According to the Anxiety and Depression Association of America (ADAA), anxiety disorders represent the most prevalent mental health afflictions in the United States, impacting 40 million adults annually.
This article aims to assist individuals grappling with debilitating anxiety, a condition that can render even the most mundane daily tasks exceedingly challenging.
While pets and emotional support animals often help alleviate anxiety, this guide will address whether individuals with anxiety are eligible for service dogs and provide a brief overview of the process for obtaining a psychiatric service dog (PSD) for anxiety.
Step 1: Evaluate Personal Requirements
Before pursuing a psychiatric service dog, it is crucial to ascertain whether it’s a viable solution. Anxiety is a pervasive condition, and most individuals will not fulfill the criteria for a psychiatric disability as defined by the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA).
A PSD may be a suitable option if the anxiety is chronic, severe and hinders functionality in various major life activities, like work, school, or social environments. You can consult a licensed healthcare professional to determine if your condition qualifies as an ADA disability and request a PSD letter confirming ADA disability status.
Moreover, there must also be a need for the dog to perform specific tasks that directly alleviate the handler’s disability, which we’ll discuss later.
If you are interested in a Psychiatric Service Dog Letter, we can connect you with a licensed healthcare provider.
Step 2: Select the Appropriate Canine
In choosing a psychiatric service dog, opting for a dog that aligns with specific needs and lifestyles is vital. Certain breeds, such as Labrador Retrievers and Golden Retrievers, are often favored as service dogs due to their temperament, intelligence, and trainability.
Nonetheless, many other breeds can and do excel as psychiatric service dogs. It’s important to research and spend as much time with an animal as possible to identify an ideal match. An alternative to adopting a dog for training, or training a dog you already own, involves purchasing fully trained service dogs from specialized organizations. However, the substantial costs associated with these expertly trained dogs can be prohibitive for many individuals.
Consider factors such as size, energy level, and grooming requirements when selecting a dog. Ensure the dog’s temperament matches personal needs – a PSD for anxiety should ideally be calm, attentive, and eager to please. Preferably, choose a relatively young dog (between 6 months and 2 years old) to facilitate training and maximize their working lifespan.
Step 3: Train the Psychiatric Service Dog
Training constitutes perhaps the most critical component of the psychiatric service dog acquisition process. PSDs must, of course, master fundamental obedience skills, such as sitting, staying, and coming, but also specialized tasks tailored to their handler’s needs.
A dog can only be designated as a service dog after being trained to execute tasks related to the handler’s disability. These tasks may encompass deep pressure therapy, interruption of detrimental behaviors, or guidance to a safe location during a panic attack.
The training duration typically ranges from six months to two years, contingent upon the dog and the complexity of the tasks. Dedication and patience are essential throughout the process. The bond and trust fostered with the dog during training will prove invaluable as well.
Pursuant to ADA regulations, individuals may train their dogs independently or enlist the assistance of a professional trainer or training organization.
Psychiatric service dogs are granted many rights under the law. For example, they are allowed in public spaces normally closed off to animals, and they can travel on airplanes free of charge. In addition, PSDs are allowed to live in residential buildings that restrict pet ownership.
These privileges come with great responsibility. A service dog is a major commitment of time, energy, and cost. Before pursuing one, it’s important to know whether you can even qualify for one. Speak to a mental health provider or doctor if you’re unsure whether a PSD for anxiety is right for you.