Dogs are commonly referred to as man’s best friend, but it’s not just because they offer good company. Dogs benefit humans in many ways. Physically, they help their owners get physical exercise and one study even found that people who acquired a dog reported fewer minor health problems and rated themselves as healthier than non-pet owners. They also offer emotional benefits. During COVID 19, pet adoptions soared and for good reason. People with animals, especially dogs, often report having better mental health and less loneliness, anxiety, depression, etc.
Besides being great pets, dogs have also become important as an assistance animal, or service animal. They work or perform tasks for humans who need them and provide vital assistance to their handler in many places, including both at home and in public. They become a trusted member of the family, follow instructions, help take care of their handler, and more.
What Is a Service Dog?
The first law and legislation passed regarding service dogs is also what defined them. The Americans With Disabilities Act (ADA), published in 1990, legally recognized service dogs as “dogs that are individually trained to do work or perform tasks for people with disabilities. Examples of such work or tasks include guiding people who are blind, alerting people who are deaf, pulling a wheelchair, alerting and protecting a person who is having a seizure, alerting owners to a panic attack, reminding a person with mental illness to take prescribed medications, calming a person with Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) during an anxiety attack, or performing other duties.”
Prior to this law, service dogs were not formally recognized by state or city law, which made it hard to perform their services for thousands of service dogs across the country and in many areas. Many people thought, and still believe, the only type of service dog is a guide dog, or seeing-eye-dog, but this is not the case. Over time, service dogs have been taught to assist with many types of disabilities and perform a variety of tasks for their person.
Types of Service Dogs
There are a few different types of service dogs, each with their own skillet and task training to assist and support their person. There are even other service animals, such as a miniature horse or monkey, but they are not recognized by the ADA as a legitimate service animal.
- A service dog receives extensive training to help an individual with tasks that their disability prevents them from doing. Some of the most common types of service dogs are seeing-eye-dogs, autism service dogs, and mobility service dogs. These dogs help their handlers safely navigate the world, thus they are allowed in any place or establishment under the ADA. This includes travel, thanks to the Air Carrier Access Act, which made it illegal to discriminate on the basis of disability when flying and allowed service animals to fly. There are also other types of service dogs that receive training for non-disability related issues as well, such as special task forces, such as search and rescue dogs, police dogs, bomb sniffing dogs, and more.
- A psychiatric service dog also receives specialized task training and is a recognized service dog, but they help unseen disabilities, such as post traumatic stress disorder, bipolar disorder, depression and others. These animals not only help their handler sense an episode, but also provide assistance and support through them. Just like other service dogs, psychiatric service dogs have public access rights and certain travel and housing privileges. For example, they are allowed on planes, in non-pet friendly housing, in public places, etc.
- Emotional support animals are companion animals who help provide comfort to their owners. Dogs and cats are the most common types of emotional support animals and require no training, they are simply pet dogs or pet cats that offer comfort to their owner. An emotional support dog requires a doctor’s note, but no other formal training. Because of this, emotional support dogs do not have the same federally protected rights as trained service dogs and are not able to accompany their owners in public places. But, they may be allowed in non-pet housing or not require pet rent in certain housing.
- Therapy dogs are often found in hospitals or nursing homes. The presence of therapy dogs can bring comfort, reduced stress, faster healing, reduced fatigue and joy into the lives of children or elderly folks in a hospital or at a nursing home. Therapy dogs usually undergo specialized therapy dog training in order to work in these special settings, but they are not defined as service animals under the ADA. They do not have the same rights as service dogs and are not allowed in public places unless specified. If you think your dog may be a good therapy dog, click here to learn how to begin training.
What Is a Psychiatric Service Dog?
A psychiatric service dog is a very unique type of service animal. These specially-trained service animals help support their owners’ unseen disabilities. As a service animal, they undergo specialized, extensive training and earn federally protected rights as assistance animals to someone with a disability. Let’s review those rights that are protected by federal law.
Service Dog Rights
- Public access rights: This means psychiatric service dogs have a right to come with their owners in public and private areas, such as restaurants, malls, businesses and stores where animals are not normally allowed. This can vary city-to-city law wise, but a service animal must be allowed in an area if their handler needs them. This right is protected by the ADA and being denied access because of a disability or service animal is discrimination.
- Travel rights: This ADA ensured right states that service dogs can travel with their handlers anywhere they go. This means they are allowed on all public transportation, including planes, trains, taxis, buses, etc. In fact, these dogs have a right to sit in the cabin and the owner does not have to pay a fee for their service animal to fly with them. This was recently modified and further defined under the Air Carrier Access Act mentioned earlier.
- Fair housing: Under the Fair Housing Act, service dogs can live in housing that doesn’t normally allow pets at no additional fee. This applies even if the housing location has a no pets policy. It’s vital that a handler have the support of their assistance animal at home. If an individual is denied housing because of a service animal, this violates disability law and is discrimination and can be brought up in a court of law.
- Educational Facility Access: Under the Individuals with Disabilities Act, service animals can accompany their owner into schools, colleges, universities, etc. Whether a disability is physical or mental, if someone needs the support of a service animal to learn in a facility, it must be allowed.
What Do Psychiatric Service Dogs Do?
By definition, a psychiatric service dog must be trained to perform a specific task that aids or provides assistance to its handler with their disability. This is what makes them service animals and sets them apart from pets or other animals. Some tasks psychiatric service dogs are trained to handle include:
- Wake up their owner from nightmares
- Provide tactile stimulation during anxiety attacks
- Grounding a person dealing with anxiety
- Fetch medication, phone, water, etc.
- Lead their handler to a safe site
- Provide balance assistance if their handler is struggling
- Help their handler navigate a new place
- Remind their handler to take medication at certain times of day
The services these dogs provide are very important to people suffering from depression, bipolar disorder, PTSD and many other disabilities. 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.
Types of Psychiatric Service Dog Training
The above is just a short list of what these amazing assistance animals can do. A service animal goes through extensive service dog training and for good reason. A program like that is difficult, but provides someone with a disability a lifelong companion and trusted service animal.
Training service dogs is a difficult task, especially since what needs to be taught varies for all disabilities. It’s vital to train your assistance animal well, so let’s discuss the different types of training you can pursue.
- Self training: It is possible for a handler to train their own service dog, but it is not recommended. Task training is very difficult and an expert assistance animal trainer may be your best bet. They can help you throughout the process and give you the most success. If you do go this route, it’s important to do your research to ensure you’re ready to train an animal. There are no regulations on how many hours or what type of training a service dog must undergo, which is why we recommend working with a trainer with experience.
- Adopting an already trained PSD from a service dog organization: This is a popular method, but is expensive. Service dog trainers work with a dog, usually from birth, to prepare them to be a service animal. This is great for those who need a service dog quickly, or don’t have the time to train your service animal. The main problem with this method is the high price. A trained assistance animal will cost you around $30,000 from reputable trainers, which is quite expensive.
- Partnering with a professional dog trainer: This is the most popular option and for good reason. Working with a trainer allows you to be an assistance animal trainee. They’re the expert and you and your pup both learn from them. They will create programs for you, help your dog behave in public, give great information, answer any questions you may have, provide a training site and much more.
How to Get a Psychiatric Service Dog in Oregon
Now you know all about the training, but if you want to train your own service animal or work with a trainer, you must have a need for the dog.The first step to getting a PSD is consulting with a mental health professional or doctor. They will discuss your mental health and see if a service dog may be a good fit for you. It’s important to remember that in order to get one, you must have a diagnosed disability. Without that, you may still benefit from an emotional support animal. Find a doctor in your city that you trust and be honest about your feelings and mental state.
Once you have a doctor’s recommendation, it’s time to find a dog for you. Any dog can become a service dog. There is a common misconception that only certain breeds can be a service animal, but that is not true. It’s all about finding what works for you. If you struggle with balance because of your medication or condition, a larger dog may be a good choice so they can support you. Small dogs also have many benefits as well, especially for children or people who need more mental assistance than physical assistance. The ADA states no specific breed is better than any other at providing services to their handler.
Adopt a Service Dog in Oregon
If you want to find your own service animal, animal shelters and rescue organizations are a great place to find a canine companion who you can then train to become a psychiatric service dog. Below are some shelters in Oregon where you can potentially adopt a new best friend. Visit their website, scan the content, see if you find your perfect match and fill out an application!
- Oregon Dog Rescue – Tualatin, Oregon
- Puplandia Dog Rescue – Aloha, Oregon
- Oregon Friends of Shelter Animals – Hillsboro, Oregon
- Family Dogs New Life Shelter – Portland, Oregon
- Seva Dog Family Shelter – Junction City, Oregon
- Newberg Animal Shelter – Newberg, Oregon
- Oregon Humane Society – Portland, Oregon
These Oregon shelters will help you find your perfect fit! Their adoption programs will help you find the best dog for the services you need. Be sure to mention your disability and the fact that the dog would become a service animal. Volunteers will offer vital information about how the dog is in public, how they do on and off site, answer questions about their behavior and much more. Each website has an email address listed for you to contact with
Psychiatric Service Dog Training in Oregon
Once you have found the perfect canine compassion, it’s time to begin training. As mentioned earlier, partner with a service dog training organization or service dog trainer for the best results.
Begin by searching for service animal training programs in your area. In a state like Oregon, look in big cities such as Portland, Salem, Eugene, Oregon City and others near you for a qualified trainer. Read reviews, visit their website and see what training times they offer to fit your schedule.
After you find the program you want to work with, your trainer will map out a training program for you and your dog based on information you provide about both your pup and your disorder. Dogs are individuals, so custom service dog training plans are usually necessary. During training, your dog will learn the tasks it needs to perform, be introduced to busy public places, meet other service animals and dogs, learn which products you need retrieving, etc.
Search for trainers with experience with service animals in the Oregon area. You are the clients here, so ask plenty of questions. These dogs help make your life better, so take this training seriously and know what you want to accomplish. State your goals, train hard and earn a life-long companion to take on the world with.
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 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 I train my own service dog?
It is possible to train your own service animal, but it is not recommended. It’s best to work with a professional trainer for the best results.
What is the difference between a service dog and an emotional support animal?
A service dog is a federally recognized assistance animal that undergoes specialized training to assist people with disabilities, while emotional support animals are merely pets who help provide comforts and require no formal training.
How long does service dog training last?
How long training lasts greatly varies depending on what method you go with, the age of your dog, what you need the dog to do, and other factors. You can expect to spend an average of six months training.