Having a canine best friend as a service dog or an Emotional Support Animal can be of great benefit for people suffering from anxiety.
Before the invention of new training methods, service dogs were meant for the blind. Currently, their work goes beyond mobility assistance for patients who have diabetes and sclerosis.
Furthermore, army veterans suffering from Post-Traumatic Stress Syndrome benefit from well-trained service dogs. However, training a canine to be a service dog requires commitment and time.
To be eligible to own a service dog, you must meet certain conditions that include:
- Being able to train the dog
- Have a stable and serene household environment
- Be able to command and care for the dog independently
- Have a debilitating illness, disability, or disorder.
- You must obtain a recommendation letter from a medical professional.
It is rare for pet dogs to serve as a service dog. For this reason, you must train the dog from a young age to be able to meet the personal needs of the owner.
Patients suffering from anxiety can benefit from an emotional service canine. In most scenarios, the emotional support animals are referred to as pets; thus, they have limited legal protections as service dogs.
What is an Emotional Support Animal?
Service or Emotional Support Dog is a well-trained canine that helps people suffering from emotional and mental conditions. The dog undergoes a remarkable training that enables it to identify when the owner undergoes anxiety attacks.
Traveling with your service or ESA dog
Across the globe, airlines create room for ESA dogs with documentation, to board planes together with their masters. For this reason, people always try to bend the law and register their dogs as ESA, although their dogs have no or little training in this realm.
If you are thinking of engaging in such behavior, so that you can escape paying animal charges, then, you should think twice and understand the consequences that follow once you are apprehended.
Training a dog to become an ESA is not an easy task. You need to be devoted, determined, and patient since it is a never-ending process.
Traveling with an untrained dog is stressful and tiring. The last thing you want is for your dog to bark or misbehave during the flight. Therefore, always ensure that you have a well-trained dog if you are thinking of registering the dog as an ESA.
Steps to take if you want to train your dog to be an anxious dog
1. Make sure that the dog is interested in us
For any dog to act as a service dog or an ESA, you must ensure that it is compatible with its master. This way, the dog will be able to know when the owner is about to have an anxiety attack or recognize the state of the owner. Hence, the dog will be able to calm the owner in a subtle way.
To begin with, the dog should learn basic obedience commands. Then you can teach them to sense when the upcoming anxiety or a panic attack and how to calm the patient through nudging.
2. Train the dog how to comfort the patient
Paws is a good command word since people rarely use the word.
This session will be productive if you can lay down on the floor. However, if you cannot access the floor, you opt to use your sofa.
Before beginning the exercise, ensure that you have your dog’s favorite toy or a reward treat. This will help motivate and encourage your dog throughout the exercise.
Step 1:While laying or sitting on the floor, position your dog in a position that you are comfortable with. You can opt to position their paws to lay on your lap or across your lap.
Step 2: Make sure that you are consistent with the position. Five times a day, ensure that the dog gets in the same position, and appreciate it using the treats every time and say PAWS.
Step 4: Continue with the same exercise for a week until they get used to the name PAWS.
Step 5: Start to reduce the treats, as you do not want the dog to respond to the word PAWs since it is receiving a tasty treat. Once the dog performs the command action without any assistance, appreciate it by scratching its belly or ears.
Switch to the couch
After you have trained your dog to successfully position is paws around or across your body, move to the couch to adjust its training. Train your dog on how to get on and off the couch, positioning its body in a way that you are comfortable.
Step 1: While sitting on the couch, teach your dog to jump on the chair using the command UP and delight the chair using DOWN or OFF. This training is essential, as you will have to incorporate this with the previous training of PAWS.
Step 2: After training your canine friend on how to alight and delight the sofa, using the command PAWS, combine the commands PAWS UP for the dog to jump on the couch and position its paws across or on your body. Just like the previous training, treat them with their favorite toy and food to offer appreciation.
Step 3: Reduce the treats once the dog has learned to jump and position itself on your laps without any command. However, remember to appreciate the dog by scratching its belly and ears to show appreciation.
Make sure that you maintain the consistency of the training.
Associate comfort training with anxiety cues
Once you have an anxiety attack, your heart rate tends to increase, you twitch, and you tend to show various physical cues.
Before training your dog, it is difficult for the dog to understand search signs. Therefore, you must train your dog to associate the signs with new commands such as ITS ABOUT TO GO DOWN. This way, the dog will be able to sense the onset of the anxiety or panic attack.
Training the dogs with such commands will enable the dog to detect when you are about to have an anxiety attack and uses the training acquired to offer you comfort and companion.
However, it is good to note that it takes some time for an ESA dog to accompany you; hence, you must always be patient with the dog and don’t be harsh.