Public service announcement: your dog might be very bored right now! Mental stimulation for dogs…
We all crave the love and attention of dogs just like they crave ours. But sometimes it is more than just a craving–sometimes it is a need for therapeutic purposes, such as managing anxiety. Service dogs can provide you with relief from anxiety as well as help you complete daily life tasks you cannot do alone due to your condition. In this article, we are going to cover the basics of service dogs. We’ll also go over some of the best breeds of service dogs that can help with anxiety.
What is a Service Dog?
A service dog is a dog that is trained to assist people with major life tasks that they are otherwise incapable of doing by themselves due to physical or psychiatric disabilities. Some of these tasks include walking up and down stairs, opening doors, pressing an elevator button, and picking up dropped items.
Many disabled people rely heavily on service dogs to perform everything from basic daily tasks to life-saving measures. Because of this huge role that service dogs must play, they are trained to perform specific tasks that fulfill the needs of the individual.
Now, you might wonder, “Why don’t humans take on this role instead of dogs?” Well, the answer is often quite simple. A disabled person may feel that they are burdening a human family member, lack the resources for similar round-the-clock assistance, or have a strong desire to live a more independent life.
Although service dogs may be an important tool for a person with a disability, one of the most important roles a service dog plays is that of a companion. This is a mutually beneficial relationship as the dog also bonds with the person.
What Qualifies You to Have a Service Dog?
In order to qualify for a service dog, you must have a physical or psychiatric disorder that limits your ability to perform at least one major life task unassisted. Of course, you must have official written documentation from your healthcare provider. This documentation must state that you have and are being treated for a disability or mental disorder and that you require the assistance of a service dog to carry out everyday life tasks.
Trained service dogs perform tasks such as:
- Guiding the blind
- Alerting deaf people to sounds
- Opening doors for people in wheelchairs
- Alerting owners of seizures
- Helping with PTSD management
These are just a few examples of what would qualify you to have a service dog. If you noticed, service dogs are not only for physical disabilities. Usually, when people think of service dogs they think of service dogs that guide the blind. However, there is also a specific type of service dog called a psychiatric service dog.
Psychiatric service dogs can be trained to perform the following tasks:
- Deep pressure therapy
- Reminding the owner to take medication
- Watching the owner’s back in open areas
- Tactile stimulation
You can get a service dog either from a professional organization, or you can train your own dog to perform the necessary tasks. However, the latter can be very difficult due to the intensive training required for the dog. Most people get their service dog from a professional organization, usually free of charge thanks to donations. The process of getting a service dog can take years because of the extensive training. Additionally, successful service dogs are typically bred by the organization to increase the likelihood they will have a friendly and resilient personality. Unfortunately, most dogs are not cut out for this rigorous life.
It is critical to differentiate between a service dog and an emotional support dog. A service dog should be trained to meet standards set by a reputable organization such as the American Psychiatric Service Dogs Organization. Service dogs are protected by the American’s with Disabilities Act (ADA) and can legally enter any location where their human is permitted. This is not the case with emotional support dogs. The requirements and regulations for these dogs are more limited. Any dog can be deemed an emotional support dog, they are companions who do not necessarily perform specific tasks, and they are not covered by the ADA.
Currently, emotional support dogs are included in the Fair Housing Act and Air Carrier Access Act, meaning that reasonable efforts should be made for these pets regarding airplane flights and housing accommodations. After incidents resulting in passenger injury from emotional support animals, the standards for this specific group are currently under review by major airlines.
Can You Get a Service Dog for Anxiety?
Of course! Service dogs that help with anxiety are classified as psychiatric service dogs. Just like all service dogs, psychiatric service dogs are trained to assist their owner with specific tasks related to their condition.
Anxiety is one of the most common mood disorders in the world. If left untreated, it can cause significant problems in many areas of your life. It can cause excessive worry and stress, fatigue, restlessness, and irritability. What’s worse, anxiety can be accompanied by panic attacks, which involve heart palpitations, sweating, trembling, shortness of breath, and feelings of impending doom.
People with an anxiety disorder constantly worry that they might have a panic attack soon. As a result, this makes it difficult or impossible for the person to proceed with daily tasks. Service dogs can make it easier to live with anxiety because they can help you with performing certain tasks that you are unable to do alone due to your condition.
Psychiatric service dogs can help with anxiety by:
- Providing deep pressure therapy and tactile stimulation, which creates a calming effect
- Bringing you a phone if you have an anxiety attack
- Leading someone to you if you need help
- Bringing you medication to take during an anxiety attack
How Much Does a Service Dog Cost for Anxiety?
The specific cost for a service dog can vary depending on the breed and type of training the dog receives. Typically, you can expect a service dog to cost you anywhere from $15,000 to $30,000. This cost reflects hundreds of hours of extensive training. It also reflects the costs of food, grooming, veterinary checkups, vaccinations, and toys that are taken care of by the organization.
Additionally, owning a service dog is just like owning any dog. They come with great responsibility and require your time and care for survival. Most dog owners spend anywhere from $500 to $5,000 annually for their dog. Assuming you will care for the dog for his/her entire life, you should expect to have these yearly expenses for about ten to twelve years. Many organizations cover all costs associated with a service dog due to generous donations for some people, such as veterans. However, these dogs are in short supply for everyone.
You may have heard that owners’ emotional state can have an effect on their dog. If you are worried about your anxiety affecting your dog, there are natural calming treats to help manage his stress without effecting alertness or ability to perform his tasks.
What is the Best Service Dog Breeds for Anxiety
Service dogs are helpful for anxiety because they have the ability to provide comfort and relief to us. When we touch or gaze into the eyes of our dogs, the hormone oxytocin is released into our body. This is what gives us that warm, fuzzy feeling.
Oxytocin is sometimes known as the “love hormone.” This is due to levels of oxytocin rising when you hug, kiss, or cuddle with someone. This is also why your dog makes you feel good when he/she snuggles up next to you. Likewise, dogs experience the same feelings as us when we are affectionate with them. Oxytocin levels rise in dogs when we show them love and affection.
When trying to pick the right service dog, you need to consider the temperament of the dog and determine whether it is compatible with you. All breeds are different! So, when choosing a service dog for anxiety, you generally want a dog that is friendly, calm, affectionate, loving, and loyal.
Also important to decide is whether you want a large or small breed. Both have their pros and cons, so it is important to consider these facts in order to help you make the right decision.
For those of you who love to cuddle, larger dogs can offer whole-body snuggling, which can be very calming. However, large dogs tend to be more expensive than small dogs because they require products that are larger in size and quantity.
On the other hand, if you want to take your dog everywhere with you, then maybe a smaller dog is a better option. It is also easier to manage and control a smaller dog if you are not entirely comfortable with dogs. However, small dogs may not provide you with a strong feeling of security.
Best Service Dog Breeds for Anxiety
- Golden Retriever – calm, compatible, compliant
- Labrador Retriever – loving, gentle, friendly
- Poodle – hypoallergenic, smart, friendly, optimistic
- Great Pyrenees – calm, patient, smart
- Border Collie – smart, energetic, mischievous
- Pug – loving, compatible, playful
- Yorkshire Terrier – energetic, feisty, affectionate
- Pomeranian – loyal, affectionate, smart
- Corgi – happy, friendly, smart
- Bichon Frise – hypoallergenic, playful, gentle,
If you are thinking about getting a service dog for anxiety, be sure to consider factors like cost, maintenance, time, and breed before making your final decision. Remember, no one breed is better than the other. Rather, it all depends on your specific needs and lifestyle. Getting your service dog can change your life, and, believe it or not, your dog’s life too!. Click here for more info.