What is your Service Dogs' name, How old is
His name is Blue and he is 9 weeks - or a little over 2 months old.
What is his breed? Does that affect his abilities as a SD?
Blue is a German-Sheprador. His dad was a full-blooded Labrador while his mom was a
german shepherd mix.
While any breed of dog can be a service dog, I have read that Labradors, Huskies,
German Shepherds, and Golden Retrievers make the best ones due to their friendliness,
how smart they are, their willingness to learn, and their ability to retain
information. Also, for disabilities where the SD may be used for mobility purposes,
size can be a big factor.
Whats a psychiatric service dog?
Psychiatric Service Dogs are trained to assist people with mental illnesses, lighten
the affect of their disability and aiding them in doing everyday tasks that would
normally be difficult. Psychiatric Service Dogs are paired with people who have
illnesses such as (but not limited to)
Depression, Anxiety, PTSD, Agoraphobia,
OCD, Schizophrenia, Aspergers and Tourettes.
You don't look disabled. Why do you need a service dog?
I have what is referred to as an 'invisible disability'.
What is an 'invisible disability'?
Invisible disabilities are disabilities that are not immediately apparent.
Can't/don't you take medication for that?
Yes, the medication I am prescribed helps some, but it has never gotten rid of my
What can your service dog do?
While this will vary from dog to dog, my service dog is currently training to:
✿ Assist me wіthіn my home
✿ Assist me іn places оf public accommodation (e.g. shops, shopping centres,
public transport, etc.).
✿ Wake me fоr school оr work (avoiding hypersomnia
✿ Assist іn coping wіth emotional overload bу bringing me іntо thе “here
✿ Assist in grounding me when I am dissociating
✿ Guide me to a safe place/home when dissociating.
✿ Performing Deep Pressure Therapy to calm me during anxiety attacks.
✿ Provide а buffer оr а shield fоr me іn crowded areas bу creating а
✿ Stand bеhіnd me tо increase feelings оf safety, reduce hyper-vigilance, аnd
decrease thе likelihood оf me bеіng startled bу аnоthеr person coming uр
✿ Search dwelling.
✿ Bring medication to me and make sure it is taken at certain times of day.
✿ Bring a beverage so I can take medication and have something to drink as a dry
mouth is a common side effect of many medications for those with mental illness.
✿ Answer the doorbell.
✿ Call the emergency services in case of an overdose or medical emergency.
✿ Assist with speech by holding up cards and alerting family members in trained
✿ Respond to smoke alarm if I am unresponsive.
✿ Combat sedative side effects- dogs can be trained to turn on lights, initiate
play with a toy and nudge me to combat tiredness.
✿ Provide an excuse to leave an upsetting situation- y dog will be trained to
pester me and vocalize as if urgently needing to go outside in order to give me an
excuse to escape unsettling situations.
✿ Finding exits/ guiding- he will be trained to find the exits of buildings and
guide me, something which is often important for those who dissociate.
✿ Turning Lights on- this can help me with anxiety in the house.
✿ Alert to an oncoming panic attack
✿ Interrupting self-destructive behaviours such as self-harm
Other than the benefits of performing tasks to mitigate your disability,
Psychiatric Service Dogs also help in more generalized ways. Dogs are incredibly
beneficial to have around, and whilst the list below is by NO MEANS limited to
Service Dogs, it goes to show how much they can add to their already existing help to
benefit the life of their handler.
Having a dog increases daily structure and can give a person a sense of purpose.
For those who struggle to eat with mental illness, feeding time with their dog can
help combat this. Having scheduled eating times for the dog can encourage people to
eat as well.
Having a dog can bring an increased sense of safety and security.
Dogs can also boost our self-esteem .
Dogs can boost optimism and having the responsibility of care can be very beneficial
for people. It can often encourage a person to take care of themselves better.
Stroking a dog lowers blood pressure and is calming.
Dogs provide a secure and uncomplicated relationship.
Having a dog increases motivation to exercise- something which can often lift the
They encourage social interaction and act as a social ice-breaker. Whilst some people
may find this counter-productive, it can also be helpful for some others who struggle
to interact with other people.
Dogs offer around-the-clock support and more independence than a human-helper could
offer. They are not judgemental either.
What do you do when you encounter a service dog?
Do not attempt to distract the dog in any way. This includes eye contact, talking to
the dog, petting, giving the dog food, etc. Even if the dog does not look like he’s
working, he still might be. For example, smelling the handler’s breath to alert to
any chemical changes that would cause seizures, or watching his owner for minute
changes in body language which suggest an upcoming anxiety attack. Distracting the
dog may be dangerous or even potentially fatal for the handler. If you want to pet
the dog, ASK FIRST. DO NOT ASK THE HANDLER ABOUT THEIR DISABILITY. Some handlers are
polite and will be very open about their disabilities, but a lot of them are
uncomfortable (or even triggered) by sharing that kind of information. In addition,
think about how many people stop to ask a person about their service dog. While some
are amiable and will answer questions in an attempt to educate the public, sone
handlers can’t go to a store for 5 minutes without being stopped 3 or 4 times, so
they might be a little annoyed about it. It all depends on the person. Also, I really
shouldn’t have to say this, but DO NOT TAKE PICTURES OF THE DOG WITHOUT THE
OWNER’S PERMISSION. This is the equivalent of taking a picture of someone in a
wheelchair. Now that’s just creepy.
What are the laws on service dogs?
The Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) states the following: “When it is not
obvious what service an animal provides, only limited inquiries are allowed. Staff
may ask two questions: (1) is the dog a service animal required because of a
disability, and (2) what work or task has the dog been trained to perform. Staff
CANNOT ask about the person’s disability, require medical documentation, require a
special identification card or training documentation for the dog, or ask that the
dog demonstrate its ability to perform the work or task.” In addition, “A person
with a disability cannot be asked to remove his service animal from the premises
unless: (1) the dog is out of control and the handler does not take effective action
to control it or (2) the dog is not housebroken. When there is a legitimate reason to
ask that a service animal be removed, staff must offer the person with the disability
the opportunity to obtain goods or services without the animal’s presence.”
Breaking these ADA laws are FEDERAL CRIMES. These laws are in place to protect
So he can really go everywhere with you?
Alost everywhere. Churches that are privately owned - ie, not owned by the governemnt
- have a right to deny him access. And certain areas of the hospital, such as burn
units and OR rooms, will most likely also deny him access.
What are the differences between a service dog, an emotional support animal and a
A service dog
is individually trained to perform tasks that mitigate the
disability of his owner. Training typically takes 18-24 months. Because of his
advanced training, a service dog is considered medical equipment and is permitted to
accompany his disabled owner to many places where pets are not permitted.
An emotional support animal
belongs to a person who is disabled. The person's
doctor has determined that the presence of the animal is necessary for the disabled
person's mental health and written a prescription stating the pet is necessary in the
person's home, despite any "no pets" regulation of the landlord, for the person's
health. Little or no training is required. The owner of an emotional support animal
has no more right than any other pet owner to take their emotional support animal
with them other to keep one in a home where pets are not permitted or to fly with one
in a cabin when pets are not permitted.
A therapy dog
is a pet that has been trained, tested, registered, and insured
to accompany his owner to visit patients and residents of facilities like hospitals
and nursing homes to cheer up the people living there. A well-behaved pet can
typically complete training in about 8 weeks. A therapy dog is legally a pet. It is
not permitted to go anywhere that pets aren't without permission from the facility
owner. The objective of registration is to show facility managers that this dog is
well behaved, safe around people, and insured against liability. It is not a license
to walk into a hospital or nursing home without permission.
In short: service dog works to help the owner perform tasks he cannot perform on his
own because of his disability, an emotional support animal works to improve the
health of his owner who is disabled, and the therapy animal works with his owner to
improve the health of others.
Do I qualify for a service dog?
The answer to this question may be more complicated than you expect. First, there are
different definitions of disability in different federal laws. The definition for
Social Security Disability Income is not the same as that in the Americans with
Disabilities Act (which determines whether you qualify to use a service dog in public
places where dogs are not generally permitted). It is possible for an individual to
qualify for SSDI and not qualify for a service dog and vice versa. You must evaluate
your situation separately for each context.
The definition of disability under the ADA is a legal, not medical, definition. Since
a lawyer generally can't diagnose medical conditions and a doctor generally can't
interpret the law, you may get stuck somewhere in the middle trying to figure it all
You may want to review the legal definition as written by Congress for yourself, or
review the entire Americans with Disabilities Act which includes some additional fine
points you may notice in our flow chart in other sections.
Ultimately, what we recommend is that you take the flow chart or the written
definition with you and discuss it with any doctor who is treating you or has treated
you for your disability to get his opinion and to have his opinion entered into your
permanent medical records.