By Josiah Neuman CMT, CDT
Neuman K-9 Academy, Inc
The public is familiar with the idea of service dogs for the blind or disabled that help the individual with many tasks in daily life.
Dogs can also be used to help people with depression, post traumatic stress disorder, panic attacks and other problems by providing practical help with specific needs.
A psychiatric service dog is trained to recognize certain signals and respond in a way that helps the individual to function more effectively.
Psychiatric service dogs are specifically trained to aid an individual
whose condition would otherwise be a disability. The dogs can perform
tasks such as finding their owner when separated from family members,
backtracking if their owner becomes lost, or signaling a smoke alarm.
Psychiatric service dogs can distract a person with obsessive compulsive disorders from doing repetitive behaviors, assist in keeping the person's balance, carry medications the person may require and get medical help for the person if needed.
A psychiatric service dog can also do specialized work such as recognizing when the person is having a hallucination and clearing vomit from the person's airway in case of choking. In addition, the dog can offer comfort to the person in times of increased stress.
These actions make the psychiatric service a valuable companion for someone with a mental illness that could otherwise prevent them from participating in many activities.
The first step in training a psychiatric service dog is identifying the
specific help that is needed. Secondly, a dog is chosen with the
temperament and abilities to perform psychiatric service dog and assistance tasks.
Thirdly, the dog's natural instincts and senses are utilized to solve or manage specific problems. Then, a consistent system of communication is designed to allow the dog and the disabled to communicate effectively.
Finally, the psychiatric service dog is trained in performing the tasks consistently and in a variety of environments so that its behavior can be relied upon at all times.
An integral part of training the dog to perform its tasks is teaching
the disabled person how to understand the dog's abilities and
communicate clearly with the animal.
A number of training sessions are required to accomplish successful interactions between animal and person. The psychiatric service dog training is considered accomplished when both the dog and the disabled person are able to achieve tasks effectively on a consistent basis.
If you are interested in our Psychiatric Service Dog training programs, please see our Service Dog curriculum.
Learn more about the types of dog training programs offered by Neuman K-9 Academy.