Everything you need to know about Psychiatric Service Dogs

These types of animals are often confused with emotional support animals because most service animals are associated with such issues as blindness or limited mobility. However, psychiatric service dogs perform a very important part in people’s lives too, due to their special training that teaches them to perform tasks for people with mental and emotional disorders.

In this article, we will tell you everything you need to know about this specific type of service animal, so keep reading to learn more. All needed information is here!

What is a psychiatric service dog?

A psychiatric service dog is an animal trained to perform tasks for people with various mental disorders, as well as learning disabilities. These animals have the same rights all service animals have; however, sometimes, they are confused with emotional support animals (ESAs). But, unlike ESAs, they have more access to public places, pet owners do not need to pay an extra fee on the plane or rented places, and these dogs have all rights to be with their handlers in the pet-free zones. All of that is permitted by the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA).

To get such a helper, the person needs to go to the health professional in order to get a note proving they need a psychiatric service dog to assist them due to a disability. Only after that, they have a legal right to get a specially trained pet.

Types of psychiatric service dogs

Specialists claim there are countless types of PSDs out there; every dog is trained specifically to a patient’s illness, disability, and mental problem. However, it is possible to highlight three main categories, which are the most common.

  • Anxiety PSD. Every person can experience anxiety sometimes, it is absolutely normal. However, there are some people who struggle with this problem on a daily basis, and it affects their life very badly(sometimes, it may lead to panic attacks and compulsive behavior). A PSD can alert their handler about the upcoming panic attack, make them stay present by licking or pawing, warn relatives about the problem, or support and protect the person when they are under stress;
  • Depression psychiatric service dog. People with such mental health problems as clinical depression very often have troubles living everyday social life, talking with other people, or controlling their negative thoughts (which are dangerous because sometimes they may become suicidal). PSDs are individually trained to help such patients live a full life, provide comfort and help with everyday tasks, get them back to reality during stressful moments, etc. They are also don’t let the individual with a disability fall out of the real world by sleeping too much or being passive;
  • Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) psychiatric service dog. This category of people is those who have been through something extremally traumatic in their life – life-changing situations, loss of close people, extreme stress, etc. Those patients require PSDs’ assistance to get the needed security and support during the most stressful moments or a therapy, prevent destructive behavior, get a reminder to take medications, calm down in crowded public places, etc.

What categories of people are allowed to have registered psychiatric service dog?

To get permission to own a service dog, a special note that proves the mental illness of the person is required. It may be prescribed by a professional in the clinic after the appointment where they can see that the disability limits one or more major life activities in person. People with one of the following issues may qualify for a PSD:

  • Anxiety and panic attacks;
  • Clinical depression;
  • Various phobias;
  • Bipolar disorder;
  • Attention-deficit and hyperactivity disorders;
  • OCD (Obsessive Compulsive Disorder);
  • Post-traumatic stress disorder;
  • Autism.

Dogs need to be trained to perform tasks related to the psychiatric disabilities of the handler. It is very important for an animal to be trained to do work for the owner because if it only provides comfort for them, it relates to ESAs (Emotional Support Animals), not to psychiatric service dogs. Thus, they have fewer rights regarding public access to different places, housing, traveling, etc., as well as less protection by laws.

Basic tasks a service dog performs

A psychiatric service dog is an animal trained to do tasks related to the person’s disability. A lot of people need assistance from their pets due to their mental health issues. Yes, service dogs are much more than guide dogs, alert dogs, etc.; they can perform tasks to improve the quality of life of their owners and make it much more manageable.

The list of jobs psychiatric service dogs may be helpful in include a lot of variants, but we would like to tell you about the basics. This way, you will increase the level of awareness on this topic a little more and will understand the realities of a disabled person’s everyday life routine better:

  • Medications reminder. Some people with anxiety or depression may be very forgetful sometimes. A dog reminds them to take needed medications by ringing the bell, bringing them from the table, or barking;
  • Help in keeping the balance. If tranquilizers for calming down were prescribed to the person, they might have some troubles with the balance. PSDs may protect and assist those people when they are walking;
  • Guiding the handler. When in a state of panic, some dog owners may become disoriented and lost easily in the crowd or the unknown place. The dog’s job here is to find needed place or at least go somewhere safe with the handler, the place where it would be possible to calm down;
  • Help to build up an everyday routine. The dog makes sure the person does not oversleep, eats on time, does some activities during the day, etc. Overall, it helps to live a full life for those with mental disabilities;
  • Interrupt obsessive-compulsive behavior and helps to stay present. If the dog notices the person starts to zone out or to do something harmful to themselves due to their disability, it tries to disturb the person, stop those action and switch their focus on something else;
  • Alert abut the danger. It may include weird sounds (strangers outside, the smoke detector, etc.), smells (smoke, gas, etc.), and other suspicious signs;
  • Tactile stimulation. In this way, the dog provides comfort to the handler, makes them feel safe, and forget about the feeling of loneliness. It may be done by soft pawing, licking, or sitting/laying together.

Every handler of the PSD has a right to total privacy when it is related to their disability. Workers in public establishments do not have the right to ask about the person’s health issues or for the prof of their need in a service animal. The ADA protects disabled people, and if somebody caused major discomfort to the person because of their service animal, the ADA would help to protect their rights.

The bottom line

A psychiatric service dog is an animal that helps those with mental health disabilities to live a full, happy life. Their main task is to assist in everyday routine, keep the person safe and healthy, provide comfort to them and be a faithful companion during hard times. To have a right to get a PSD, the person needs a valid note from a mental health professional that proves their need in a service animal. PSDs are great support for those who need them, and they make the lives of people with struggles not so harsh. It deserves respect!

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