Any dog lover knows why dogs are so great. A family dog can change the lives of everyone in the household. Science shows dog owners are healthier, happier and feel safer with a dog around. A dog just seems to understand your needs and a simple bark or cuddle can make you feel so much better.
Beyond just being great family pets, dogs service an important role for people with special needs. A K 9 can make a world of difference in the lives and restore the level of order they crave.
What’s a Service Dog?
The legal definition of a service dog is defined by the U.S. Department of Justice as “dogs that are individually trained to do work or perform tasks for people with disabilities.”
The Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990 gave a more specific definition for service dogs: “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.”
Types of Service Dogs
There are many different types of assistance dogs. They all undergo their own specializing obedience training and each have their own goal for their person.
- A service dog receives extensive training to help handlers with tasks or activities that their disability limits or prevents them from doing on their own. The most common form of a service dog are guide dogs for the blind. But there are many other types such as police dogs, mobility dogs, bomb-sniffing dogs, etc. They 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 is because of all the specialized service dog training they completed and the skills they have. They’re still a beloved family member, but they have an important job to serve their handler.
- A psychiatric service dog also assists their handlers and is a recognized service dog, but they assist with unseen disabilities, such as anxiety disorders, post-traumatic stress disorder, depression, etc. Psychiatric service dogs can sense anxiety attacks or PTSD episodes and help comfort their owner. In this team, the dog will alert their owner to an attack and make them feel safe. They help with a variety of things and thanks to their great bond with owners thanks to a vigorous training process bar none.
- Emotional support animals are companion animals who do just what their name says, provide emotional support. These animals require training sessions to be recognized as an emotional support animal, but they do require a doctor’s note from a mental health professional. Since they are pets, they do not have the same federally protected rights as trained service dogs and are not able to accompany their owners in public places, in airlines, on airplanes, or anywhere else.
- Therapy 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 to individuals in their housing accommodations. 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 relieve the stress of victims and their families. They do undergo therapy dog training, but that is not the same as a service dog training, therefore they are not recognized by the ADA as an assistance animal.
There are important differences between the different types of assistance animals. The training is the biggest difference. Service dog training is very different from therapy dog training. They address different needs and skills and have completely different goals. Service dog training is one-on-one, while basic obedience training or therapy dog training can be done in group classes. The foundation of training for each one is different and the evaluation at the end has different criteria.
What’s a Psychiatric Service Dog?
Psychiatric service dogs are ADA recognized service dogs that help their handlers navigate the world with a mental disorder. Some common conditions these dogs help with include PTSD, anxiety, ADHD, autism, bipolar disorder, schizophrenia, etc.
Each dog is different and offers a unique set of skills that most suits the needs of their handler. Some focus on helping children in their training, while others are for veterans, but most any service dog can accomplish the following tasks:
- Bring water to their handler
- Give medication reminders at certain times of day
- Fetch the phone for their handler to call for assistance
- Alert owner to an upcoming anxiety attack or PTSD episode
- Act as a buffer during communication with others in public
- Create a safe space for their handler in public when overwhelmed
- Guide their handler to a safe spot during an episode
- Protect their handler in public if they feel anxious
- Alert their handler to harmful behaviors they’re doing
- Provide tactical therapy during harmful behaviors
This is just a small list of what a service animal can do. An assistance animal received specialized training to learn these tasks and be able to provide vital support for their handler. These tasks help their handler live their life at the most ideal level and allow them to access more things than ever. Not all PSDs learn the same things, it depends on what their handlers need from their team, but these are common things dogs can do around the home or in public to assist.
Click the below video to learn more about psychiatric service dogs.
Psychiatric Service Dog Rights
PSDs undergo specializing service dog training that is very intense. It addresses their handler’s needs, has an evaluation and sometimes even requires multiple trainers. It takes place over the course of months and can be done from puppy-hood well into adult-hood. Because of this, these dogs have certain federal rights.
- Public access rights: This means service dogs have a right to come with their owners anywhere, whether that be a store, a business, a restaurant, a federal building, or anywhere else you can think of. They are vital for people with a disability and must be allowed access. Some businesses or places may ask for papers or registration, but legally, you do not have to provide those. They may ask what you service animal does for you though, which they are allowed to by law. Here is some information regarding service dog rights in Arizona. These may vary from place to place, but it’s good information to know.
- Travel rights: These rights ensure that service dogs can travel with their owners anywhere they may go. This means they are granted access onboard planes, on trains, on public transportation and more. In fact, a service puppy or dog has a right to sit in the cabin and the handlers do not have to pay a fee for their assistant animal to fly. Each airline has their own different requirements for paperwork or registration for proof of service dog status, but service pups are allowed to fly with their owner.
- Fair housing: Under the Fair Housing Act, service dogs can live in housing accommodations that don’t normally allow pets at no additional fee. This is backed by laws, including the Fair Housing Act This applies even if the home organization has a no pets policy. This way a service dog owner can have the support they need from their pup in their own home. Home providers cannot refuse to make reasonable accommodations for someone with a service dog or puppy, or else that is discrimination. They must make a reasonable effort to make the home inhabitable for the person.
- Educational Facility Access: Under the Individuals with Disabilities Act, service animals can accompany their owner into schools, colleges, universities, etc. Any assistance animal must be allowed on the premises with their person to complete the courses. This is true for any level of education but may vary at each school. It’s best to do research in your home state and review all local laws regarding service dog rights.
Whether a service puppy is in training at any level, or they’ve completed all of their training, they are entitled to these rights. They may go into any business, on any train, on any plane, in any home residence their owner inhabits, and more. If their handler needs them, they must be allowed entrance.
How Do I Get a Psychiatric Service Dog?
The first step in acquiring a psychiatric service dog is finding out if you need one by consulting with a licensed mental health professional. This is the only legitimate way to acquire a service dog. Search for a trusted doctor in the Phoenix, Arizona area to see if a service dog could make your life better. It’s important to remember not all people qualify for a service dog and may benefit more from an emotional support animal or simply a pet. Call your local mental health provider in AZ to set up an appointment and see what path may be best for you.
If they recommend a service dog, the next step is finding a psychiatric service dog for you. There are a few various methods to this, but let’s discuss adoption first.
Adopt a Service Dog in Arizona
Animal shelters and rescue groups are a great place to find a canine companion who you can then train to become a service dog. Below are some shelters and rescues in the state of Arizona where you can potentially adopt a new best friend.
Good news, there are no breed restrictions for service dogs! Any dog can become one, but there are some common breeds who seem to succeed in the role. Look for a Golden Retriever, Labrador Retriever, German Shepherd, Labradoodle, or a Poodle if you’re worried about any behavior business. Granted, every dog is unique and their personality can vary regardless of breed. It also depends on how receptive to training they are.
- Halo Animal Rescue – Phoenix, AZ
- Arizona American Welfare League & SPCA – Phoenix, AZ
- Friends For Life Animal Rescue – Gilbert, AZ
- Saving Paws Pet Rescue – Glendale, AZ
- Home Fur Good – Phoenix, AZ
- Maricopa County Animal Care and Control – Phoenix, AZ
Search these AZ area 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! In 2018 alone, over 8,800 animals were surrendered to the Marcicopa, AZ shelter, so you can definitely find your perfect fit. Give them a call and begin your search!
Their staff and volunteers will be able to help you find your perfect companion. Be sure to mention your disability and ask any questions you may have about this dog becoming your service dog. Ask about behavior issues, if they’ve worked with a trainer or attended group classes, if they would benefit from more training or living life a certain way, and all other questions you may have. Volunteers and shelter staff will gladly answer all your questions and help you find your best match!
Types of Psychiatric Service Dog Training
- Self service dog training: It is possible to train your own service dog, but it is not recommended. It requires a lot of research and can be very confusing and overwhelming. Training is a huge commitment and encompasses a lot of information. Trainers are educated and skilled and have better knowledge than the average person on service dog 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 serve right away. 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. These trainers work with the dogs from puppies and may even supply you with the necessary products you need to continue training at home. Some of these are nonprofits while others are a business.
- Partnering with a professional dog trainer: This is the most popular option because it allows for you to learn alongside your dog. It assures you build a bond with your dog and receive help from reliable trainers to ensure you’re teaching them correctly. A trainer has experience and can help you train your dog to what you need it to do to help you with your impairment.
Psychiatric Service Dog Training in AZ
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, you want a service dog training program specifically.
Service dog training is customized to the handlers’ needs. This is why group classes are not a great route, as the task training is individualized for dogs to best utilize their skills for their handler. A customized program ensures the best dog training and has you and your dog on the same page throughout the training.
Look for a quality service animal training program or business in AZ. Big cities tend to have more programs, so try searching in
- Phoenix, AZ
- Glendale, AZ
- Scottsdale, AZ
- Tucson, AZ
- Tempe, AZ
- Tucson, AZ
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 can a service dog do for me?
Service dogs are individually trained to help their handler with whatever they may need. They can help calm people with anxiety, help people with vision issues navigate the world, provide comfort and much more.
What does it take to get a psychological service dog in Phoenix, AZ?
To get a psychological service dog anywhere, you must consult with a mental health professional to see if you qualify for one.
What breeds are best for being a service dog?
Any breed can be a service dog! But some common breeds include Golden Retrievers, Labrador Retrievers, German Shepherds, Poodles, Collies, etc. due to their ideal temperament.