Anxiety service dogs?

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Barked: Wed Jan 16, '08 7:33am PST 
I have a Lhasa apso (Harley), she will be 2 in febuary. I got her from a lady who could no longer take care of her due to a newborn baby, when she came to me, Harley was 18 months old, It was very obvious she had not been trained. I've tried my best with her and she can now sit, lay down, "dance" turn around, stay.
Right, s the reason i decided to get Harly is because i have severe anxiety problems, consisting of panic attacks, agrophobia, and generalized anxiety disorder.
Harley has helped me so much to get out and begin to overcome my agrophobia, however... Now is the time when i need to get back into the community, going to town ect, i feel i cannot do this without harley, she really does carm me down and takes my mind off a panic attack.
She's very playful, loud, always running about and wanting attention from people.
I cannot have her doing this if i am to take her into town, into shops, and to therapy appointments.
I would love to have her as a service/working/therapy dog, so what can i do? is it too late to train her being nearly 2 years old?
Because of my problems i do not work, therefore do not have much money so cannot afford expert training. any ideas?

Thankyou for reading this, sory it's so long, i thought i would give you as much info as possible.

Kara & Harley puppy
Sabrina- 2000~2012

To break- injustice we- must break- silence
Barked: Wed Jan 16, '08 8:01am PST 
Hi Harley, the type of service dog you are referring to is called a psychiatric service dog, or PSD. Sabrina is my PSD, she alerts me to and assists during my bipolar mood swings and panic attacks.

The first thing I'd recommend you do is read this article that I wrote about how to get a service dog:


The next thing you should do is visit www.psychdog.org which is the Psychiatric Service Dog Society. Read their FAQ, training and lifestyle sections and request to join their listserv (it's under the community section). That website and the thing I wrote up should help provide you with a lot of background information, much more than I will be able to provide in this shorter message!

Two years old is not too late to start training for service work, however it is later than many dogs start. It can be done depending on your dog's temperament (more on that later), but there are some things that you need to do first.

The first thing is to make sure that you are considered disabled according to the ADA. Talk to you doctor about this, and also talk with them about getting a PSD. Talk about how it will fit into your treatment plan and everything.

Next you will need to figure out if your dog can be trained to be a service dog. Not all dogs have the right personality to be a service dog-- it's a hard job with a lot of stress in it, and not every dog enjoys it. The best way to figure out if your dog has the right personality for the job is to hire a professional trainer and have them do a temperament test. This is a personality test to see if Harley is likely to make it as a service dog. Service dogs need to behave very professionally when they are working-- they have to ignore other people, animals and smells and focus only on you, and a professional trainer can help you evaluate if Harley would enjoy doing these things. I've heard estimates that up to 50% of dogs that are being trained in service dog schools don't make it to full service dog status, so you want to make sure you are starting off with a dog that's got the right potential.

You will also need to figure out how Harley can be trained to mitigate your disability. He needs to be trained to do work or tasks to assist your disability. The PSDS webpage has a task list that you can take a look at to get ideas. Just being there isn't task/work. A professional trainer can help you with this, and your doctor can also help you brainstorm things that you can teach Harley to do to mitigate your disability.

Harley will also need to be trained for public access. This in my opinion is the hardest part of the training process! He has to be trained to behave in public, not cause a disturbance etc. Check the training section of the PSDS webpage for a detailed description of how a service dog behaves.

It would also be a good idea for you to think about the service dog lifestyle. While having a service dog can be a great help, it can also cause a ton of anxiety. People might yell at you to get your dog out of their store or restaurant. Strangers will approach you and ask you what your disability is. You may even have to call the police in a bad access challenge. Talk with others about the pros and cons of having a service dog and try to figure out if it is really something that you are interested in. For me, the benefits outweigh the negatives but it may not be that way for everyone.

I know you say that you don't have a lot of money to hire a trainer, I've felt that way myself. I tried to train Sabrina all by myself at first. But I found that hiring a trainer was really the best idea. They were able to see our working relationship and give me advice that I never would have gotten from a book or the internet. My trainer was also able to explain things that I thought I understood but my timing was off or I had the idea slightly wrong. Yes, a trainer does cost money but the amount of time and energy that having a professional assist you can save is totally worth it. You don't need to meet with them all the time, even just once a month will be enough for them to give you some decent guidance and help you avoid major pitfalls.

So I'd recommend that you do a lot of reading, starting with the two links I provided above. Also talk to a lot of people-- talk with your doctor and talk with other people who use service dogs to try to figure out if this is right for you. Don't be afraid to ask lots of questions!
Otto - Registered- Service Dog

ADI cert. - the only one- that matters!
Barked: Wed Jan 16, '08 1:11pm PST 
I would talk to a responsible trainer - preferably one with assistance dog experience - to see if Harley has a shot at being a SD.

"She's very playful, loud, always running about and wanting attention from people" usually aren't the traits that are looked for in a SD, although with good temperament testing you might be surprised at the findings. However, you should be aware that "loud" will get you kicked out of any public access situation with the full backing of the law.

Are you under a doctor's care? That would be my first stop to see if you qualify for a SD, although it isn't perfect. Let's face it - we pay our docs. We can always shop until we find one to say what we want. Have you exhausted your treatment options? If it comes to a public access challenge, that could be crucial.

As for task training... Well, there are tasks and then there are tasks. There have been recent court decisions that say carrying medication in a backpack isn't a task since they could be carried in a purse or fanny pack. Dog behaviors such as licking, etc. are also being questioned.

I would recommend checking out the ADI (Assistance Dog International) web site. They have a list of tasks there and also list their minimum public access test for all assistance dogs there. I think the public access test will give you an idea of the amount of work Harley needs if you are considered disabled under the ADA and then you can take it from there.


Barked: Wed Feb 17, '10 7:39pm PST 
I recently read your article about your anxiety attacks. I can relate very much and would like to train my own dog as a service dog. It would be so nice just to enjoy getting a job, driving, and being a senior in high school, but my anxiety has taken over my life.

Do you know how you go about training your dog to become a service dog for yourself?

Thank you.