How Do I Train My Dog to Be a Psychiatric Service Dog?

There are dogs who have been bred to perform certain tasks, to exploit certain behaviors, and even just be a status symbol. These dogs are of particular breeds and their lives are usually predetermined. Simply put, some of the more exotic breeds tend to have a life of luxury.

Then you have the almighty, lovable, loyal, all-around greatest dog in the world, the mixed breed variety. No life of luxury, usually from the streets, just a good dog.

These dogs make excellent service dogs. The services a service dog performs are many in number. They can do everything from assisting the blind to detecting seizures.

There is no certain breed of dog which makes a better service dog. Service dogs are not breed-specific animals. The primary reason a good mixed breed dog is picked for service work over any other breed.

It also holds true when selecting a dog for psychiatric service. Mixed breed dogs make great Psychiatric Service Dogs (PSD). The best place to look for a highly qualified PSD is at your local shelter. It is recommended you start with a dog who is 1 to 2 years of age.

You have now taken the first steps in training your Psychiatric Service Dog!

Now you have the right dog

The selection process is over. You and your new service dog are both happy and in your home’s environment. It is now time to begin to train your dog on how to recognize your fears and your panic attacks.

It’s all about how well you and your dog bond with each other. It is also another reason you need an adult dog to train. Adult shelter dogs tend to be very ‘clingy’ to the person who rescued them.

It will be these early moments together when your dog will begin to pick up on your mental state. Dogs are very perceptive at knowing when we are frightened, worried, and happy. Bonding with your dog is the first step in them learning your different behaviors.

Develop social skills

Get your dog used to your routine. If you go somewhere, take the dog. Let the bonding continue outside of the home. Some dogs take really well to being social butterfly’s and some require a bit of work.

Either way, make sure your dog has the proper social skills to be a service dog. You don’t want to be out in public when you suffer a panic attack and find out your service dog is frightened. A good service dog handles crowds very well. They should be taught to assist you no matter where they are.

Bonding during these outings is also essential in the dog picking up on your mental issues.

Responding to certain needs

Training a dog to be of service when you are having a panic attack takes time and patients. After several weeks, if not months your dog will begin to notice your body language and sense when there is a problem.

They can also sense when you are experiencing all-out fear just from the chemical changes in your body.

Perhaps the best way to get them to respond to you when having these type issues is by giving them treats. But some may find it nearly impossible to give a dog a treat when having a panic attack.

It all goes back to being bonded with the dog. The more bonding you do, the more likely the dog will be able to predict these issues before they happen.

Take a moment when having these issues to connect with the dog. It will aid you in calming down. And it will help the dog to better understand why he should be concerned.

Positive reinforcement

All dogs respond well to positive reinforcement. It is very important you remain in a positive state of mind as much as possible during training. Your dog is far more likely to adapt himself to your particular needs when he is constantly reminded of your love.

Not just the treats in your pocket, but your love and affection. These are some other attributes the dog will pick up on to positively reinforce the need for his service.

Word association

When your dog starts to show you they are ‘there for you’ add a bit more to the training. Each time you begin to feel overwhelmed, insecure, frightened, whatever the case may be, The dog can retrieve your medication.

Always keep the medication, if you are prescribed medicine for anxiety, close by. Let the dog see you taking the medication while saying the word medicine. It’s another item on the training list for your and your dog to bond over.

Treats and praise when the dog ‘fetches’ your medicine when you need it. You might want to consider keeping the medicine in a place accessible to the dog.

Professional PSD trainers

Maybe you have reached a point in training your dog in which you feel he could be better. Even though you gave it your best shot, and the dog is responding well, it could be better.

There is no shame in checking into a professional PSD trainer. These trainers can work with both you and your dog to see what areas could be improved. And the cost of a once a week session is minimal compared to a full course training.

The trainer can show you ideas and make suggestions you might not have thought of. It will only improve the ability of your service dog and improve your health as well.

Just knowing your dog is properly trained and standing at the ready is enough to calm anyone. And isn’t calming you down what you are after?

Better to be overtrained and not need the training rather than the alternative.

In conclusion

A service dog is both a friend and a counselor. Especially if the dog is a PSD. Service dogs are very personal to their owner. And even more so when trained by the owner. It’s definitely a win-win!

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