Psychiatric Service Dogs
Little Angels strongly believes in assisting those with psychiatric disabilities for both civilians and veterans. While this is a disability that is often overlooked, it is a condition which can be even more detrimental than some challenges which are strictly physical. The trainers and volunteers of Little Angels work diligently to place dogs with our soldiers, as well as civilians who suffer from similar forms of PTSD, and other psychiatric conditions such as severe anxiety and depressive disorders.
See below to learn more about how a psychiatric service dog can help you!
Medical & Signal Alert
Just as a dog can be trained to alert to seizures and other medical conditions, a dog can also be trained to sense the changes in a person’s body when they are beginning to have a panic attack, flash back, anxiety attack, or other psychiatric conditions. The dog is able to paw at the leg of their diabled recipient and interrupt what would otherwise be a debilitating and destructive behavior for the individual. This helps the handler to refocus on their dog and work through the problem. The ‘Alert’ command can also help in other ways. There are many situations when a recipient will need to excuse themselves from a classroom or meeting due to personal psychiatric concerns. With a discrete signal to the dog, the handler can command his dog to paw at the leg, making it look like the dog is seeking attention. The handler is then able to comfortably leave the situation with the excuse that his dog needs to relieve itself.
Deep Pressure Therapy
Just as medical wraps are used to alleviate anxiety in persons with psychiatric conditions, dogs can be trained to put the pressure of their body weight on their handler’s lap and abdomen to physically, and then mentally, relieve anxiety and induce a sense of calm.
Non-Protective Boundary Control
When the individual suffers from anxiety due to the close proximity of others, or due to the claustrophobia in a crowded room, the dog can be trained to stand in between their handler and others to gain more personal space. The dog is NOT being protective, but is simply following a simple cue from their handler to move their body into the space surrounding their handler in a down-stay position.
A frequent problem for those suffering from PTSD is to negotiate corners without the fear of what is waiting on the other side. Our dogs can be trained to go around corners in front of their handler and alert their handler if there is someone waiting on the other side. Over time this form of therapy can assist the disabled recipient when becoming more comfortable with going into public.
It goes without saying that any service dog’s greatest assistance is the emotional support they can offer their handler. Most disabilities present trials that can be relieved on a mental level simply by the dog’s presence. A well behaved dog can help to lower blood pressure and give a sense of ease to anyone who is near.
What We Don't Do
We do not create unnecessary tasks for dogs to complete simply because we are looking for a way for dogs to “assist with a specific disability.” Public Access Laws state that a dog cannot be granted public access simply for emotional support, and that the dog must be trained in specific tasks to assist their affected partner. Because of this, many are “looking” for tasks to train their dogs. We will not train a dog to pick items up off the floor if you can easily do this, etc. We will not train a dog to protect you – it is not safe. We WILL train a dog to assist you with actual tasks for actual needs.
Is a Little Angels Psychiatric Service Dog Right for Me?
In order to receive a Psychiatric Service Dog from Little Angels, you must:
- Have a life-inhibiting psychiatric condition, with documentation from your doctor supporting your diagnosis.
- Have strong communication skills and the ability to be consistent with a dog regarding training exercises.
- Have a family that loves dogs.
- Have patience to work through problems (even a trained dog is still a dog).
- Have finances to provide your dog with veterinary care and maintenance for the next 10-12 years.
- Be willing to travel to San Diego, California or Bartlett, New Hampshire for handler training with your child and at least one additional adult to provide child care while you are in your lessons.