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 downstairs, 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 dogs. 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 states can have an effect on their dogs. If you are worried about your anxiety affecting your dog, there are natural calming treats to help manage his stress without affecting alertness or ability to perform his tasks.
What is the Best Service Dog Breeds for Anxiety
Service or therapy 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 bodies. 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.
Do you own a service dog? Try giving them CBD soft chews to reward them for doing such a good job!
Best Large Service Dogs for Anxiety
Service dogs can come in all shapes and sizes! However, sometimes we just need a bigger dog to cuddle with and relax. Studies show that animals can help boost oxytocin levels in the brain, often referred to as the love hormone! Not only are large dogs goofy and giant teddy bears, but they also make for great service dogs!
Golden retrievers are one of the most popular dog breeds in the world. They are renowned for their calm and passive demeanors, so you can be sure they will make you smile with their quirky personalities. Golden retrievers are some of the smartest dogs around, making them very easy to train and a great choice to be a service dog.
Most of the time, golden retrievers may seem like goofballs, but they are strong enough to provide their owner with physical support and carry heavy items. These dogs also do not exhibit personalities that would be considered "hard to train." They are quite confidently obedient and infinitely loyal to their owners. Golden retrievers can also adapt to new situations extremely quickly.
Service dogs must be highly trainable, calm, and adaptable. This breed, in particular, is naturally sensitive to people that are hurting and requires little training to learn about things like wheelchairs or any other equipment. These four-legged furry pals are lovable, loyal, and cute! What more could you want from a service dog?
Currently the #1 breed in America, Labs are known for their size and how big and lovable they can be! While they are large, Labrador Retrievers are gentle giants with lots of strength, a high intellect, and a calm temperament. They are an intelligent breed that often assists the military and police. Labs are also very loyal and like to stick close to their owners. This innate characteristic is great for those with disabilities or anxiety issues!
Because labs need lots of physical and mental stimulation, acting as a service dog automatically fulfills both these needs. They are a calm breed and not overly excitable, giving you the perfect balance to perform many necessary tasks. These smart pups are hyper-aware of everything going on around them, which keeps them alert! As a bonus, Labrador Retrievers love being in the water! This is helpful if the lab is a service dog working with people with disabilities or a therapy dog. They can be one of the best service dogs for anxiety you could possibly get!
Aside from having style, that's not all that poodles can provide! They are considered one of the most intelligent and trainable dogs in the world. Their intelligence makes them easy to train and very dependable! They tend to adjust well in many environments, enabling them to stay focused and supportive.
Poodles also possess a strong work ethic and stamina. They crave company and companionship and are delighted to pay it back to their humans. Expect them to bond quickly with the entire family and not just one person, making them excellent family dogs.
That being said, Poodles require a very keen eye for grooming. They don't get their luscious locks if they aren't groomed and maintained properly! So, make sure that if you are looking into getting a Poodle as a service dog for anxiety, be ready to either groom them yourself or spend the necessary money to take them to a groomer.
Great Pyrenees are service dogs down to their core. They are known for being calm and patient, making them great service dogs. They are one of the oldest dog breeds in the world, dating back to 3000 BC, where they began working and assisting shepherds and even royalty. Having been described as gentle, beautiful, calm, and wise, the Great Pyrenees was born to be a service and therapy dog.
These dogs are also smart enough to make their own decisions when needed. One of their first jobs was to help herd livestock. If a predator began threatening the sheep, the Great Pyrenees would quickly jump into action to protect the herd. You might want to consider a Great Pyrenees if you're looking for a service dog AND a guard dog!
Border Collies are another incredibly intelligent breed! They can pick up on hand gestures and body language. Like most breeds that make great service dogs, they are eager to please! Their devotion to their work is one of their many great traits. These dogs have endless amounts of energy which pairs well with their willingness to work and please their owners.
Border Collies are not only intelligent, but they are also one of the friendliest breeds around! They are very eager to befriend any member of the family, a puppy, other breeds, and even strangers. Many dogs may be wary of strangers, but Border Collies are famously friendly! It's important to note that this is a high-energy breed, which may not be ideal for someone with a physical disability. Breeds with lots of energy require plenty of exercise and stimulation, so be prepared if you want a Border Collie!
Best Small Service Dogs for Anxiety
Although large service dogs are generally more popular, small service dogs are just as great! Many people with anxiety need a smaller dog that they can take anywhere conveniently or as a lap dog to help calm their nerves. Smaller dogs also take up less space, which may be perfect for those living in apartments or smaller spaces.
Pugs aren't traditionally thought of when someone mentions "service dog," but they actually make great therapy dogs! They may not meet the requirements to be a seeing-eye or a guide dog, but they are great for emotional support. Pugs love to be around humans, so it's very easy for their owners to feel comforted. Pugs are adaptive dogs that can live just about anywhere. They mostly want to be with their owners and follow them everywhere.
Therapy pugs will be okay with a lot of touching and attention from strangers at times, while other breeds may become aggressive and territorial. Pugs are one of the most popular emotional support breeds there are! Who can resist their cute, squished face and those snorts that they will inevitably make while sleeping? Anyone?
Yorkshire Terriers may be small, but they have big personalities and even bigger hearts! This makes them great emotional support animals. Emotional support animals or animals used for anxiety don't require any specific training for their role. Instead, they support their owner through their continued presence in their lives. Yorkshire Terriers will be loyal to its owner but invite strangers with excellent temperaments and fun personalities!
Pomeranians make great therapy and anxiety dogs with their small size and loving nature. Although sometimes they can have a dominating personality, they're typically great pets and support dogs! And you'll get a dog that's always alert and aware of their surroundings!
Due to their size, Poms won't give you the extra stress of transportation. You can simply carry them on your lap if you are in the passenger seat, or they can ride shotgun in the passenger seat all on their own! Weighing in at about a max of 8 pounds, these furballs are easy to take anywhere!
The Corgi has more than just a herding history! Due to their strong will and intelligence, Corgis make excellent service dogs. These short, stumpy guys are known for their stature and their friendly attitudes. It's hard to find a Corgi that doesn't always have its tongue out and smiling. There is no doubt that these dogs will make your life less stressful and fun! It's no surprise that you can't have a bad day with a Corgi around!
Bichons make great emotional support pets. They are affectionate, outgoing, and intelligent. One might even say they're the whole package. Their fluffy, poofy look makes them great to cuddle with at night. However, Bichon Frises typically need plenty of attention and hate being left alone. If you can provide the amount of love and care that they need, you might want to opt for this cute, lovable breed!