At CertaPet, we are a dedicated team focused on one thing: Getting those in need the help they deserve as quickly as possible. Whether from a psychiatric service dog or an emotional support animal, our easy and painless 3 step process will direct you down the path to regaining the power to live a life free from stress and worry.
The purpose of this article is to inform and educate people about service dogs, the differences between a therapy dog, another term for a psychiatric service dog, and a support dog or emotional support animal.
We relay how service dogs can help all people who experience balance and stability issues from medications, or other physical and mental illnesses, how they are specifically trained, and what you can do to acquire one for yourself.
What is a Counterbalance?
Counterbalance is when a mobility assistance dog uses its body weight to brace against their handler or a balance harness to help their owner maintain balance while walking. This is extremely important for people who have trouble walking but can’t use a cane or other device, or people whose legs frequently give out. Having this balance harness on a mobility dog is just an extra safety measure that some handlers choose to use on their bad days.
Read more about the importance of counterbalance here.
Common Treatments and Coping Mechanisms for Counterbalance
Traditionally, people with balance and mobility issues would receive mechanical devices like canes, crutches, a wheelchair and walkers to brace against. In many cases, prescription medications would be employed to combat physiological reasons for decreased balance and mobility i.e., vertigo, dizziness, an anxiety attack, adverse fatigue and weakness reactions from other medications.
Mobility service dogs or mobility assistance dogs can help many people suffering from balance or mobility constraints by using their body weight to brace as well as a balance harness or mobility harness. However, they are not meant to replace a cane or crutches as they are not trained or able to provide the constant physical support given by those devices.
As more and more people seek holistic alternatives when developing their treatment plans, the use of assistance animals such as psychiatric service dogs is becoming more commonplace.
To evolve with these times, CertaPet has made the process for this revolutionary service completely digital, not to mention easy to navigate. We provide a free, confidential screening test which takes less than 5 minutes to determine your candidacy. From there, you will be matched with a licensed mental health professional in your state and contacted to set up your telehealth appointment. The final step is our therapist’s recommendation, which includes a treatment plan with your particular service dog, and an official ESA letter if you qualify.
And that’s all you will need to obtain either a psychiatric service dog or an emotional support animal, based on your situation. Whether you receive a therapy dog, emotional support animal, or any other type of service animal, you’ll be taking the safer, more beneficial route that only modern holistic alternatives can provide.
What are Psychiatric Service Dogs?
A psychiatric service dog (PSD) is a type of assistance animal that’s trained to perform specific tasks for individuals living with a mental illness. These unique tasks are directly related to the handler’s disability.
Most of us are accustomed to seeing guide dogs supporting those with physical disabilities like hearing or sight impairment. However, a psychiatric service dog helps people with typically unseen, unnoticeable disabilities.
For example, veterans with post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) who experience panic attacks or similar challenges can greatly benefit from the service of a PSD. Those who live with social phobia or other anxiety disorders can also find the service of a PSD to be incredibly beneficial.
CertaPet’s Blog page is fully stocked with informative articles, testimonials, and data from mental health professionals. For a more in-depth overview of this complicated subject, read our full article.
How Can Mobility Service Dogs Help with Counterbalance
Mobility Dogs help people with impaired balance, gait, or coordination to safely walk or regain their footing after a fall, and they help individuals who utilize prosthetics or other assistive devices, including wheelchairs, gain unprecedented levels of independence, freedom and mobility. They are also frequently trained to help their handler with everyday duties that their human partner can’t readily perform because of their disability, or can only perform with difficulty, like picking up dropped items, retrieving out-of-reach objects, and opening/closing doors, drawers and cabinets. Brace and Mobility Support Dogs (BMSDs), also known as Mobility Assistance Dogs, are highly trained Service Dogs partnered with individuals who have a physical impairment, disability or disorder that affects their mobility, ambulation or maneuverability.
Mental Health Benefits
A handler with balance and mobility issues can easily slip into a mindset of wanting to isolate and generally decrease mobility out of fear of injury, embarrassment, or other mental illness symptoms. A mobility support dog can be trained to build confidence and decrease anxiety by assisting in maneuvering both in and out of the home. Mobility support dogs use a mobility harness to help their owner brace themselves during movement, which adds mental support to the mobility support.
Physical Health Benefits
The role of a mobility assistance dog starts with physically driven tasks which create both physical and mental health benefits. The main physical benefits have to do with maintaining trust through companionship and the level of movement through exercise while preventing injuries. While focusing on your mobility tasks with your mobility support dog, and seeing how much more can be accomplished with their assistance, your overall physical health will be improving also.
Specific Tasks Service Dogs Can Perform to Support Their Owner
The human-canine relationship is an incredibly multifaceted one. Many human impediments, physical or mental, can be relieved or reversed by owning a dog. Mobility assistance dogs are trained to support or assist with mobility ailments specific to the owner. And that can make an even greater difference, going above and beyond the baseline benefits. Here are just a few of the tasks mobility assistance dogs can use counter balancing:
- Nosing their handler over onto their side or into a recovery position
- Dragging a handler who has fallen to a safe spot, or dragging a heavy piece of medical gear to the handler
- Supporting an unsteady or injured handler as they struggle back to their feet or into their wheelchair
- Helping someone with severely limited mobility or a significantly decreased level of alertness maneuver into a safer or more stable position
- Brace body weight, using light pressure, against their owner to increase stability or prevent a fall
- Using the balance harness to stop forward motion before a fall, change position, or use the mobility support dog’s inertia to help initiate movement.
- Running to wake up another person who resides or works in the home and return with them to the disabled individual, if their handler is unresponsive, or if their medical equipment is alarming
- Calling an emergency response team on a special phone if the handler is unconscious, or if the handler’s medical equipment has been alarming for a set time period without being turned off
- Helping someone who has fallen and cannot breathe in the position they’re in (for example, on their back) to turn over or shift positions, or even regain their footing or access to their chair
The site Anything Pawsable has a lot more to say here.
Emotional Support Dog vs. Psychiatric Service Dog: What’s the Difference?
PSDs and ESAs are both a type of assistance animal that a licensed mental health professional or doctor can prescribe to someone as part of their treatment plan.
However, only PSDs are recognized as official ‘service animals’ under the Americans with Disabilities Act. As legally recognized service animals, they’re entitled to the following rights:
- Public Access Rights (under the Americans with Disabilities Act they can accompany their owner into grocery stores, restaurants, etc.)
- Travel Rights (under the Air Carrier Access Act, they can accompany their owner in the airline cabin and the owner does not have to pay a pet fee)
- Fair Housing (under the Fair Housing Act, they can live in housing units even if there’s a no pets policy)
- Educational Facility Access (under the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act, they can accompany their owner into schools, colleges, universities, etc.)
ESAs on the other hand, do not have the same privileges when it comes to public access and travel, due to new DOT regulations put into place on January 11, 2021. Many major airlines now only recognize ESAs as pets, which means owners will have to pay a pet fee. (More information on these regulations and the airlines that have changed the policies here: https://www.certapet.com/new-dot-regulations-for-emotional-support-animals/ ). However, people can still enjoy fair housing rights with their ESAs, even if they live in a no pets unit.
The reason for this difference is that PSDs have to be specially trained to perform a certain task or type of work that helps support a person living with a disability (ESAs on the other hand receive no special training – they’re just meant to offer comfort through their companionship).
To be considered a service dog, a PSD must be trained to perform a specific task (examples here: https://www.certapet.com/how-to-train-a-psychiatric-service-dog/ ), which is why partnering with a professional trainer is the best option.
We’re currently onboarding our professional dog trainers and will be offering this option very soon. In the meantime, those interested in getting a psychiatric service dog can begin the process by seeing if they qualify for a PSD through our free screening here: https://www.certapet.com/psychiatric-service-dog-screening/.
How to Get a Service Dog For Counterbalance
In order to obtain a service dog, or therapy dog, for counterbalance you must receive a recommendation from a licensed mental health professional or a doctor. This ‘prescription’ takes the form of a letter, which will be written on your health professional’s letterhead and include their license number.
There are no limitations to the breed of dog you can use as your psychiatric service dog or therapy dog. Mobility service dogs can therefore either be chosen from a dog you already own, a dog you adopt from a shelter or rescue group, or a dog you receive from a service dog organization. Keep in mind, however, that the dog must be specially trained to perform certain tasks in order to be recognized as a service dog under the Americans with Disabilities Act.
CertaPet wants you to get a service animal as quickly as possible. And we know our services can do just that through our certified telemedicine evaluation and rapidly submitted recommendation letters. If you have additional questions, read these Healthline and Top Dog Tips articles.
How to Train a Service Dog For Counterbalance
In the sections above, we touched on the different training methods of an emotional support assistance dog. Here are some more details, along with a supporting blog post, regarding the typical training of support, therapy, or service dogs.
There are two components of an effective training regimen for all service dogs. First, the General Public Access Test is performed to instill good manners in service animals, ensuring that they behave appropriately in public settings. The second step, the specialized task/work training is done, which satisfies the requirement of all PSDs to be able to perform a specific action that’s directly related to their handler’s disability.
No matter the underlying causes of your mobility or balance issues, or how it affects which aspects of your life, this two step training process can not only create a service dog out of any dog but tailor their abilities to combat each and every symptom the handler may encounter.
The Best Service Dog Breeds for Counterbalance
Any breed of dog could be transformed into a mobility service dog or psychiatric service animal. It could be a dog you have owned for years or one you just picked up from a shelter or adoption agency. But, like with most things, there are a handful of dog breeds that are superiorly adept than the rest.
An article from Wag Walking gives their Top 10:
- Labrador Retriever
- Golden Retriever
- Standard Poodle
- Bernese Mountain Dog
- German Shepherd
- Great Dane
- Doberman Pinscher
To read up more on any of these breeds, look here.
Are you interested in getting a psychiatric service dog?
Here at CertaPet, we can help. Certapet is an online telehealth platform that improves access to mental health care in the U.S. with a focus on providing services to individuals who are seeking animal assisted interventions as part of their treatment plan.
We are currently coordinating with emotional support dog trainers who specialize in the service animal space and who will soon work in tandem with our network of licensed mental health professionals to make the process of getting and training a psychiatric service dog affordable, convenient, and hassle-free.
We’ll have more information available soon about our Psychiatric Service Dog Training options. In the meantime, you can take our FREE pre-screening below to see if you qualify for a PSD!
Can you have a service animal for counterbalance?
Absolutely, yes. Service dogs, therapy dogs, and emotional support animals are trained to assist in the activities of daily living for those who have one or more physical and/or mental health conditions, including mobility impairment and balance issues.
How do you qualify for a psychiatric service dog?
We have a fast, easy, and stress free way to determine just that. We start with a free screening, move on to a telemedicine evaluation from a licensed professional, and finish with a personalized plan and ESA letter of qualification.
What can a psychiatric service dog do?
Under the ADA, a service animal is defined as a dog that has been individually trained to do work or perform tasks for an individual with a disability. The task(s) performed by the dog must be directly related to the person’s disability.
Can I use any breed of dog as an emotional support animal or psychiatric service animal?
Any breed of dog can take to the psychiatric service training well and you can even use one you already own. However, there are particular breeds that excel in these kinds of emotional, stressful, and difficult situations.
How are support dogs trained?
Service dogs can be trained by you, the handler, or by you with the assistance of a certified trainer. A third option is to adopt a service animal from an accredited training organization for service dogs.