Is a Psych SD good for my husband/How do we find one?!

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Member Since
Barked: Mon Jan 7, '13 10:17am PST 
My husband has bipolar disorder (Type II - so it's pretty much all depression/anxiety with no mania), and SEVERE depression. Recently a friend suggested looking into a service dog.

My husband has always loved dogs (and wanted one) but we've stuck to cats due to apartment living. He's a really gentle soul and animals always take to him. (He's the guy who people will say "Oh that animal never lets anyone hold/touch them" and within minutes Michael will be holding/cuddling - it's incredible)

He's "mostly" functional - his primary struggles are social anxiety/agoraphobia (HATES leaving the house and only for an hour or two at a time before he gets tired), panic attacks and "intrusive thoughts" - he'll fixate on something and sit in a corner thinking about it for hours a day.

A service dog was suggested to help him during panic attacks and "break" him out of the intrusive thoughts - as well as to provide a reason/comfort when out of our home. (Plus reminding him to take his meds/wake up on time would be a BIG load off my mind...)

Finances are tight (and he's not a veteran) so investing 5-10k in some of the programs I've seen is really impossible. I've never owned a dog but I'm fairly confident I can handle a lot of training (I used to do ABA therapy with autistic toddlers - so there's very little that rattles me anymore).

Basically my questions are the following:
- Where do we start looking? Breeders? Rescue groups? Ideas?
-How hard is it to self-train a psych SD? (I'm concerned about doing it ourselves because I know it'll all fall on me and I'm not sure with a full time job AND helping him I'll do it properly)
- Suggestions for breeds?
- Do any of you have your SDs trained for the tasks mentioned above or any others that might be useful?

We're located in the SF bay area (San Francisco/San Jose, CA), and we're willing to travel a bit - but really are just looking for a place to start!

Thank you all in advance for your guidance!!

It ain't over- till the fat- kitty sings
Barked: Mon Jan 7, '13 11:33am PST 
A book you might want to look at "Until Tuesday", it's about a former soldier with stress disorder and how a service dog named Tuesday changes his life. Inspirational and it might list resources for civilians as well.

Super Service- Schnoodle
Barked: Mon Jan 7, '13 1:58pm PST 
The first thing you would do is go and make sure he is considered "disabled" by ADA standards as diagnosed by a clinician.

If and when he is found to be disabled (which in all honesty he may not, if his life is not severely impacted) then you would start thinking of tasks that would be performed to help him. After that you think of a dog size that can accomodate those tasks (ex. a small dog may not be able to effectively block a person, and a very large dog may not be comfortable to perform deep pressure with.)

After you'e picked a size (small, medium, large, xlarge) then decide if there are other factors in place. (ex. an allergy in the family might be dealt with with a lower shedding dog). Decide what you can and can't deal with (hair, grooming, slobber, brachiocephalic, etc) and that should significantly slim down your list. Gender may or may not be important to you. Decide this now.

Once you've narrowed down to a breed or two you can much more easily look into rescues and breeders for this. For breeders, make sure you can meet the parents, because they are the best judge of temperament. Also look for service or therapy dogs in the lines. Health testing is also very important, because you want the SD to have a long, healthy working life.


Barked: Mon Jan 7, '13 4:01pm PST 
It's very hard to train a PSD, unless you have a lot of experience training dogs. It takes about 18 months, maybe more, and that's for a professional trainer working with the dog almost daily. I'd look for a program, unless you have a lot of experience training dogs.

You'll need to think about what exactly it is you would want to dog to do to help him when he's anxious. Just providing comfort isn't considered a trained task for a service dog. I have PTSD, and when I have an anxiety attack, my SD brings me my medication, which prompts me to take it. When I'm having an anxiety attack, I have trouble thinking clearly so I usually don't think of taking it unless someone reminds me to do so.
Abrams Tank- SD

I'm trying to- fill some BIG- paws
Barked: Mon Jan 7, '13 11:00pm PST 
My husband suffers from PTSD and a host of other mental and physical disabilities. We are currently training his third dog who turns a year old today. Tank is learning to alert to my husband's stress levels and will do a paws up command where he will rear up and put his front paws in my husband's lap while he is seated. To the observer it looks kinda like Tank is just coming up for a kiss but he will lean his chest and head against my hubby for a hug so that it helps my hubby to relax and calm down. We are working on teaching other commands such as a head nudge as an alert so that the hubby can go sit down if we are standing and let Tank do his deep pressure. At just a year old he is still young and still getting used to a lot of the things he has to do so yes he is still in training but at the rate he is catching on he wont take long to train the Psych part however the hard part starts once he turns two and gets his hips and elbows x rayed.