Psychiatric Service Dogs
Posted by Jennifer Petre on January 25, 2011
During these past months we have talked with Guidance Counselors, Case Workers and many Veterans. Stiggy’s Dogs is refining our program to better serve our mission. We are excited to announce that we will now be training and placing Psychiatric Service Dogs. We have moved from Emotional Therapy Dogs, to this term.
*To help better understand, see below for the legal Categories (and their differences)
So what is a Psychiatric Service Dog? (PSD) Like guide dogs for the blind, psychiatric service dogs aid people with mental illnesses, from anxiety disorder, Traumatic Brian Injury, to PTSD. PSD’s are service dogs individually trained to perform tasks which mitigate the psychiatric disabilities of their disabled partners.
How does that apply to Stiggy’s Dogs? Stiggy’s Dogs will still pass the Canine Good Citizen Certification, but then be paired with their handlers for further training. Since each person is an individual, and each experiences their disability uniquely, each Stiggy’s Dogs will be individually trained to meet their Veterans specific needs.
Here are a few common examples:
1. Anxiety: going into crowds and public places. Our dogs are trained specifically for this. Per the Veterans need, we may train the dogs to look for alternate routes or to take control and lead it’s handler through the crowd.
2. Medications: Our dogs can be trained to help remind their handlers when to take their medication, and bring it to them at a specific time.
3. Wake up Handler. Sometime sleep medications cause a problem for the Veterans to wake up and be someplace on time. The dogs are trained to an alarm clock, and will wake their handlers up (nose nudging, licking face).
4. Some medications side effects cause dizziness. Dogs can be trained to help stabilize their handlers.
5. Dogs will know when their handlers are anxious, or about to have a panic attack. They will stay focused on handler, alert them (nose to hand, sit in front of) and take them to safe place.
6. Our dogs can be trained to perform emotionally comforting behaviors, such as licking or snuggling with their handler on command. This tactile stimulation of petting their dog or being nuzzled can help them to reorient during a dissociative episode or panic attack.
This is one example of the changes Stiggy’s Dog has made, due to the growth and knowledge we have gained during this past year. I want to thank our Training Director, Donna Fournier for her research and time she has put into our training program to make it better. Much thanks also to Certified Trainers Rachel Cullen and Jennifer Guthrie, for their input and training support. I want to thank the Veterans for the candid conversations. Together we are motivated to make a difference, one Veteran and dog at a time….
Service animals are legally defined and are trained to meet the disability-related needs of their handlers who have disabilities. Federal laws protect the rights of individuals with disabilities to be accompanied by their service animals in public places. Service animals are not considered “pets.”
Therapy animals are not legally defined by federal law, but some states have laws defining therapy animals. They provide people with contact to animals, but are not limited to working with people who have disabilities. Federal laws have no provisions for people to be accompanied by therapy animals in places of public accommodation that have “no pets” policies. Therapy animals usually are not service animals.
Companion animal is not legally defined, but is accepted as another term for pet. Their job is to bring a higher level of social functioning.