Dogs have been a part of many people’s lives, giving a companion and a friend, and often times offering emotional support whether it is realized or not.
Service dogs have been around for quite some time, often seen as Seeing Eye dogs and Hearing dogs.
However, the medical field is also recognizing the significant use of dogs as Psychiatric Service Dogs that can help provide relief and improvement of the quality of life for people with many different mental illnesses.
There are many different types of mental illnesses out there and although a Psychiatric Service Dog may not be suitable for every one of those illnesses, there are still many that one of these types of dogs can provide a range of support for. Some of the main mental illnesses that are suitable for a psychiatric service dog are:
- Post-traumatic stress disorder
- Panic Disorder
Psychiatric Service Dogs are trained specifically for each individual and their mental illness. The dogs are trained to pick up on certain cues and then perform an action and certain tasks. Some of these can include:
Bringing an individual their medication:
Medication can be put in a small bag, in a cupboard that the dog can open with a basket inside, or to locate a bag or purse in the home and bring the medication when it is needed.
This can also include bringing a beverage so that the person can take their medication if they are in a crisis and cannot get it themselves. It can also be as simple as giving a reminder to take the medication at certain times such as in the morning or at night.
Picking up on emotional state and providing comfort:
The dog can be trained to recognize when a person is feeling more depressed than usual and when that happens, to be trained to put their body weight on the person in order to provide them emotional comfort.
Picking up on anxiety:
In this instance, the service dog can pick up when the person is feeling higher levels of anxiety when in a group of people and pretend to have to relieve itself. This allows the person to excuse themselves from the situation in order to allow them some time to try and calm the anxiety or take a medication to relieve their symptoms.
Disrupt a person lost in thought:
When a person becomes lost in thought and has “zoned out,” Psychiatric Service Dogs can be trained to take an action such as licking their hand or face in order to bring them out of their thoughts and back into the present moment.
This can help to bring a person out of an instance of deep negative emotional thoughts, such as suicidal thoughts.
Waking up for work or school:
Dogs can be trained to respond to either an alarm clock or an internal clock to wake a person up in order to go to school by nuzzling them with their nose or licking their face, giving stimulation and helping the person to get up and get going for work or school.
These are just some of the capabilities and options available to help and assist people with a mental illness.
People with severe mental illnesses often find themselves isolated from others, and just the presence of the dog and the responsibility of taking care of the dog can also help to provide comfort.
Each type of mental illness has different types of cues, actions, and tasks that the dog can be trained to do based on the individuals’ needs.
Often times these Psychiatric Service Dogs can be very costly to obtain already trained, and even training by the individual and a trainer, although less costly, still costs more than most can afford.
However, with crowdfunding sites like Go Fund Me and through local service clubs and charities, some financial assistance can be found to obtain a service dog and get the proper training.
For a more in-depth list of tasks a Psychiatric Service Dog and perform and help with, visit here.
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