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Assistance Tasks for Psychiatric Disability Dogs


In my last post on PTSD dogs I received a lot of email about people telling me that Emotional Support Dogs are NOT qualified as Service Dogs……….but to set the record straight………PTSD dogs are NOT Emotional Support dogs!!! According to the ADA 2010 Revised Edition Requirements on Service Animals a service dog reminding a person with mental illness to take prescribed medications, calming a person with Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) during an anxiety attack, or performing other duties is classified as a Service Dog. 

Lets examine some of the things a Psychiatric Service Dog can do for it’s partner.

  •  A Service dog will assist his partner to cope during a sudden flare up of symptoms by helping them to cope with the side effects or the fear paralysis of PTSD or the sudden waves of terror, chest pains and respiratory distress of a severe panic attack by fetching antidote medication to alleviate the severity of the symptoms.
  • They can be trained to call 911 by depressing the huge white button on a K-9 Rescue speaker-phone with his paw.

 K9 Rescue 911 phone

  • A Service Dog can be trained to locate a purse or  bag with medication in home, office, dresser, desk, etc. by following directional commands, then deliver it to it’s partner.
  • A Service Dog can be trained to go tug open a cupboard door and retrieve medication.
  •  A Service Dog can be trained to fetch a beverage to enable his partner to swallow the medication.
  • A Service Dog can be trained to bring his partner a portable phone to call in case of emergency.
  • A Service Dog can be trained to tug a strap on a lever handle to open the front door to let in emergency personnel  on command or in response to the doorbell itself.

  • Service Dogs carry medication in their backpacks in case of a panic attack or other symptoms.  They may also carry a beverage, Cell Phone, Instructions For Emergency Personnel, such as Who To Call if a patient is having a PTSD disassociation episode, a flashback, serious medication side effects, or if an injury or other problems should deprive the handler of the ability to provide important information about themselves and their dog.

  • Service Dogs can also be trained to interrupt their partner at certain times of day or night to  increase the probability the partner will get up to take their medication when it is due.  This “nagging task” may be a task performed in the home, the workplace or at school.

Individuals disabled by PTSD and other psychiatric conditions report one of their difficulties when trying to maintain employment is the claustrophobic reaction they can suffer when a colleague, boss, or customer comes too close to them. A service dog can be trained to protect their partners from accidental bumps that can trigger a flare-up and prevent or reduce panic by creating enough distance for a situation to become tolerable.

A large sturdy dog can be schooled to move into Position (front, behind, left or right side) and to brace for possible impact with a command, such as “Stay Close.”  The Service Dog will hold his ground, preventing people from making body contact with his partner while in line or on a bus, in an elevator or in the same room etc.  The Service Dog is trained to repeatedly circle his partner to keep people at a comfortable distance.

There are many, many different jobs a Service Dog can be trained to do for Psychiatric Disabilities depending on the needs of the individual.

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