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Service Dog Physician's Letter

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Member Since
05/10/2012
 
 
Barked: Thu May 10, '12 10:10am PST 
I recently asked my doctor for a letter documenting my need for a medical alert service dog (I'm getting one to train soon). While my doctor totally supports my getting a service dog, she's never written a letter for one before and is unsure what to say. I was asked to provide a prototype letter for her to work from.

What should a doctor's letter for this say, to show my need for a medical alert service dog. As I will be training the dog myself, rather than getting one through a program, I feel it's important to have something showing that my dog is truly in training to be a service dog.

Any help you can give would be appreciated! smile
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Jazmine- *Jazzy*

1230847
 
 
Barked: Thu May 10, '12 1:12pm PST 
Look up psychdog.org they have many example letters.

I'll have to admit your post is worded in such a way it can be taken that your doctor doesn't 100% agree with you that you need a service dog. I doubt that's the case though.
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Member Since
05/10/2012
 
 
Barked: Thu May 10, '12 3:44pm PST 
No -- the doctor thinks it's a great idea, actually.
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Jazmine- *Jazzy*

1230847
 
 
Barked: Thu May 10, '12 6:55pm PST 
Then cool definitely check out that website... heck even if you just google service dog prescription letter example you should find what you need
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Harley, SD,- CGC, TDI

Super Service- Boy!
 
 
Barked: Fri May 11, '12 9:23am PST 
First, unless the dog will be a diabetic alert dog, you can't train it to alert. It is a trait/skill the dog either had or does not, and studies report that only about 15% of the canine population has that ability. I don't know what kind of alert you need, so that's important to know going into it.

Second, what do you need a letter for? In the US, you do not need a letter just to have or train a SD. You wi need a letter for school, non pet friendly housing, work, and in some situations, flying, but each letter is slightly different.

Third, before training, you need to research your state's laws. The only federal law that covers trainers/handlers of dogs in training is the FHA (housing). Whether or not you have public access rights with a dog in training will depend on your state's laws. If you do not have public access rights in your state, you can still train your own dog, it's just more difficult as you can't just take the dog everywhere you go.
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Mario

Its-ah Supah- Marrrio Time!
 
 
Barked: Fri May 11, '12 6:08pm PST 
I disagree with Harley on their first point. Mario has been taught, through shaping and watching Link (who I also shaped alert behavior with), to alert me to symptoms and health issues I, or even my doctors or friends/family, can't predict. Mario is actually getting better at alerting than Link.

So yes, alerting can be taught. However, no, not every dog CAN be taught how to alert. The dog needs to have a very strong bond with their handler in most cases (and my experience), and be very naturally attentive the their owners in the first place. ESAs usually show the right behavior for example, but are not held to the same standards as SDs and are usually not trained beyond the average pet level (there are of course exceptions).
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Mario

Its-ah Supah- Marrrio Time!
 
 
Barked: Fri May 11, '12 6:16pm PST 
Getting a letter of support from a doctor or therapist who is familiar with your situation and disability is used for documentation in case you are ever challenged and have to go to court, in addition to other safety guards such as keeping a training and expense log, any form of testing such as the PAT, etc. I have several letters, from my therapist, two psychiatrists and a MD, which I started to ask for as soon as I intended to train a service dog. My letters are safely filed away with other documentation.
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Harley, SD,- CGC, TDI

Super Service- Boy!
 
 
Barked: Sat May 12, '12 12:08pm PST 
Mario, the ability to detect and alert to medical conditions, for the exception of diabetes, can not be trained. That's actually a pretty well known fact that studies have been done on. However, if a dog has the ability to do it, they can learn how to use that ability by watching another dog. Your dog didn't teach your dog the ability to detect and alert, they taught them how to use it. Also, if the dog has the ability then the alert (what the dog does to alert) can be shaped. But if the dog doesn't have the ability, you can't teach it to them.

Edited by author Sat May 12, '12 12:11pm PST

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Mario

Its-ah Supah- Marrrio Time!
 
 
Barked: Sat May 12, '12 6:40pm PST 
Harley, that is exactly what I just said regarding alerting, you just worded it in a way that (to me at least) is very confusing and misleading, I think/hope we are just having a miscommunication. Not all dogs can be trained to alert as I said, they already have to have some usually pretty specific traits/the correct temperament that the average pet does not have (especially when taking into account the handler's disability). But that doesn't mean I am just showing them what's there.

Anything you reinforce is training. Anything. If I didn't reinforce in some way my Link and Mario's attentiveness (AKA shaping), they might not have caught on, or just got very frustrated, because they CAN tell something is wrong, and are trying to do something about it. If I didn't try to shape and reinforce the behavior, it may even go extinct, as ignored behaviors often do.

Why can a diabetic alert be trained but others cannot? I suspect there is a lot of brain and body chemistry happening inside me before I have a severe panic attack, hallucination, psych episode, etc. Why wouldn't there? My illnesses can hit out of no where, no timing, similar to a seizure (in that way), and my former SD and current SDiT can tell, sometimes 5-10 minutes (pretty big window when you consider the situation) and alert me, usually lead me to a safe place, and we do work/tasks, take meds, work on breathing, grounding, etc. Many times their intervention will stop whatever was going to happen, from happening. At the very least their *trained* alert/respond behavior will lessen the effects of my illness, and the duration of time I am sick 9 times out of 10.

Please include the study you describe, I would be very interested to read it.

I have now trained/shaped/reinforced alert type behavior in five dogs now. Two of them were *unintentional* and actually one of the first steps my brain took towards even thinking about a PSD was spurred heavily by the *unintentionally* trained dogs, who were my first pet dogs, and always seemed to know when I needed their help, without prompt. Of course, four out of the five dogs I am talking about are border collies, and the other is Mario, a papillon. Both of which are known to be highly intelligent breeds, and also very naturally attentive and interested in their owner's behavior (not all of course), so maybe I just got "lucky." The third dog is my husband's ESA Spirit, I helped trained her to respond to my husband's symptoms, and then thought why not? And trained her to alert to some of my symptoms as an experiment. She is now seeming to transfer that behavior to my husband (who BTW has very different symptoms), which is *unintentional* but pretty awesome if you ask me. dog
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Happy

The Boy Wonder
 
 
Barked: Sat May 12, '12 8:51pm PST 
Diabetic alerts can be trained because we know exactly What the dog is alerting to (scent).

Just saying.

Yes you can shape a dogs alert if the dog already alerts but if you're training a dog to respond to specific signals from you it's a response. As an example most dogs are trained to respond to the stillness for dissociating. Or respond to the action of convulsions for seizures. This is a response. I do think dogs can bridge to alerting from there, but not all of them. Those dogs learn to alert the same way you train a dog to change commands... if something happens every time before they have to respond they move their response up in order to get their reward earlier. Thus it becomes an alert. Many times it's something that another human couldn't pick up on.

No it's a fairly firmly established fact that dogs can not be trained to truly alert to most medical conditions. DAD's are an exception because again we know what they're alerting to.


OP as for Physician's letter the link Jazzy gave you has some good samples but the basic idea is you need three things on the letter, your name, the doctor's support, and a statement of disability. Not the actual disability.

Something along the lines of

I Dr X, support patient Y's use of a service dog for the treatment of his/her disability.

The letter doesn't need to be complicated and you'll need different kinds of letters for some different things. PSD's need them to fly, Employers can ask for paperwork from your doctor for requesting accommodation, and you will likely need it for any non pet housing if this is where you choose to live. No one else but a judge can ask for this information. This isn't paperwork you should carry around with you or hand out to gatekeepers as 'proof' of disability.

Good luck

Jeanene and Happy
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