how to get a service dog for anxiety (or depression) in 7 steps

How To Get A Service Dog For Anxiety (Or Depression) In 7 Steps

Over 40 million people in the US suffer from anxiety and or depression. On top of this, the expenses for treatment for depression and the medication required are rising continually. For some individuals, anxiety and depression can be crippling and severely impact a person’s capability to perform daily tasks. Even when on medication and treatment plans, individuals may still require further assistance. 

One solution is a service dog that can assist individuals in daily tasks. However, getting a service dog is a big commitment and requires substantial effort to obtain. This article outlines how to get a service dog for anxiety and depression. 

Step #1: Understand the Different Types of Aid Dogs

guide dog for persons with disability
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There are distinct differences between what is classified as service dogs, support dogs, and therapy dogs. 

A service dog is specifically trained to fulfill specific tasks for the owner and is recognized by the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA). This recognition permits the dog to enter any premises regardless of company policy. 

The ADA doesn’t recognize an emotional support dog and they are only permitted by law in housing units and aircraft. The role of support dogs is to provide comfort and emotional support to distressed individuals. However, they have no official training and do not need to complete tasks for the owner. 

A therapy dog provides emotional support to a wide range of individuals. They support patients at hospitals, nursing homes, orphanages, and other centers where people require physiological and psychological support. 

Step #2: Understand the Difference Between Physical and Invisible Disability

registered service dog for person with disability
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To get a service dog, you must know the difference between physical and invisible disabilities and why it matters. Physical disabilities are easier to diagnose because these individuals often require assistive devices such as wheelchairs, canes, or limb prosthetics. 

However, invisible disabilities can be harder to diagnose because they are not immediately apparent to observers. As a result, for a person to be clinically diagnosed as disabled due to anxiety or depression, their condition would have to meet the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) criteria. The ADA defines a disabled individual as a person suffering from a physical or mental impairment that severely limits a person’s ability to perform essential tasks. Additionally, this individual must have a history of this impairment, and other individuals must witness it. The witness refers to a psychologist, social worker, doctor, or psychiatrist.

Step #3: Decide What Type of Dog Is Best for Your Situation

pwd and a dog
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A service dog is not a pet and you shouldn’t treat it as one. The dogs function to provide support to their owners by reminding them to take medication and watch for signs of distress. They perform complex tasks but treating them as pets may prevent them from carrying out their tasks. For example, allowing others to pet your dog and play with it may prevent the dog from identifying when you are in distress. 

Service dogs can be expensive to train and require commitment from both parties to perform optimally. Other aid dogs are not professionally trained but do provide therapeutic support and help individuals with anxiety and depression.

Step #4: Understand the Benefits of a Service Dog

service dog with a good characteristic
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Getting a service dog can have many benefits for people suffering from anxiety and or depression. Professionals can train the dog to assist a person during periods of extraneous stress, be an integral part of a treatment plan, and provide support during a crisis.

Additionally, trainers can train a service dog to remind an individual to take medication, call 911 or any other preprogrammed person in times of crisis, provide a reason to leave a room if a person is uncomfortable via a discreet hint to the dog. 

The recognition of service dogs also allows the owner to bring the dog into any area regardless of company policy. This recognition means the owner will have protection and safety anywhere they go. On top of this, the owner receives a companion utterly devoted to them. A dog truly is humanity’s best friend, and a service dog takes it to the next level. 

However, family members, friends, and strangers should only interact with the dog when appropriate. Distracting the dog can inhibit its training and confuse them. 

Step #5: Research the Cost of Getting a Service Dog

service dog
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Having a service dog can be both costly and time-consuming. Remember, these animals are not pets and require considerable time and money to function effectively. Medical Aid does not cover the costs of a service dog. As a result, you need to have the finances to cover the cost of food, veterinary bills and provide a comfortable living standard for the dog. 

In addition, having a service dog will require a substantial amount of effort on the owner’s part. Owners will need to attend dog training sessions, learn how to command the dog, and stimulate the dog by walking, playing, and more. Taking responsibility for a service dog is a big deal. Speak to your psychologist/ therapist as well as the trainers to see if a service dog is right for you. 

Step #6: Where to Get a Service Dog

where to get a service dog
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If a person’s impairment satisfies the definition above, they qualify for a service dog. Individuals can get a service dog using several methods. The first and cheapest method is to request a service dog from a nonprofit organization that offers dogs for free or at lower prices. Unfortunately, these organizations often have lengthy waiting lists and can take months to even years before you get one. 

Another option is to adopt and professionally train a dog to become a service dog. This option can be pretty expensive but is also the best way to get a service dog specifically catered to your needs. This option also comes with other costs, such as adoption fees and vaccine fees. They also take time to be officially trained. 

The third option is to purchase a dog from professional trainers. This option is often the most convenient but also costly. Here the trainers will match you to a dog, and you will begin training with the dog over many sessions. 

Step #7: Don’t Rely Solely on Your Dog to Cure Your Anxiety and Depression

Ada and Service Dog Rules
Image by Brett Sayles from Pixabay

A service dog is a fantastic asset to anyone suffering from life inhibiting anxiety and or depression. However, it is vital to keep treating your condition through medication and therapy sessions. The dog can assist you in times of stress and help you cope with your condition, but it cannot completely resolve your condition. As a result, seek assistance from your doctor and stick to the treatment plan to get better. 

What to Do if You Cant Get a Service Dog

service dog training
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Unfortunately, a service dog is not for everyone. Some are not financially able to look after and train an animal. Other people are not in the right place to look after one.  If you struggle with anxiety and depression, it is vital to contact your doctor and discuss your issues with them. The doctor is your first port of call, and from there, they might refer you to a therapist or psychiatrist and put you on medication. Sticking to a treatment program and committing to the desire to overcome will help you recover.

Additionally, if a service dog is not on the cards, then you can look at adopting a dog or even volunteering at shelters. Remember that adopting a dog is a big commitment, and you have to be ready to care for the animal. You should first determine with your therapist if you are prepared for that commitment. 

Conclusion

A service dog is a tremendous asset to anyone suffering from debilitating anxiety or depression. However, getting one is no simple task. Service dogs are both a significant financial and time commitment. In addition, they are not pets but work to assist individuals in their daily life. Before getting a service dog, consult with your doctor and therapist to see if you qualify. Additionally, assess yourself as to whether you are ready for that commitment. There are also other options for those who cannot get a service dog but seek the comfort of a furry companion. 

In this article, we discussed how to get a service dog for anxiety and depression and the types of aid dogs available. Then we discussed the difference between visible and invisible disabilities and why it matters. Following this was a discussion on choosing what type of aid dog is best for you and the benefits of a service dog. Next, we looked at the financial and time commitments of getting a service dog and where you can get one from. Finally, we looked at why it’s crucial to not solely rely on your service dog as a cure and what to do if you can get a service dog.

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