiety. If you are looking for a way to feel a bit more independent, a service dog is a major step in the right direction. Additionally, service dogs can perform vital tasks such as retrieving items, alerting others in the event of an emergency, and perhaps most importantly, providing companionship and emotional support.
That said, not everyone who has been diagnosed with an anxiety disorder will qualify for a service dog. You will first need to consult with a physician who is familiar with your condition to determine if a service dog is the right treatment option for you. If not, you might also consider an emotional support animal, as they can provide similar assistance, without the high costs and training process.
Emotional Support Dog Vs Psychiatric Service Dog: Whats The Difference
PSDs and ESAs are both a type of assistance animal that a licensed mental health professional or doctor can prescribe to someone as part of their treatment plan.
However, only PSDs are recognized as official service animals under the Americans with Disabilities Act. As legally recognized service animals, theyre entitled to the following rights:
- Public Access Rights
- Educational Facility Access
ESAs on the other hand, do not have the same privileges when it comes to public access and travel, due to new DOT regulations put into place on January 11, 2021. Many major airlines now only recognize ESAs as pets, which means owners will have to pay a pet fee. . However, people can still enjoy fair housing rights with their ESAs, even if they live in a no pets unit.
The reason for this difference is that PSDs have to be specially trained to perform a certain task or type of work that helps support a person living with a disability .
To be considered a service dog, a PSD must be trained to perform a specific task , which is why partnering with a professional trainer is the best option.
Were currently onboarding our professional dog trainers and will be offering this option very soon. In the meantime, those interested in getting a psychiatric service dog can begin the process by seeing if they qualify for a PSD through our free screening here:
Recommended Reading: Can Hormone Imbalance Cause Depression And Anxiety
The Emotional Support Dog
Now let’s adopt emotional support dogs for anxiety or depression, which are slightly different from above mentioned psychiatric service dogs. Still, generally, many same things apply to this category of animals as well.
ESAs can be viewed as a second tier of assistance dogs for these specific mental health conditions in some ways.
For individuals who do not qualify for a psychiatric service dog, emotional support dogs can still provide comfort in times of distress. An emotional support dog is a lesser choice because they cannot perform specific functions for their disabled owner with mental health conditions. Rather, they are dogs that provide comfort just by being with a person.
When In Doubt Seek Professional Guidance
Service dog training can be overwhelming, especially if youre trying to do it all on your own. Feeling stuck? Not sure how to troubleshoot new issues that are cropping up? Dont worry: A professional trainer can make a world of difference!
Some canine professionals even specialize in assistance animals . That means they can provide feedback on everything from public access behavior to specific tasks.
Professional dog training lessons can get expensive but its a worthy investment to make sure your service dog is ready to act as medical equipment out in the world. If the cost of in-person private training is prohibitive, you might consider group classes, virtual sessions, or online content as well.
Also Check: Why Do I Have Social Anxiety
How Do Dogs Sense Anxiety
Dogs Smell Emotional Changes. A dog’s sense of smell is capable of picking up the presence of these chemicals through our sweat or on our breath. They notice when there’s a change in the level of the stress hormone cortisol and might respond with trying to calm their owner or becoming anxious themselves.
Train Your Service Dogs Tasks
Once youve decided what tasks you want your service dog to learn, its time to start teaching them. Youll need to put in hours of training to polish their skills .
In the early stages, this process will look a lot like teaching your pet any other basic cue:
- Youll need a reinforcer , a reward marker , and some patience.
- You can lure your dog into the correct action, shape, or capture behaviors theyre already offering. For example: Pawing and nudging are great candidates for luring while barking or retrieving objects might be better taught through shaping or capturing.
- Once your dog can reliably perform the chosen skill, youll associate a visual and/or verbal cue that lets them know its time to do the behavior.
Recommended Reading: How To Get Rid Of Separation Anxiety
Obtaining A Service Dog Through A Service Dog Program
Dogs trained through service dog programs go through obedience training, service training, and socialization before being matched with a potential handler in need of this assistance animal.
However, the training is not over yet because the dogs then undergo another set of rigorous specialized training to meet their specific handler’s needs .
Service dogs trained through service dog programs may be from a reputable breeder owned by that service dog program, from other third-party reputable breeders, or, in some rare instances, from shelters or rescues.
To qualify for a service dog from a psychiatric service dog training program, they will subject you to certain rules or requirements. These rules or requirements vary depending on the program you apply to. A good example of some common requirements can be found on the Canine Partners for Life eligibility policy and include:
The Cost of Getting a Psychiatric Service Dog Through a Professional Training Program
A psychiatric service dogs cost will vary based on which service dog organization you contact. The average cost for a psychiatric service dog adopted for anxiety or depression runs between $20,000 to $30,000, which is obviously very expensive.
This high price reflects the time, effort, resources, and amount of work that goes into raising and specialty training an assistance dog that will be specialized for you specifically and is essential custom-tailored for your condition and lifestyle .
What Are The Differences
Lets first clarify the difference between a therapy dog, an emotional support dog and a psychiatric service dog .
A Therapy Dog is someones pet that has been tested for its social temperament, trained to be well behaved and registered with a therapy dog organization. A therapy dog provides comfort to people in nursing homes, hospitals, schools or other institutions. Most therapy dog owners are volunteers. Therapy dogs are NOT Service Dogs and do not have public access rights.
Emotional Support Animals provide comfort to their owners simply by being present. They have not been specifically trained for any particular task. Although they are grouped with service dogs when it comes to housing laws, emotional support dogs do NOT have public access rights.
According to ADA laws, to be a Service Dog, their handler must have a disability and the dog must be specifically trained to alleviate such disability. Having a mental illness is an impairment, but being unable to function on a minimal level because of mental illness is a disability. Psychiatric service dogs are trained to do something to help with the persons disability. In other words, the dog allows the handler to overcome or improve his/her ability to function. A PSD might for instance counterbalance a handler because he/she is dizzy because of medication, interrupt panic attacks or OCD behaviors, turn lights on, etc.
Recommended Reading: How To Treat Bipolar Depression And Anxiety
Public Access Rights Of Psychiatric Service Dogs
Psychiatric Service Dogs may be of any breed or size, and can go anywhere their handler goes.
Under federal law, PSDs can:
Accompany their owners into businesses that pets normally cannot enter
Live with their owners in traditional “no pet” housing
Fly in the cabin of an airplane with no additional
How To Obtain A Service Animal
The first step toward obtaining a service animal if you have social anxiety disorder is to speak with your doctor or mental health professional. You will need to qualify for a service animal under the ADAfor which a diagnosis of SAD will be sufficient.
If you don’t have an official diagnosis, requesting an assessment will be your first step toward obtaining a service animal. You will then need to approach an agency to locate an animal. Your doctor may be able to provide a referral or contact an agency on your behalf.
Service animals are not provided for freeyou will need to pay for the animal. So be sure that you have the financial resources to do so, as well as to provide care for the animal in the long term.
If the upfront cost of a service animal is too much, you could consider training an animal yourself. Be aware, however, that there will still be expenses over the years. You should budget about $2,000 a year for your animal.
Also Check: How To Get Over Anxiety Naturally
How Do I Qualify For A Service Dog If I Have Anxiety And Depression
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 its not widely known that anyone with diagnosed anxiety or depression also qualifies for a psychiatric service dog.
Does Your Dog Have The Right Temperament To Be A Service Dog For Anxiety
This might seem counterintuitive, but its actually best if your service dog isnt naturally worried about your anxiety. While it can be sweet to watch an animal sense your unease and try to make things better, it can also be a sign that theyre uncomfortable!
Your service dog will spend hours each day working for you in a range of environments you want their tasks to be fun and rewarding, not driven by their own worry.
In short: The best service dog candidates are emotionally stable and nonreactive. They shouldnt be overwhelmed by your panic attacks but should rather be able to eagerly work through them.
Read Also: Why Do I Have Anxiety When I Wake Up
What Is An Anxiety Service Dog
A service animal is defined as a dog that has been individually trained to provide services to help their handler navigate the world. Theyre part of the treatment plan for some disabled individuals. Psychiatric service dogs are officially considered medical equipment the tasks a service dog performs must be directly related to their handlers disability.
Because of this, not all dogs who improve their owners quality of life by helping with their anxiety symptoms can be considered legal service dogs.
Emotional support animals arent service dogs
The ADA says make a distinction between psychiatric service animals and emotional support animals. If the dog has been trained to sense that an anxiety attack is about to happen and take a specific action to help avoid the attack or lessen its impact, that would qualify as a service animal. However, if the dogs mere presence provides comfort, that would not be considered a service animal under the ADA.
What this means is that emotional support, therapy, and companion animals are not protected by the Americans with Disabilities Act. That doesnt mean theyre not wonderful they absolutely are! They just dont have public access rights to visit non-pet-friendly places with their owners.
An ESA or therapy dog can become a legal, actual service animal, though, if they go through designated task training to help one specific handler.
Psychiatric Service Dog Tasks
Psychiatric service dogs can perform a variety of tasks for their owners, including the following:
- For owners with post traumatic stress disorder, psychiatric service dogs can be trained to do things like interrupt flashbacks, perform deep pressure therapy during nightmares and panic attacks, or search a room for intruders to help ease hypervigilance.
- For owners with depression disorders, PSDs can be trained to force their humans out of bed, interrupt self harm, retrieve drinks and medications, and other, similar tasks.
- For owners with schizophrenia and other paranoia disorders, PSDs can be taught to help their owners differentiate between hallucinations and reality, by being commanded to interact with hallucinations, thereby disproving their existence. They can also help reduce hypervigilance by being taught to perform pseudo-protection commands such as watch my back.
Also Check: How To Love Someone With Anxiety And Depression
Dogs Ward Off Loneliness
An affectionate dog provides unconditional love and friendship.
Walking your dog can help you feel less isolated because youll meet other people on your walks.
Dont be surprised if people stop to admire your dog or ask you questions about her.
Interestingly, a dog can provide the same emotional benefits as having friends of the human variety.
Your relationship with your dog can also improve your existing relationships with other people.
Physical Vs Invisible Disability
According to the ADA, an individual with a disability must meet one or more of the following criteria:
- has a physical or mental impairment that significantly limits the ability to perform one or more major life functions
- has a history of an impairment that meets this description
- is seen by others as having an impairment that meets this description
Unlike a physical disability that may be obvious due to the use of an assistive device, such as a wheelchair or cane, an invisible disability is an impairment thats not immediately apparent.
The term invisible disability encompasses many medical conditions that are invisible to an onlooker. Depression is one of these conditions.
According to a 2014 report by the U.S. Census Bureau, 27 million adults were frequently depressed or anxious to an extent that seriously interfered with everyday activities.
If your depression meets the criteria set out in the ADAs definition of a disability, you qualify to have a service dog for depression.
A service dog for depression may also be referred to as a psychiatric service dog. This is not to be confused with an emotional support animal or therapy dogs, which are not recognized as service animals by the ADA.
Here are the key differences:
Also Check: Should I Take Anxiety Medication
Programs That Provide Complete Or Partial Financial Assistance
Finding the best organization for your specific area and needs is important. Below is a list of fully accredited organizations, programs and grants that can help. For a geographical search of all accredited service dog organizations, visit Assistance Dogs International and enter your exact geographical location.
Can I Take A Service Dog To College
Service dogs are not just for the visually or hearing impaired individual. Service dogs have lent a helping paw to individuals with a broader range of physical and psychological conditions. But what if you are a student and need a service dog? Will colleges allow dogs on campus and into the classroom? Read on for
Read Also: Can Anxiety Cause Acid Reflux
Can A Landlord Deny An Emotional Support Animal California
A landlord or other housing provider may deny a request to keep a service dog, psychiatric service dog, or support animal in California as a reasonable accommodation if the specific animal: poses a direct threat to the health or safety of others, or. would cause substantial physical damage to the property of others.
Trainer Review Of This Article
There is so much misinformation out there, we want to make sure we only provide the highest quality information to our community. We have all of our articles reviewed by qualified, positive-only trainers.
This is the trainer that reviewed this article:
Brittany L. Fulton, CTCFounder and Trainer, Dances with Dogs, Silver Spring, MD, www.dancesdogs.com – Certified in Training and Counseling , The Academy for Dog Trainers
Read Also: How To Manage Anxiety At Work
Can You Get A Service Dog For Anxiety What You Need To Know
We are living in the age of anxiety. With over 18% of the adult population in the United States suffering from anxiety disorders every year, they are the most rampant mental health issue facing our nation.
But because this issue is so common, it is easy to downplay the severity of its effects on the daily lives of those who struggle with this type of mental health disorder. Folks who are severely anxious often go undiagnosed and untreated, even though these mental health issues are highly treatable.
While service dogs are often thought of as supportive aids for people living with physical disabilities or severe post-traumatic stress disorder, they can also offer immense support to those who suffer from acute anxiety attacks or other mental disorders.
If you think you may benefit from a service dog, this article is for you.