Golden Healer Service dogs believes in healing people all over the world, one dog at a time! There are some physical disorders that are easily seen and more obvious to identify. This is typically a sight, hearing, or mobility impairment. Generally speaking, society has a positive outlook for a service animal when paired with these types disabilities.
What many people in society don’t realize is that there are many disorders that are unseen which can benefit the same, if not more, from having a service animal. A psychiatric service dog typically fits into this category.
Psychiatric and Mental Disorders
There are several psychiatric and mental disorders that would benefit from having a service animal. Some of these disorders include but are not limited to:
- Bipolar Disorder
- Obsessive-Compulsion Disorder (OCD)
- Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD)
While these disorders may be invisible, they can cause detrimental harm to those who suffer from it. In order for a dog to qualify as a Psychiatric Service Dog, it needs to provide a specific task which significantly alters the ability to perform a daily function or activity.
There are no regulations on the size, breed, or type of dog that can be used as a Psychiatric Service Dog. If there is an individual walking around the store with a small shih tzu that is wearing a service vest, that animal likely performs a life-altering task. Whether a bystander can psychically see what that is or not does not alter the right or urgency of having that dog accompany its handler.
Golden Healer Service Dogs seeks to increase awareness and education for these service dogs who perform essential tasks for their owners that suffer from invisible disabilities.
Psychiatric Service Dog Tasks
Every individual will have their own unique challenges and can sometimes suffer from more than one disorder. Here at Golden Healer Service Dogs, our goal is to isolate the main tasks that are going to increase quality of life and provide a sense of confidence and independence in day-to-day routines. Here are some of the most common tasks that we train for when preparing a Psychiatric Service Dog:
Signal or Mitigation
Many psychiatric and mental disorders may cause episodes of paranoia, hallucinations, repetitive behavior, panic attack, flash back, anxiety attack or even injurious conduct to that individual or others around him or her. Service dogs can be trained to assess its environment to identify the triggers in external factors or the handlers behavior that will onset these types of behaviors. The dog is then trained to signal the caretaker of the handler before these actions occur or mitigate the action by interrupting that behavior causing the handler to focus on the dog versus their urge to succumb to the episode.
Brace or Support
There can be physical side-effects from a mental attack such as dizziness, disorientation, or fatigue. Psychiatric Service Dogs can be trained to act as a brace to their handler when these moments of weakness occur. Psychiatric Service Dogs can also be trained to provide a barrier for increased personal space in places that are crowded to help prevent anxiety and claustrophobia. For individuals who suffer from PTSD, navigating around corners can also be a trigger for a mental attack. Psychiatric dogs can be trained to go ahead of the handler in order to check if anyone is on the other side allowing the handler a few moments before impact so they are not surprised or caught off guard.
Remind or Retrieve
While psychiatric disorders are managed mostly through therapy and professional support, there are some individuals who also have scheduled medication regimes that are critical to uphold with exactness on timing and dosage. Psychiatric Service Dogs can be trained to alert these individuals any time they need to take their medication assuring they do not miss a dosage. These dogs can also be trained to retrieve medications and other items that will assist the handler with their disability.
Calm or Comfort
Last but certainly not least is the calming and comforting effects that any service animal can provide to their handler. Psychiatric Service Dogs are trained specifically to provide calming support when the handler needs it the most. One form of comfort that is provided is through deep pressure therapy. Similar to a weighted blanket or pillow, Psychiatric Service Dogs are trained to lay down on their owners placing enough of their weight on them to create a calming and therapeutic relief in moments of anxiety and stress. The constant companionship that a service dog provides helps individuals who struggle with social interaction to feel more confident and self-reliant during moments of insecurity.
Providing Support To All
Whether you or someone you know and love suffer from the many invisible psychiatric disabilities that affect our society today, all of us here at Golden Healer Service Dogs want to help! We pride ourselves with the methods we use to prepare our dogs to become a companion of comfort, support, and healing. We encourage everyone to learn more about these disorders so that we can come together as a community to provide support to anyone who may be suffering alone because no one can see their wounds. If you would like to get involved with our cause for increasing awareness or preparing service animals to support these individuals please check out the different ways you can volunteer with our organization. You can also provide a monetary donation which will go towards the training and care of all our animals in training. If you or someone you know are suffering from a psychiatric disability and you would like to explore the option of getting a service animal, apply today!