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Dogs For Anxiety And Ptsd

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Benefits Of Service Dogs For Anxiety

Train DEEP PRESSURE THERAPY (DPT): Service Dog Task for Anxiety, ADHD, ASD, PTSD & more

Like other service animals, service dogs for anxiety are trained to perform tasks or otherwise provide assistance to their owners that help them engage safely and fully in everyday life.

Verywell / Hilary Allison

However, a service dog can’t just be trained for any task. According to the ADA, the tasks must be directly related to the owner’s disability.

A psychiatric service dog can help someone with anxiety by:

  • Detecting signs of a panic attack before it begins
  • Helping their handler avoid triggers
  • Reminding their handler to take their medication
  • Performing room searches or safety checks
  • Waking their handler up from a traumatic nightmare
  • Turning on lights for someone with post-traumatic stress disorder
  • Opening doors, retrieving mail, or other tasks for someone with social anxiety disorder or agoraphobia

How Our Ptsd Service Dogs Help

Our PTSD service dogs have already shown to be effective in assisting PTSD sufferers by:

  • Calming them during panic attacks

  • Waking them from nightmares and reducing nightmare frequency and severity

  • Orienting them and calming anxiety and stress in public situations

  • Increasing feelings of personal safety

  • Reducing anxiety when reacting to loud noises

  • Helping forge personal connections

  • Providing companionship to reduce depression, isolation and guilt feelings.

A PTSD service dog detects when people are stressed or anxious, e.g., they hear labored breathing. Then, the dogs interrupt the increasing anxiety by distracting the person, offering comfort by hugging them , and licking the persons face. When the dogs realize their partners are having a nightmare, flashback, or panic attack, they are trained to disrupt the episode and offer comfort.

Best Service Dog Breeds

There are certain traits that make particular dog breeds really stand out when it comes to helping with various emotional or physical traumas and illnesses. Your specific needs will help you to determine what type of service dog breed is the best fit for you.

Heres our list of the top 10 best service dog breeds, along with their common characteristics and the type of service they typically provide.

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What Training Methods Work Best For Service Dogs

Errorless and stress-free dog training

A service dog candidate needs to have a high food drive. Different trainers have different training philosophies. Some trainers use devices such as choke chains, prong collars or shock collars as a means to control the dogs impulses and keep them calm and focused. At Medical Mutts, however, we believe that such devices are unnecessary and even harmful harmful to the dog because they are unpleasant, sometimes painful and less efficient, as many studies have shown. They are also damaging to the relationship.

Repeated punishment will increase the dogs cortisol levels and its been shown that stress affects the animals ability to learn. Punishment can also discourage the dogs from taking initiatives, which can be problematic for a service dog that often needs to make decisions on his/her own. Lastly, elevated stress levels also set the dog up to react or snap much sooner than when he/she is feeling safe and calm.

Our goal is to build the dogs confidence and desire to work. In fact, if training feels like work for us, its all fun for the dog. We want to see enthusiasm when we ask the dog to come, to press a button, to poke when alerting, etc. The way that we achieve this is by rewarding the dog for doing what we asked for. A dog that shows a strong desire to work for treats will be much easier to train.

What Is The Best Pet For Anxiety

Psychiatric Service Dogs For Anxiety And Depression

Owing any pet can be beneficial for your emotional and mental health. However, dogs and cats are considered the best pets for anxiety, so it is really about whether you are more of a dog or cat person.

Some people believe that caring for a dog or cat can have incredibly positive effects as one of the best ways to improve your mental health is to bond with your pet. Dogs and cats can help you feel less stressed, boost your mood, and reduce feelings of loneliness and isolation.

Scientific research shows that physical contact with your pet causes your brain to release hormones of happiness, oxytocin, and serotonin while blocking the stress hormone cortisol, helping you feel happier and more relaxed.

Also, dogs provide a sense of security, making you feel safer in their presence. Dogs, cats, and other animals cannot judge, which means you will feel nothing but unconditional love. These feelings of being loved and adored can alleviate symptoms of anxiety and depression.

Additionally, caring for a pet requires specific lifestyle changes , helping reduce loneliness, improving your mood, enhancing physical health, and much more.

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How Do I Start Training My Dog

The American Kennel Club recommends that service dog training starts with:

  • House training, including eliminating waste on demand
  • Socialization in many environments, including staying attentive to a task in various settings
  • Teaching the dog to ignore distractions and focus on their handler

Once a dog has mastered the basic skills, it will need to be trained to perform specific tasks to assist with its owner’s anxiety. This training step is essential because it is what qualifies the dog to be a service animal.

Dog trainers use certain techniques to teach a dog to perform tasks. In a study on veterans with PTSD who trained their own service dogs, they used techniques like:

  • Positive reinforcement
  • Negative punishment
  • Positive punishment

The study also showed that bond-based and positive reinforcement techniques had the most positive training outcomes, while positive punishment had more negative outcomes.

Treatment Of Post Traumatic Stress Disorder In Dogs

Treatments for dogs with PTSD can be a combination of behavioral and medical treatments. The most commonly prescribed medication given to dogs that are exhibiting behavior consistent with Post Traumatic Stress Disorder is Alprazolam, a benzodiazepine sedative more commonly known as Xanax. Other sedative drugs that may be considered include Diazepam , Sertraline , or even Fluoxetine . Most humans use talk therapy in one form or another in order to work through the stress of the traumatic incident. Unfortunately, this isnt an option for our canine companions. Instead, we focus on retraining techniques that help the dog feel that the world is a safe place again. These methods could include: Keeping a stricter routine so the dog knows what to expect, exercise and play therapies, and dog pheromone collars and infusers.

Exercise and play therapy sessions should be vigorous, but the dog should be relaxed and enjoying the playtime. These sessions are intended to increase the levels of dopamine, improving your dogs mood in a safe and efficient manner. If your dog is exhibiting aggression instead of play, the chemicals that are being released are more likely to be stress hormones, inflating the problem rather than reducing it. Any sign of tension or fear should end the session for the time being until the dog is able to relax again.

Worried about the cost of Post Traumatic Stress Disorder treatment?

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How Service Dogs Help People Living With Ptsd


Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder is a severe anxiety disorder that seriously jeopardizes the life of a person suffering from this condition. Causes for this disorder range widely, and various factors can trigger its development and reoccurrence. Long-term treatments are necessary and diverse and include cognitive-behavioral therapy, medications and mindfulness practices. In addition to these traditional methods, many sufferers prefer another natural recovery support with PTSD: a service dog companion. They say service dogs help them to speed recovery and overcome many life-related difficulties. In the following part, we will introduce you to the world of service dogs for PTSD.

What is PTSD?

Before you learn how a service dog helps someone with PTSD, it is advisable to have a general concept of PTSD. Most cases of PTSD are caused by a traumatic event or a series of events, including military combat, terrorist attacks, accidents or deaths, childhood abuse, and natural disasters.

People found that World War I veterans recovered from PTSD with the help of specially trained service dogs.

What is a service dog for PTSD?

What are the tasks of a service dog for PTSD?

1. Being a reminder

2. Being an interrupter

3. Being a protector

4. Being an emergency caller

Although PTSD treatment requires a number of psychological guides as well as prescribed medications, the companionship of a service dog can lower the risks of recurrent attacks when the PTSD patient is left alone.

How To Get A Service Dog

Service Dogs Making Huge Difference In Lives Of Veterans With PTSD

To get a service dog, the owner must meet several criteria. First, the owner must have a physical or mental disability that affects their day-to-day life and must be able to show that the animal can provide a service that benefits the persons specific illness. You will need to see a physician to request the recommendation needed to apply for a psychiatric service dog. There are specific requirements in place that the individual must meet before they can bring home a furry companion.

  • You must have a physical disability, specific illness, or disorder.
  • You need to be present during your dogs training.
  • You must still be able to give commands and care for your dog.
  • Your home environment must be stable.
  • You need a recommendation letter from your healthcare provider.
  • You must have the necessary finances to care for the dog.

Dog owners must be able to command and care for their service dog independently and provide a stable home environment for their animal. Often, owners are required to be a part of their service dogs training as well.

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How Can An Assistance Dog Help

Assistance Dogs help people with PTSD in two ways Advanced Skills Training, and the Human-Animal Bond:

1. Advanced Skills Training:

All ADA dogs undergo rigorous preparations for up to two years, including 16-20 weeks of advanced skill training. Our dogs master bespoke cues aimed at addressing PTSD-specific areas of difficulty, including:

  • Positioning cues, which allow the handler to position the dog as needed and create space for themselves in public or crowded places, allowing for an increased sense of security and encouraging community engagement.
  • Contact cues, which allow the handler to request physical contact facilitating grounding, mindfulness, and focus.
  • Nightmare interruption, which allows a dog to recognise signs of distress in sleep, or immediately after waking, and provide support for calming.

People living with PTSD often show external signs associated with their stress response . Our PTSD dogs are trained to use these external signs as cues for relevant skills to provide support when it is needed most.

Our training is highly personalised, shaping the dogs skills to individual needs. We encourage and support ongoing skill development in our dog teams.

2. The Human-Animal bond:

The close bond between a person and their dog encourages a sense of safety which can be tremendously beneficial for people living with PTSD.

Selected bibliography

American Psychiatric Publishing. . Diagnostic and statistical manual of mental disorders . Arlington.

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.

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Strong Desire To Help

Some dogs, depending on their breed, have a strong drive to help out and be put to work. Some of the other cute canines out there, well, not so much.

This is not always a big deal if youre seeking an emotional support dog. However, if youre looking for a service dogwhich will be required to help out with crucial tasks on a regular basisits important to select a dog with a strong desire to help.

The Best Psychiatric Service Dogs

Ptsd Dog Meme Fireworks

The best psychiatric service dogs are those that fit into your lifestyle and are able to provide you with the help you need. The breed doesnt truly matter, but the knowledge we have about purebred dogs can help people choose a dog that will be capable of service work and will suit their lifestyle.

Anxiety and PTSD can be difficult to manage, but a psychiatric service dog can provide relief through trained behaviors and companionship. Whether youre training your own dog or getting one through an organization, knowing about breeds can help you decide what type of dog would best suit your situation and needs.

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How Do I Get A Service Animal

Taking care of an animal can be a great way to improve your mental health. But not every landlord allows pets. You can get around this if a mental health professional certifies that you need an emotional support animal. There are other types of service animals tooits important to understand what youre trying to get, because the steps are different for each type.

Auditory Sustained Attention Test

A significant effect was found for group and for the test time × group interaction but not for the test time . At baseline both groups showed similar attention performance, however, following 12 months the dog programme group presented a marked increase of attention performance, while the control group deteriorated . Representative signals of the physiologically measured ASAT are presented in Figure 4.

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How Service Dogs Keep Ptsd Anxiety In Check

The study â which surveyed 216 veterans, including 134 with a service dog and 82 on a waitlist â found the service dogsâ training to detect increasing anxiety in veterans and provide physical contact to be the most important and most often used in a typical day. The veterans also rated all of the service dogsâ trained tasks as âmoderatelyâ to âquite a bitâ important in aiding their PTSD, including their ability to notice the veterans’ nightmares and wake them up, as well as their training to look the opposite way in a crowded room or store, which provides veterans with a sense of security.

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Standards And Training For Service Dogs

As stated above, service dogs must meet certain criteria to qualify. A registered service dog will need to meet the following criteria:

  • Temperament Service dogs must be well-tempered. This means that they are not quick to anger, and do not get stressed out easily. They should enjoy being touched, and not react aggressively if a patient mishandles them. While some of these behaviors can be trained, dogs will need to be inherently calm to some degree.
  • Shedding Therapy dogs should not shed excessively. Shedding can be a major problem for people with allergies, and it creates an extra mess that owners would need to clean up. Service dogs exist to brighten peoples day, not cause more problems.
  • Social Service dogs MUST be social and friendly. This is perhaps the most important requirement, as they will need to cheer people up when they need it the most. However, dogs that are overly energetic can be too rough with certain individuals , so service dogs must be social, but not overly-enthusiastic.
  • Adapting Therapy dogs will need to adapt to various environments. Sometimes they may need to provide support while there is a lot of noise going on, and other times they may need to help patients in cramped living spaces. In any case, they will need to be comfortable, no matter the setting. A dog that is uncomfortable might become shy or even aggressive, which could cause unnecessary harm to their owners.

Specific Tasks Service Dogs Can Perform To Support Their Owner

The various types of anxiety disorders carry with them many similarities between them but also some distinct differences in how they arise and affect the afflicted handler.

We have several articles on our websites blog page to help gain greater understanding about the lengths service dogs can go towards improving your well being. Heres a particularly good one.

Here are just some of the many ways that a PSD can help their owner:

Service dogs and therapy dogs, of the appropriate, desired breed, require training to hone their natural gifts, to best serve their owners during all points of their lives. Thankfully, there are a few options when it comes to training a service animal or service animals.

  • Self Training The ADA and DOT provide specific guidelines for those in need of a service dog, allowing owners to train the service animal themselves. However, many who require the services of a PSD understandably may not have the time, energy, or desire to research training methods and best practices specific to PSDs in order to best teach their new assistance animal.
  • Adopt from a Service Animal Organization This option removes the burden of the training of service animals from the owner and places it in the capable hands of certified service dog trainers. The only downside is the cost, which can reach upwards of $30,000.
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