You’ve seen them before; adorable dogs out and about in stores, on campus, in airports, out on the streets in a bright-colored vest. We know them, we love them and there are thousands of them across the United States, they are service dogs. Most people know these dogs wear these vests so they can be seen as working pooches, and are not to be disturbed. They serve a very important role to their owner, whether that be physical, medical or psychiatric.
This is no different in Florida! Service dogs help many people in Florida, specifically in Orlando. If you search for service dog training Orlando, you’ll find plenty of dog training results for all different kinds of service and therapy dogs. There is often confusion over what exactly qualifies a dog as a service dog, so let’s go over a few things.
What is a Service Dog?
First, it’s important to define exactly what a service dog is. According to the U.S. Department of Justice, a service dog is defined as “dogs that are individually trained to do work or perform tasks for people with disabilities.” It’s a common misconception that service dogs are only for people with physical disabilities. In reality, there are many types of service dogs, but there are four main types that we will discuss in this article.
- A service dog receives extensive certified training to help individuals with tasks or activities that their disability limits or prevents them from doing on their own. One of the most common types of service dogs is a seeing-eye dog for the visually impaired and blind. These dogs help their owners safely navigate the world, thus they are allowed in public spaces under the American with Disabilities Act (ADA). These dogs are allowed on flights, in stores, in non-pet friendly housing, etc. There are also other types of service dogs that receive training for special task forces, such as search and rescue dogs, police dogs, bomb sniffing dogs, and more.
- A psychiatric service dog also receives specialized training in order to perform certain tasks for an individual, but a PSD helps with unseen disabilities, such as anxiety, post-traumatic stress disorder, depression, etc. These dogs can sense anxiety attacks or PTSD episodes and help comfort their owner and alert them to it. Just like other service dogs, PSDs have public access rights and certain travel and housing privileges.
- Emotional support animals are companion animals who help alleviate symptoms of mental illness. Dogs and cats are the most common types of ESAs and require no formal training to be recognized as an assistance animal, they are just friendly pets that provide comfort and support. There is no certificate, it only takes a doctor’s note. 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. They may be allowed in non-pet housing, but that is all based on the guidelines that the specific establishment has in place.
- Therapy dogs are often found in hospitals or nursing homes. The presence of a therapy dog can bring comfort, social interaction, reduced stress, and joy into patients’ or residents’ lives. Therapy dogs usually undergo specialized therapy dog training in order to work in these special settings, but they are not defined as service dogs under the ADA. They do not have the same rights as service dogs and are only allowed in places that state they allow pets. They do not have any special housing rights either. Another type of therapy dog is a ‘Comfort Dog,’ which visits disaster areas or areas of crisis to calm victims and bring them comfort.
What is a Psychiatric Service Dog?
A psychiatric service dog is the main type of service dog we’ll talk about today. These specially trained dogs help support their owners out in the world as they deal with unseen disabilities, commonly PTSD and clinical anxiety.
Since PSDs require extensive, quality training, they are recognized as service dogs by the ADA and have certain rights, such as all of the following:
- 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. They must be on a leash at all times though.
- Travel rights: These rights ensure that service dogs can travel with their owners everywhere they may go. This means they must be allowed 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, as they are essential to the owner’s health and needs. It’s important to remember the dog must be on a leash during all travel.
- 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.
- 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. Again, the dog must be on a leash.
Click the below video to learn more about psychiatric service dogs.
Types of Psychiatric Service Dog Training
To earn these rights, these dogs go through extensive service dog training programs. There isn’t one set path for training, are a few routes owners can take to end up with a trained PSD.
- Self training: In this route, individuals can train their dog themselves. This requires a lot of research and must follow certain guidelines set by the ADA to be met during the training.
- 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 from reputable dog trainers.
- Partnering with a professional dog trainer: This is the most popular option because it ensures that your dog exhibits the best behavior when out in public and helps the dog understand all the specific signals for the task its owners will need it to do. It also allows the owner and dog to form a bond during the process and teaches the owner vital lessons too.
What Do Psychiatric Service Dogs Do?
It’s important to remember that by definition, a PSD must be trained to perform a specific task that aids its owner to be considered a service dog. This is why partnering with a professional dog trainer is often the best option. It’s important for both the dog and the owner to work together, which a dog training company can help with. It makes all parties a better team.
Common tasks PSDs are trained to handle include:
- Tactile Stimulation: This encompasses a dog using their body and paws to touch their owner and help calm them down during an anxious or depressive episode.
- Grounding: This is any means by which a service dog can bring their owner out of a depressive or anxious state and help them re-focus.
- Assistive actions: Such as picking up medications, items, helping open doors, etc.
- Balance support: Letting their owner use them as a center of gravity as some medications have disorienting effects.
- Interaction: The simple interaction of having a pet around often helps owners who suffer from mental disorders. It provides company and companionship, which in turn, provide comfort.
Now you can see why it’s important to work with a certified trainer, that’s a lot of information! 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.
How to Get a Psychiatric Service Dog in Orlando
While the service dog training process is different everywhere, we’re going to talk about Orlando, FL programs, lessons and trainers. It’s important to remember that before you can even think about owning a service dog, you must have a recommendation from a licensed mental health professional or doctor. Essentially, their “prescription” for a service dog is a letter, which is written on a professional letterhead and includes their license number. So you’ll need to have a doctor in Florida that you trust and is licensed before you can adopt a service dog.
According to the ADA, there are no limitations on the breed of dog you can use as your PSD. Therefore, it can be a dog you already own, a dog you adopt from a shelter or a dog you receive already trained from a service dog organization. This leaves you plenty of options to adopt Orlando pups and enroll them in a service dog course or training!
Service Dogs in Orlando
As we mentioned before, there are a few different ways you can go about acquiring a service dog. You can adopt an already trained dog, train your own independently, or work with a trainer with an adopted dog. In Florida, you have many choices!
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 places in Orlando, FL and surrounding cities where you can potentially adopt a new best friend. Visit their website and see if you find your perfect match!
- Orange County Animal Services email: AnimalServices@ocfl.net
- Pet Alliance of Greater Orlando email: firstname.lastname@example.org
- Poodle and Pooch Rescue email: email@example.com
- A Cause 4 Paws Rescue email: firstname.lastname@example.org
- Happy Trails Animal Rescue email: HappyTrailsAnimalRescue@Yahoo.com
- Endless Pawsibilities Animal Rescue email: email@example.com
- Puppy Pleasers Rescue email: firstname.lastname@example.org
It can be overwhelming to find a dog that is right for you, especially at a shelter. Remember, younger age dogs may be best and volunteers can offer insight on a dog’s behavior in a home and trainability. Ask questions such as “Do they know their name?” “Do they know some commands?” “Do you think they would be open to vigorous training?” and “How are they on a leash?”
Psychiatric Service Dog Training in Orlando
Finding a training program that works for you is key. Look for board certified dog trainers that specialize in service dog training. Most often, you will begin with phone consultations to describe what you are training your dog for. Service dog K9 training is quite different from basic obedience, so keep that in mind. You’ll do an evaluation with your pet, which will be different depending on the dog’s age and past, to assess their current level. The trainer will decide if any canine behavior modification is necessary and discuss training goals with you.
During training, your dog will be introduced to new situations, puppies and dogs of all sizes, other animals and new people, large events, both leash and off-leash training, community areas and much more. You will decide what skills your dog needs to know to help and support you anywhere. In any quality programs, any issues or problems will be addressed during your course.
Dogs must pass a series of tests in training to become a service dog, including a public area test, so it’s important to practice all they have learned in an unfamiliar area, not just at home. Expose them to a new situation and new people as part of their program so they can help serve you and are comfortable in their evaluation. It’s important they pass and receive a certification, but also receive all the skills and training they need to make you a great team.
Look for a quality train program in Orlando, or other parts of Florida such as Winter Garden, Winter Park and Orange City that specializes in service dog training. Contact them via email and set up a consultation to begin the process. You don’t want to work with just anyone for service dog training. See you and your dog as clients who want guidance from an expert to take your dog to the next level. Know what your requirements are and find a course that caters to what you need from your dog. It is a lot of work and a lot of training, but the results are a companion that can help anyone with a disability navigate the world on a level they hadn’t been able to before.
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!
What is a service dog?
According to the U.S. Department of Justice, a service dog is defined as “dogs that are individually trained to do work or perform tasks for people with disabilities.”
How can I get a service dog?
You must have a recommendation from a licensed mental health professional or doctor. Essentially, their “prescription” for a service dog is a letter, which is written on a professional letterhead and includes their license number.
What are the different types of service dogs?
There are four main types of service dogs: service dogs, emotional support dogs, therapy dogs, and psychiatric service dogs.
How do I train a service dog?
There are a few routes you can take to train your service dog, but the most popular is working with a certified trainer who specializes in service dog training.