Can Service Dogs Help People With Anxiety?

A well-trained service dog can help people with anxiety-related issues. Service dogs provide emotional and practical support for people who have physical or mental disabilities. A service dog for anxiety can envision anxiety attacks and fetch medications for their owner.

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Dogs can be trained to help with a wide range of conditions, including diabetes, anxiety, depression and even visual deficiencies.

Psychiatric service dogs

A psychiatric service dog helps someone with anxiety, depression, bipolar disorders, or other mental health conditions. All service dogs have completed specialized training and are legally recognized by the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA).

These dogs can go anywhere with their owner, including restaurants and airplanes.

Benefits of anxiety service dogs

Service dogs can be trained to perform specific tasks depending on an person’s needs.

Roles carried out by service dogs for anxiety include:

  • detecting signs of an anxiety attack before it even occurs
  • fetching medication or water during an anxiety attack
  • bringing someone to help the person in distress
  • reminding a person to take their drug at certain times of the day
  • preventing strangers from approaching the person in distress
  • calming a person down during an anxiety attack through distraction, such as licking their face or providing a paw
  • providing deep pressure therapy to appease their owner
  • retrieving a phone during an anxiety attack
  • performing safety checks of rooms or turning the lights on for people with post-traumatic stress disorder(PTSD)

READ ALSO: Learn Ways Pets Can Improve Your Health

One major advantage of spending time with a dog for people with anxiety disorder is that it can reduce stress/anxiety and boost happiness. A 2015 study suggests that having a pet dog may reduce the risk of anxiety in children. Also a review revealed that interacting with animals may:

  • inspire more positive interactions with other people
  • reduce depression and improve mood
  • lower cortisol levels, which is one of the body’s primary stress hormones
  • lower blood pressure and heart rate
  • lower fear and anxiety

Service dog breeds

Any breed of dog can become a service dog. Some of the breeds that work well as service dogs include:

How to get a service dog

People can get anxiety service dogs from specialist organizations. Also, people can register their own dog as a service dog with the help of the National Service Animal Registry. However, to get a service dog from an organization, a person must meet specific criteria such as:

  • a physical disability or debilitating psychiatric condition
  • a recommendation letter from a doctor or licensed mental health professional
  • strong communication skills and patience
  • the ability to consistently care for and train a service dog
  • the ability to attend a handler training program
  • a love of dogs
  • a stable home environment
  • the finances to care for and maintain a dog for 12 years or more

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Many people with anxiety issues may not qualify for getting a service dog. However, some of these people may benefit from having an emotional support animal.

Emotional support animals (ESA) are more of pets than service dogs. Trained service animals perform specific tasks, while the law considers ESAs as pets. However, people can still experience tremendous benefits from living with an ESA.

ESAs are companion animals that a medical professional thinks will provide support to a person with a mental or physical health difficulty.

ESAs do not have the same legal protections that service animals do. However, they do have some protections, such as an exemption from no-pet housing rules.

Those who would like an ESA must get a letter from a licensed mental health professional to say that an animal improves at least one characteristic of their condition.

 Cost of a service dog

Owning to the high cost of all the training that is involved, service dogs can be expensive. According to Little Angels Service Dogs, many service dog organizations throughout the United States spend between $30,000 and $40,000 per trained dog.

Each dog receives an average of more than 600 hours of training, along with boarding, veterinary care, and grooming.

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Some people choose to train the dog themselves, with the help of a certified trainer. This option is less expensive, but it can still involve high costs.

However, some organizations can help people find service dogs at little or no cost. This is because they meet some or all the expenses through fundraising.


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