April 12

Service Dog Training Michigan

Psychiatric Service Dog

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Our dogs are big parts of our lives. It is scientifically proven that owning a dog has both physical and mental health benefits and improves quality of life. Just ten minutes of petting a dog can dramatically boost your mood, walking your dog daily can decrease your risk of heart disease and they help us not feel alone.

This is just for pet dogs as well! There is a whole other type of dog who does even more for their person; service dogs. Service dogs have been around much longer than we think, but were not formally recognized until 1990, when the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) was passed. This act described service dogs to include “guide dogs, signal dogs, or other animals that are specifically trained to assist a person with a disability.” Prior to this time, the only type of service dog around was a seeing eye dog for the blind.

Now, there are many different types of service dogs who assist with many different tasks, offering both physical and mental support to their handler.

What is a Service Dog?

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A service dog is legally defined by the U.S. Department of Justice as “dogs that are individually trained to do work or perform tasks for people with disabilities.” On a broader spectrum, a service dog is a trained dog that provides assistance to a person with a disability or impairment.

As we mentioned, there are many types of service dogs. Let’s go over the main types.

  • A service dog receives extensive training to help individuals with tasks or activities that their disability limits or prevents them from doing on their own. The most common form of a service dog is a seeing-eye dog for the visually impaired and blind. Other types include mobility service dogs, search and rescue dogs, police dogs, bomb sniffing, dogs, etc. These dogs serve very important roles in keeping people safe, so they have rights. In fact, did you know a service dog is not a pet? This means they are allowed in public spaces under the American with Disabilities Act. They are allowed on flights, in stores, in non-pet friendly housing, etc.
  • A psychiatric service dog also assists their owners and is a recognized service dog, but they assist with unseen disabilities, such as anxiety disorders, post-traumatic stress disorder, depression, etc. You may have seen these dogs with autistic children or soldiers who suffer from PTSD. Psychiatric service dogs can sense anxiety attacks or PTSD episodes and help comfort their owner and alert them to it. Their vests will typically declare what type of service dog they are.
  • Emotional support animals are companion animals who do just what their name says, provide emotional support. These animals require no formal training to be recognized as an assistance animal, they are just friendly pets that provide comfort and support to their owner. To be recognized as an ESA, they do require a doctor’s note from a mental health professional though, but no other formal registration or training. They do not have the same federally protected rights as trained service dogs and are not able to accompany their owners in public places or on planes, unless specified. But they do have some housing rights as they may be allowed in non-pet housing for no fee.
  • Therapy dogs (also known as facility dogs) are often found in hospitals or nursing homes. They live at home with their owners and are pets, but visit hospitals, schools and other facilities to bring joy. The presence of a therapy dog presence brings comfort, reduces stress and anxiety and boosts the overall mood of everyone around. After natural disasters or tragic events, some of these dogs, known as comfort dogs, visit affected areas to help bring joy to victims and their families. They do not have the same rights as service dogs and are only allowed in places that allow pets.

What is a Psychiatric Service Dog?

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Psychiatric service dogs are ADA recognized service dogs that help their handler have a sense of independence in the world with their mental disorders or disabilities. Some common conditions these pups help with include PTSD, anxiety, ADHD, autism, etc.

Each dog is different and is trained to assist their owners with their particular needs, but some common ways these pooches help their handler include:

  1. Bringing medication, or water to help swallow medication, during an anxiety attack.
  2. Bringing a phone over during an anxiety attack, which you can use to call your therapist or other support system.
  3. Leading someone to you if you’re in crisis.
  4. Providing tactile stimulation, such as licking your face, to help disrupt an emotional overload and stop self harming behaviors.
  5. Providing pressure against your chest or abdomen to create a calming effect during moments of distress.

This is just a small list of the tasks these amazing service animals can do. They make life for people with disabilities much easier and give them the tools and support they need to control their behaviors and enjoy life with their impairment.

Psychiatric Service Dog Rights

Since PSDs require extensive, quality training, they are recognized as service dogs by the ADA and have certain rights, such as:

  • Public access rights: This means psychiatric service dogs have a right to come with their owners in public locations, such as restaurants, malls and stores where animals are not normally allowed.
  • Travel rights: These rights ensure that service dogs can travel with their owners everywhere they go. Traveling can be especially triggering for those with mental disorders, so it’s important that their dog come with them to help them stay in control. This means they are granted access onboard planes, in airports, on trains, on public transportation, such as buses, and more. These dogs have a right to sit in the cabin and the owner does not have to pay a fee for their pet to fly.
  • 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. This way a service dog owner can have the support they need from their pup in their own home. Housing cannot legally deny a service dog.
  • Educational Facility Access: Under the Individuals with Disabilities Act, service animals can accompany their owner into schools, colleges, universities, etc. This way owners can still continue their lessons and courses with their dog by their side.

Service dog rights are always adapting and can differ depending on local laws and regulations, so be sure to check your local ordinances before attempting to adopt or train a service dog.

How Do I Get a Psychiatric Service Dog?

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The first step in acquiring a psychiatric service dog is finding out if you need one. You should consult with a licensed mental health professional. Psychiatric service dogs are only given to people who suffer from mental issues that disturb their quality of life, so you may benefit from just even an emotional support animal if your anxiety disorders or other mental disorders are not too out of control for you to handle. Set up a meeting or consultation to see if you could be a good candidate.

The next step is finding a dog that works for you. The good news, according to the ADA, there are no limitations to the breed of dog you can use as your psychiatric service dog. Your PSD can therefore either be 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.

Finally, it comes down to training. If you adopt an already trained dog, continuous training is still important, but if you adopt a shelter dog or purchase a puppy from a breeder, even more training is absolutely vital, as the dog is a blank slate and must be prepared to help you.

Types of Psychiatric Service Dog Training

To be a service dog, these dogs go through extensive training. There are a few ways to do this, which we’ll discuss.

  • Self training: If you do this, you train your service dog yourself. This requires a lot of research and must follow certain guidelines set by the ADA to be met during the training. It’s a slower path as well, and can lead to more errors, but is the most affordable.
  • Adopting an already trained PSD from an organization: This method requires a lot of money upfront, as training a service dog is expensive, but connects owners with an already trained dog that is ready to help them navigate the world. Trained service dogs can cost around $30,000, which is a large investment, but you are receiving a well trained dog with minimal time put in.
  • Partnering with a professional dog trainer: This is the most popular option because it allows for you to learn alongside your dog. A trainer has experience and can help you train your dog to what you need it to do to help you with your impairment. It also allows the owner and dog to form a bond during the process. It’s important to work with a reputable trainer or business if you seek out this method.

Adopt a Service Dog in Michigan

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We’re setting out to help owners find their perfect service animal all across the country, so let’s help you narrow it down.

Animal shelters and rescue groups are a great place to find a canine companion who you can then train to become a Psychiatric Service Dog. Below are some shelters and rescues in the state of Michigan where you can potentially adopt a new best friend. Each of the following are a nonprofit organization dedicated to saving the lives of dogs in their area.

  1. Michigan Humane
    Address: 3 different locations
    Detroit
    7887 Chrysler Drive
    Detroit, MI 48211
    Westland
    900 N. Newburgh Road
    Westland, MI 48185
    Howell
    2464 Dorr Road
    Howell, MI 48843
    Phone: 866-MHUMANE
    Email: Click here
  2. Michigan Animal Rescue League
    Address: 325 Martin Luther King Jr. Blvd N., Pontiac, MI 48342
    Phone: (248) 335-9290
    Email: [email protected]
  3. Oakland County Shelter
    Address: 1200 N Telegraph Road Building 42 E, Pontiac, MI 48341
    Phone: 248-858-1070
    Email: [email protected]
  4. Kent County Animal Shelter
    Address: 740 Fuller Avenue NE Grand Rapids, MI 49503
    Phone: (616) 632-7300
    Email: [email protected]
  5. SPCA Southwest Michigan
    Address: 6955 West KL Avenue Kalamazoo, MI 49009
    Phone: (269) 344-1474
    Email: [email protected]
  6. Friends of Michigan Animal Rescue
    Address: 51299 Arkona Rd. Belleville, MI 48111
    Phone: 734-461-9458
    Email: [email protected] 
  7. Humane Society of West Michigan
    Address: 3077 Wilson Dr. NW Grand Rapids, MI 49534
    Phone: 616.453.8900
    Email: [email protected]

Search these shelter’s websites to see if any puppies or dogs stand out and could possibly be your next best friend and part of your service dog journey! Their staff and volunteers will be able to help you find your perfect companion. Reach out to them and wait for a response to possibly meet your new best friend!

Psychiatric Service Dog Training in MI

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It’s overwhelming trying to find all the information you need to train your service dog. Once you have a dog in mind, find a training program that works for you. Service dog training is quite different from basic obedience, so keep that in mind during your search. You want a service dog training program specifically.

During training, your dog will be introduced to new situations and different environments. Some of these could be large crowds, different terrains, your home, walking well on a leash, fetching items, other dogs, etc. You will decide what skills your dog needs to know to help and support you anywhere.

Look for a quality service animal training program in Michigan. Big cities tend to have more programs, so try searching in Detroit, Grand Rapids, Kalamazoo or other areas. Remember, you want one that specializes in service dog training.

You don’t want to work with just anyone for service dog training. You want an expert trainer who will help you and provide vital information to make your pup a well trained service dog. Know what your requirements are and find a course that caters to what you need from your pooch. You’re entering a partnership between not only you and your dog, but also you and your trainer.

Conclusion

Now you can see why service animals and assistance animals are a vital part of life for people with disabilities. They help with so much and make a great team with their handlers. It seems scary, but that could be you soon! If you’re struggling with your mental health and think you could benefit from a psychiatric service dog, we are here to help.

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!

FAQs

What is a psychiatric service dog?

Psychiatric service dogs are ADA recognized service dogs that help their handler have a sense of independence in the world with their mental disorders or disabilities. Some common conditions these pups help with include PTSD, anxiety, ADHD, autism, etc.

What is an emotional support dog?

Emotional support animals are companion animals who do just what their name says, provide emotional support. These animals require no formal training to be recognized as an assistance animal, but do require a doctor’s note.

Can my own dog become my service dog?

You can absolutely train your own dog to become a service dog! We recommend working with a certified service dog trainer, but you can also do it yourself.

About the author 

Lily Velez

Lily Velez is the Blog Manager for CertaPet, a revolutionary online telehealth platform that improves access to mental health care, with a focus on providing services to individuals who are seeking animal assisted interventions as part of their treatment plan. An expert in the intersection between mental health and the healing bond of animals, she's passionate about educating readers on the benefits of psychiatric service dogs and emotional support animals.

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