Animals have the amazing ability to bring us peace and joy in our everyday lives, and they can also be trained to perform tasks that can help their owners immensely. Emotional support animals and service animals help thousands of individuals, drastically improving their quality of life. And now there is a new category of service dog called a psychiatric service dog (PSD). What is it, and how do you train a psychiatric service dog?
What is a Psychiatric Service Dog?
Psychiatric service dogs differ from emotional support animals in that they are trained to perform specific daily tasks which help their owners function in everyday life. They differ from normal service dogs in that they specialize in helping specifically individuals with a mental disability. They are protected under the Americans with Disabilities Act, meaning they can go with their owners anywhere, including public places and airplanes.
How Do You Train a Psychiatric Service Dog?
When it comes to getting a trained psychiatric service dog, there are three options available. You can adopt a service dog from a service dog organization. The dog will already have extensive training and be able to help you as soon as you bring it home. The average cost of adopting a service dog this way is between $15,000-30,000.
Your second option is to work with a professional trainer who knows exactly how to train a certified service animal. This method is the easiest, cheapest, and most popular, as it makes getting official certification for your service animal much easier than if you trained them yourself. A professional trainer will also know every skill your dog needs to learn, such as being calm in chaotic public places.
The third more challenging option is to train your PSD yourself. This option is definitely cheaper, even if it is much more difficult. Proper service dog training must meet two requirements. First, your dog must behave well in public places and does not show any forms of aggression, and second, the animal can perform some tasks directly related to your mental disability.
To prepare for the first requirement, called the public access test, your dog must be able to perform basic obedience commands such as sit and stay, get into and exit a vehicle in a controlled manner, enter a building in a controlled manner, remain calm when other people, dogs, and animals pass by and show no fear or aggression towards loud noises.
For the second requirement, called specialized task/work training, you must train your dog to perform a task directly related to your disability. If you have anxiety, you can train your dog to apply pressure point therapy. If you have depression, your dog can remind you to take your medication. Your dog can wake you up from nightmares, interrupt flashbacks, guide you to a safe location during a panic attack, or search a space for any potential threats or PTSD triggers before their owner enters. These are just a few of the potential tasks your dog can perform.
Clearly, psychiatric services dogs can offer a huge amount of support to someone with a mental disability. There are several options available for getting a trained psychiatric service dog, which includes adopting one, hiring a professional trainer, or training one yourself. They must meet two requirements in order to be certified and also have a letter of certification. If you need help getting a letter of certification for your psychiatric service dog, the professionals at United Support Animal can help you! Contact us today.