Q: Why does my psychiatric service dog have to perform physical tasks? A: If your dog just makes you feel good then it is not considered a service dog under the federal law. These dogs are called therapy dogs or pets, and they do not have public access rights like service dogs do. For more information on task training your psychiatric service dog, visit this link. Q: How do I progress with my service dog's task training? A: The first thing you must understand is how animals learn. Rx Pharmdogs does not believe in (or use) harsh traditional dog training techniques to train service dogs. Instead, the science of operant conditioning, classical conditioning and Dr. Bergin's ABC's of the smartest dog training methods are used to train our dogs. You can teach a rat or dolphin to perform tasks with these methods. Many traditional dog trainers can't train other species with the methods they use because you can't put a choke chain on a rat or dolphin to control them or manhandle and intimidate them to make them learn like you can a dog. If a dog has a dominate personality and needs high levels of correction to train it, then it's probably not the right temperament to begin with. Submissive amiable dogs respond well to our type of training. Your energy and leadership is the other half of the equation. The right balance is necessary for any dog to respect you as it's leader.
Instead of marking a desired behavior with a clicker, we mark successes with an enthusiastic “YES!” for emotional reinforcement immediately followed by a treat and more praise, marking the second of success for the dog. (Embedding information into the dogs psyche with a heightened emotional response enhances memory and learning).
Q: My Psychiatrist has diagnosed me as mentally disabled with severe anxiety, BPD, severe depression as well as other conditions. I m asking him to prescribe my Dogs as therapy Dogs but I think he is unfamiliar with exactly what and how to prescribe. Can you advise so that we do this correctly? I would be So grateful if you could help. A: More and more therapists and psychiatrists are beginning to ""prescribe" (so to speak) dogs for their patients. But these dogs are not legally considered service dogs unless they perform a physical task to mitigate the person's disorder or disability. Therapy dogs do not have the same public access rights that (guide, hearing, and service) assistance dogs do. Click for description of Therapy Dogs Click here for description of Service DogsIn the eyes of federal and state laws there is no such thing as a "prescribed" dog and there is no certification needed to use an assistance dog unless it is a guide dog. If your therapist or psychiatrist suggests that a dog might help you with your disorder then it could be noted in your medical file. Then you could consider training your dog to help mitigate your disability and pass the service dog public access test. CLICK HERE FOR PUBLIC ACCESS TEST You would be perfectly legal with your well mannered, task trained partner by your side. You don't need a prescription or certification to use a service dog.
Q: I have a teacup poodle that keeps me centered and focused. According to your notes on the "laws" page, these are all the "feel good" tasks. She understands my moods and is very much capable of refocusing me during a panic attack without prompting. During deep depression she gets needy and encourages me to "play" with her or does silly or annoying things. When I've had a sad or long day she anticipates this and greets me by licking my face and then laying in my lap. None of this is done on any physical cue from me - it is strictly her reaction to my mood and I presume it is by her desire to keep me on an even keel. A: Some dogs exhibit the ability to detect human imbalances without being trained. These are often referred to as "medical alert" dogs. For example; Some dogs naturally respond to, and alert their partners to, low blood sugar or seizures before their partner is aware of the imbalance. Dogs that do not naturally detect these imbalances but are trained to recognize symptoms and respond to their handlers on coming imbalance are considered "Medical response" dogs. Both are valid service dog tasks as long as the intervention the dog provides helps mitigate your disability.
You mention that " She is very much capable of refocusing me during a panic attack without prompting. None of this is done on any physical cue from me - it is strictly her reaction to my mood and I presume it is by her desire to keep me on an even keel." Your dog sounds like a medical alert dog and even though you don't realize the physical cues, they are present and your dog is picking up on them". But keep in mind that all service dogs must be trained to behave themselves in public places to truly be a reliable service dog. Tasks alone do not make your dog acceptable in public places.
Q: I am currently being treated for PTSD after 4 combat tours in Iraq. I am interested in training my dog for a psychiatric service dog, I have a letter from the VA stating that my dog should be considered part of my therapy and a service dog, and I have a letter from a Vet that temperament tested my dog to make sure he meets the standards for a personal service dog. I need my dog to be trained to alert me if I am anxious or getting angry in crowds, and to get my attention if I am having a flashback or bad dreams. A: So far you have done more then most people do to assure that the dog they are wanting to train as their service dog has been properly and professionally temperament tested. The first thing you need to do is have the dog trained to pass the service dog public access test below. Any good obedience dog trainer can help you train for this test. If the dog passes this test he is suitable to use in all public places such as stores and restaurants.
As for the task training, teaching the skills your dog needs to mitigate your disability is no different than teaching a dog a complex trick. Look for a trainer in your area who uses positive reinforcement to help you teach your dog the tasks you need assistance with. Here are lists of acceptable tasks under the law. Look through them. You will find many different tasks to train for your condition. Any good working dog trainer should be able to help you teach your dog what it needs to do to help you with your disability. Click here for psych. dog tasks