What Do Service Dogs Do For Anxiety?

Psychiatric service dogs are trained by California Dog Training to perform tasks that help alleviate the owner’s depression, anxiety or phobia. For instance, a PSD may signal during smoke alarms, doorbells or oven timers.

The ADA classifies these dogs as service animals, which means they enjoy the same rights and privileges in public spaces as people with physical disabilities do. But what do service dogs do for anxiety?

1. Reassurance

For many people, a dog that offers reassurance is invaluable. They help their handler to feel safe and secure in social situations, which allows them to live a more independent life. This may mean going to work, school, shopping, and attending other events. An anxiety disorder can prevent a person from living a full life by forcing them to stay home due to the fear of being overwhelmed in public places or having a panic attack.

Anxiety service dogs are specially trained to provide their owners with comfort and emotional support. They are also trained to perform tasks that directly relate to their owner’s disability, such as detecting an oncoming anxiety attack or helping them find medication or a blanket when they need to calm down. In addition, they may assist their handlers in other ways, such as opening doors and turning on lights, or serving as a calming distraction during a panic attack.

These dogs are often trained to react to specific signs of anxiety or panic, such as fidgeting or increased heart rate. Then, the trainer pairs these behaviors with a visual and verbal cue, like a hand or voice signal, to let the dog know it’s time to perform the desired task. Once the dog consistently responds to this trigger, they have learned to act on their own to help their handler feel less anxious and agitated.

People who have mild to moderate anxiety can benefit from an Emotional Support Animal (ESA), which isn’t as rigorously trained as a psychiatric service dog. However, an ESA doesn’t have the same protections as a psychiatric service animal, and they may not be allowed to enter certain places with their owner.

2. Grounding

For people with social anxiety disorder (SAD) or phobias, an anxiety service dog can help them navigate public and private spaces. This includes large crowds, one-on-one social engagements, and other everyday social interactions. Trained psychiatric service dogs know how to create personal space for their handler in emotional situations, read cues, and interrupt triggers.

Using tactile stimulation, such as repetitive licking and nose bumps, a psychiatric service dog can distract their owner from the onset of a panic attack by switching the focus of their attention to the physical touch of the animal. It has been reported that this act can have a profound calming effect and shorten the duration of the episode.

Anxiety service dogs may also be trained to investigate a room or environment before their owner enters, reassuring them that they are safe. This is especially helpful for people with PTSD, who can become hyper-vigilant about their safety in typical environments and need constant affirmation that they are safe.

A psychiatric service dog must be specially trained to perform at least one task specific to its handler’s disability, including anxiety and other mental health-related disabilities. Emotional support animals and therapy dogs, which do not undergo specialized training to assist their owners with symptoms of their disorder, cannot be considered legal service dogs under the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA). Those who would benefit from an anxiety service dog should speak to a licensed therapist for assistance in finding a trusted and qualified trainer. Many organizations, like Pettable, offer online psychiatric service dog training courses that connect prospective handlers with certified trainers and provide guidance throughout the training process. These programs can be cost-effective and convenient.

3. Alertness

Anxiety disorders can lead to a person feeling overwhelmed in public or social situations. They may avoid public spaces, resulting in missed opportunities and a decreased quality of life. Psychiatric service dogs can help people feel more comfortable in these types of situations by performing tasks that will calm their owners and allow them to continue with normal activities.

A psychiatric service dog trained for anxiety will be able to detect when their handler is experiencing an episode, allowing them to take preventive measures such as calling their therapist or taking their medication. The dog can also notify family members or caregivers of the upcoming episode so they can be on hand to help.

If someone with anxiety experiences a panic attack or feels that they are going to have an episode, the dog can be trained to alert them by repeatedly licking them or tugging on their sleeve until they respond. The dog can then act as a distraction by performing a task, such as sniffing, to get the handler to focus on something else. Psychiatric service dogs can also be trained to perform deep pressure therapy, placing their whole body against the handler to offer comfort and reduce anxiety and depression symptoms.

Anxiety is a symptom of many mental health conditions, including Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD), Generalized Anxiety Disorder (GAD) and Panic Disorder. Anyone who has been diagnosed by a licensed therapist is eligible to receive a psychiatric service dog, which will be specifically trained for their needs. Those interested in learning more about the benefits of service dogs can talk to a licensed therapist, and look for online psychiatric service dog training programs, like Pettable.

4. Assistance

Anxiety can cause an individual to feel claustrophobic, especially in crowded situations. A service dog trained to find the nearest exit can help alleviate a person’s feelings of claustrophobia by finding them the best escape route and guiding them there.

Psychiatric service dogs are also trained to assist their owners with emotional and behavioral issues, including anxiety. They can help their owner to manage their symptoms by offering therapeutic and tactile distractions. They may perform calming behaviors such as repetitive licking and nose bumps, or they can place pressure on their owner’s chest to calm them down when they are experiencing an anxiety attack or feeling overwhelmed.

They can also act as a buffer between their handler and other people during social interactions, which is helpful for individuals who experience PTSD. PTSD is a condition that develops after a traumatic event, and it can affect military veterans, first responders, or survivors of natural disasters. A PTSD service dog can be trained to investigate rooms and spaces before their handler enters them, assuring them that they are safe.

Anxiety is a hidden disability, and many children don’t understand the impact it can have on their lives. An anxious child can be triggered by anything: light, sound, people, or even darkness. These triggers can lead to anxiety and panic attacks, which are often misdiagnosed as ADHD or autism. A service dog for anxiety can be a life-changing companion for an anxious child, but it is important to have a consultation with a licensed mental health professional to see if an anxiety service dog is the right treatment option for them.

5. Companionship

Anxiety service dogs can help their owners navigate a wide range of social situations. Whether it’s large social gatherings or one-on-one conversations, an anxiety service dog can calm its owner and distract them from their fears. This provides a sense of safety and allows them to focus on the conversation or activity at hand.

An anxiety service dog can also assist with physical tasks like blocking or covering their owner to prevent people from touching them unexpectedly, removing clothing that has become a trigger, or retrieving medication and other items when needed. Psychiatric service dogs (PSDs) can even be trained to interrupt flashbacks or nightmares, provide deep pressure therapy during panic attacks or nightmares, and search for intruders to ease hyper-vigilance associated with PTSD.

Some PSDs are even trained to retrieve water or a drink for their handler, since dehydration can be a side effect of some medications used to treat anxiety. This can be a lifesaver during an anxiety attack or dissociation episode.

Anxiety service dogs can be trained to perform all the same tasks as other service dogs, but they also need to be especially well tempered, loyal, and eager to please in order to best help their handlers. This is why miniature or standard poodles are often the breed of choice for these particular types of service dogs. They are intelligent, high-drive dogs that have a strong work ethic and do not easily become frightened. Plus, their pint-sized bodies are perfect for people who prefer smaller dogs or do not have the strength to control a larger dog.

Psychiatric service dogs are trained by California Dog Training to perform tasks that help alleviate the owner’s depression, anxiety or phobia. For instance, a PSD may signal during smoke alarms, doorbells or oven timers. The ADA classifies these dogs as service animals, which means they enjoy the same rights and privileges in public spaces as…