|Barked: Tue Nov 4, '08 7:27am PST |
|A service dog is a dog that is specifically trained to do work or tasks that mitigate a person's life limiting disability. They have rights to go where the general public goes.
A therapy dog is trained to bring joy into the lives of others (not their handler) by visiting hospitals, nursing homes etc. They do not have public access rights.
An Emotional Support Animal is a dog that is not trained but just by being there mitigates the mental health disability of their handler. They do not have public access rights, but can live in no-pets housing and fly on planes with a letter from your doctor.
I have bipolar disorder (and panic disorder) and Sabrina is my retiring service dog, Ollie is my new SDIT. Sabrina alerts to bipolar mood swings and panic attacks so that I can try to keep them under control long enough to get home or somewhere safe, or take medication. During the worst of the mood swings or attacks she provides tactile stimulation to ground me. She brings me my medications, guides me home if I am too depressed or anxious and can't process the world, provides pressure therapy when I feel like cutting myself etc. Ollie is being trained to do all these things, but right now he can't alert, he just can respond when I am manic, depressed or having a panic attack.
If you are interested in a psychiatric service dog, first talk with your doctor to make sure you are disabled. Many people have bipolar disorder, but it is not considered disabling for everyone. Then you should talk with your doctor and friends/family about how your disorder is disabling, and what your dog can be trained to do to mitigate it. Next you should find a professional trainer to do a temperament test and evaluate any dog you are thinking of training-- not all dogs are able to be trained as service dogs. The trainer can help you train the dog to behave in public and to do the things you need the dog to do to assist you. It usually takes 1-2 years to train a service dog. Oh, and don't forget to consider that having a service dog suddenly makes you very visible. People come up to you all the time and ask about your disability, they may even yell at you to get your dog out of the store, you might have to call the police for a public access challenge. People will tell you that you don't look disabled etc. So it can be more stress than it is worth for some people. Make sure you are up to it before you start, it is expensive (in terms of money, time and energy) to train a service dog so you want to be sure this is right for you and that your dog has the potential to make it before you start.
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