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WHICH dog for Psychiatric Service: Choosing Wisely

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Old 01-12-2010, 03:57 AM   #1
OneMoreTime
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Arrow WHICH dog for Psychiatric Service: Choosing Wisely

When someone's ability to venture into public becomes an issue so great that it fulfills the law's definition of disability.

Those who know me best know that I am against buying a puppy with the intent to raise and train your own service dog. One of the reasons service dogs of any kind (for the blind, the wheelchair bound, etc) and work dogs of all kinds (for police, for drug sniffing, etc) have traditionally begun as pups of certain breeds farmed out to families to raise the pup to an age to begin training. The vast majority of these pedigreed dogs, who now have at least a couple of years (and thousands of dollars) invested in them, will WASH OUT and have to placed as household pets.

Vet school studies (see Texas A&M) of large numbers of dogs rescued from shelters, but chosen by reliance on a battery of screening tests to evaluate a dog's personality, stability and trainability has proven to reduce the cost of professionally trained Service Dogs to a tiny fraction of previous costs, enabling more dogs to be ready for placement and making them more affordable.

I have spoken before of my firm set of notions of what kind of dog makes the best Psychiatric service dog... And I have spoken of the resistance the traditional service trainers and certifying agencies have to the very notion of a service animal with no special training to do specific tasks that go beyond the dog's innate nature to relate to his human companion.

But there IS an area of training that ANY service dog, even psychiatric service dogs, must accomplish to an exceptionally high level, and that is in areas considered normal obedience training.

> A service dog must have a bladder the size of a horse and be willing to chew off his own foot rather than eliminate on anything but a grassy surface. He must be able to let you know his needs, but most definitely not continuously whine nor bark. You must be the alpha animal and he is not allowed to be your boss, set your agenda and manipulate your behavior.

> A service dog must not bark or whine when at work unless their job entails training for certain events that would necessitate such attention-gaining utterances.

> A service dog must exude a maturity in his calm and quiet demeanor. He may not jump around, do tricks, play bow, or attempt to socialize or even greet others, human or canine.

> On the other hand, a service dog must be well-socialized with dogs and with people of all ages and all ages. He must have no social anxiety and absolutely no aggression.

> A psychiatric service dog must be able to lay at rest in a relaxed state for up to several hours at your feet under your seat, or in a portable soft-sided carrier. He must never get up to stroll around, greet others or demonstrate neediness for your attention (petting and talking to him, etc).

There are very few dogs able, by virtue of just training or in combination with natural behavior attributes to be all this before the age of 2, even tho training can and should begin by the age of 8 weeks.

Many people who NEED a psychiatric service dog hope that their own pet can suffice. Some can. Most cannot, even with professional training.

One must not look to the purchase of a puppy or your own present dog as anything more than an emotional support animal. We cannot expect, no matter how much his presence comforts us and makes us feel more secure, to impose an under-trained or under-socialized or tempermentally unsuited dog upon the public. Such exposure to a supposed "Service" dog will do nothing but set back the calendar on achieving full acceptance of the psychiatrically disabled's equal rights to service animals.


As I said earlier, I am known for rather firm notions of regarding the "best" kind of psychiatric service animal. The public at large is surprisingly accepting to small quiet dogs who are soft-side crated or laying quietly in a shopping cart on a cushioning towel or mat.

I have walked my dog on a short "working leash" into the pharmacy and post office for short direct tasks at time of low foot traffic. And I've done the same periodically elsewhere, but I do not advise it and tended to avoid it. Obviously, sun and temperature rarely make it safe to leave your dog in the car and open windows invite theft, so the best way for most buildings in in a soft-sided over the shoulder mesh-window ventilated bags. Under the bottom panel, I place several layers of bubble wrap for comfort.

Dogs weighing over 12 pounds make for a bit of baggage - and with mine at 15 pounds, she is at the very limits of fitting into an over-the-shoulder bag.

So why not just take your dog with you on a leash? Well, service dog agencies spend up to an year of training, working daily with advanced trainers in both advanced obedience and special skills training. They will not place a dog unless they can virtually guarantee the consistency of behavior and the total safety and predictability of the dog. Few dogs reach that point, thus the fact that their cost runs over $10,000 a dog.

We simply cannot have a dog on a leash who scares anyone, who can be intimidated by the presence of others, who feels specially protective of you, or who otherwise could conceivably cause someone to suffer an injury or mishap. A leash between a human and a dog, especially a heavier dog, can easily yank someone's feet out from under them. Someone suddenly thrusting their face close to the dog's could receive a growl, a snap or a bite - and no matter their age, it would be YOUR fault and you would be held legally responsible.

Now, you may wish to consider acquiring a trained service dog that washed out at a high level of training - IF you realize that you will have to travel and then train with the dog so you can become a team... Then you could conceivably have as large a dog as you wanted, but remember that, no matter what size the dog, if you are frightened by people, the dog could do the wrong thing by perceiving your fears as a reason for him (the dog) to also be fearful and/or to protect you by driving off the cause of your anxiety.

What I said above bears repeating. People are more prone to be accepting of a public companion psychiatric service dog if the dog is of a small size so it can be carried and if you keep a soft-sided carrier with you for the dog to use as his "cave". My dog, tho she had never experienced one before, immediately loved hers and PREFERS to be in the crate when in stores or offices or libraries. It is her comfort place and she can relax sufficiently to nap away the time. Simply being with me is the reward, the good and exciting part. She knows that once we hit the door, she is back out on a leash and we are going to go for a stroll.

There is no law saying what size dog you can pick as your psychiatric service dog and not even a code of behavior or criteria of emotional stability --- but if each and every one of us does not attempt to be part of a team to be proud of, to best represent a partnership that provides a prescribed treatment for your disabling symptoms, we could experience a backlash that ends up restricting the definition of a PSD to one who has gone thru the long expensive process of being professionally trained and certified.

We are, each of us who ask our doctor to prescribe a PSD for us, volunteering as a publicly visible envoy, ambassador and educator for the sometimes hidden disabilities we suffer and the role our dog has played in helping us achieve a higher level of functioning. PSDs can even enable a person to resume employment outside the home, and every taxpayer (ie, those who pay the salaries of legislators and judges) should understand the economics of a disabled adult becoming a higher functioning employable fellow taxpayer.

I realize that the lure of a puppy may make my words here so very forgettable, but for those who already own a dog who simply is not right to make the trek to public PSA, recognize that a second dog would most likely make both of you and your pooch happy.

Theresa - OneMoreTime
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Last edited by OneMoreTime; 01-12-2010 at 04:01 AM. Reason: the usual - spelling and/or grammar or/or incomplete sentences
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Old 01-12-2010, 06:19 AM   #2
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Arrow PsychDog.org - on choosing a dog

http://www.psychdog.org/lifestyle_ChoosingDog.html

this is an interesting website, aimed at those who are trying to learn their way thru the woods about choosing a dog, training them, how your entire lifestyle changes....

about how to train your dog for those sorts of things that "qualify" a dog as trained

a list of psychological/mental illnesses and disorders with suggested things a dog might be trained for

and issues of housing, flying, accommodation at businesses, our need to be our own advocates and educators...
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Old 02-14-2010, 12:57 PM   #3
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A service dog must have a bladder the size of a horse and be willing to chew off his own foot rather than eliminate on anything but a grassy surface. He must be able to let you know his needs, but most definitely not continuously whine nor bark.
ROFL this is so true! I've had my service dog just over 3 years now, and for the 1st time in our day to day outings, has he needed to use the grass for a dump, this last week. Of course, when travelling on vacation etc, if he waits long enough, he'll go wherever I tell him!

I think it's important to talk to trainers or vets about breeds, if you haven't a clue about which kind is best for you. Before I obtained my first service dog, I read a book about each breed I liked, and narrowed it down to two: labrador retriever and standard poodle. Figaro was a full lab. Caleb is a labradoodle. I had Figaro 15 years and he was terrific. Caleb was pushed into service early, and is still maturing at 3 yo, but I watch him weekly add to his repetoire. I know in another year or so he's going to be top notch!
But ... those breeds suited my own personality, in addition to being easy to train and amicable.

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Old 02-21-2010, 02:55 PM   #4
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Hi Theresa,

I'm afraid I don't agree with a lot of what you say. I've raised working dogs for 40 years and have found that each individual who has a need for a dog to perform some kind of task (not necessarily as an SD) needs a dog that is not only suited the tasks to be trained but to that individual as well. I've seen SAR, patrol and K-9 even herding dogs matched with people who were very dog oriented only to have the team fail months into training because of a personality imbalance between dog and handler. It doesn't mean it's the wrong dog or person or they can't do the job as individuals. It means that is the wrong combination of dog and handler and a change in the team was in order. I use border collies for all my work dogs from the farm I grew up on through SAR and trail work to my Med Assist and PSD. I could not work with a dog of another breed because our personalities don't match. It is of vital importance that not only the breed of dog be matched to the owner/handler but the personality as well. FYI personalities can be determined in a puppy pen.

In addition you mention a size limit on dogs, 15lbs I believe, for several reasons. One of them is the carry factor and being able to fit into a shoulder bag (does a stroller count?) another the concern being that your dog should never be in a position to pull you off your feet. I agree in that your dog should never be put in a position to cause physical distress or pull you off balance. However that is what training is for. A dog that cannot learn to walk loose leash or off a leash, to wait without being told, exits a vehicle or door without a command is useless to a person holding an armload of packages, trying to talk to the kid, make a co-pay and whatever other distractions there are around. Even if there are 50 angry cats wanting to kick your dogs but he should stay still.

As for carrying your PSD or any SD I object strenuously. They have feet and can walk for themselves. The exception is unless the dog needs to be in physical contact at all times to do his work and I don't think that is necessary. There are a couple of reasons I object. First it leans people away from completing what is considered minimum training for any program or OT service dog. Most people use the ADI PAT for that standard. A dog that is carried everywhere will not be able to pass the PAT. Second (note there may be some unintentional triggers here)
the advent of the faker dog in recent years. People who carry and push there dogs around and claim they are service dogs. These dogs are generally easy to spot as fakers but not always. Things like fear and reactivity and control problems plague these dogs when they are in public and cause no end of problems for legitimate SD and especially PSDs that are carried. If you are going got have a SD of any kind it should be able to pass the ADI PAT minimum. Being on the ground, behaving in a proper manner and wearing a vest is how it's done. It is a question of protecting all teams and establishing a standard for ourselves before the pundits and politicos write it into law.
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Old 02-21-2010, 03:26 PM   #5
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I'm going to agree with Ranger here. The size of a SD is an important aspect to consider, but the size needs to fit with the individuals disability. The ONLY time a SD should be carried is when it is necessary for their safety. There are pros and cons for every size of SD. Many PSDs will double as medical alert, mobility, or another type of SD as well as MIs often accompany many other chronic conditions.

The qualities that are so very necessary in a SD and the necessary temperament are not the qualities that are common in the small breeds. Don't get me wrong, I'm not saying that small breeds can't be great SDs, they can. But, the percentage of, say chihuahua or JRTs, that are able to make it in the SD world is MUCH MUCH smaller then Goldens, Labs, GSDs, and the larger breeds. If you check ** (temperament testing) you will see that as a whole, larger breeds have a more stable temperament. So, limiting yourself to the little ones simply because they are easy to carry is going to set yourself up for failure.

My service dog is a medical alert and mobility dog, and is a 115 lb Rott/Aussie mix. Because of the nature of my disability, I will also need a larger dog. I would think that, depending on the nature of the MI, a larger dog would better be able to do the job. The MAIN thing to consider is the job the dog needs to do. A little one may be able to be a great medical alert dog but could not do mobility work.
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Old 01-28-2011, 08:04 PM   #6
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Originally Posted by desertranger View Post
Hi Theresa,

I'm afraid I don't agree with a lot of what you say. I've raised working dogs for 40 years and have found that each individual who has a need for a dog to perform some kind of task (not necessarily as an SD) needs a dog that is not only suited the tasks to be trained but to that individual as well. I've seen SAR, patrol and K-9 even herding dogs matched with people who were very dog oriented only to have the team fail months into training because of a personality imbalance between dog and handler. It doesn't mean it's the wrong dog or person or they can't do the job as individuals. It means that is the wrong combination of dog and handler and a change in the team was in order. I use border collies for all my work dogs from the farm I grew up on through SAR and trail work to my Med Assist and PSD. I could not work with a dog of another breed because our personalities don't match. It is of vital importance that not only the breed of dog be matched to the owner/handler but the personality as well. FYI personalities can be determined in a puppy pen.

In addition you mention a size limit on dogs, 15lbs I believe, for several reasons. One of them is the carry factor and being able to fit into a shoulder bag (does a stroller count?) another the concern being that your dog should never be in a position to pull you off your feet. I agree in that your dog should never be put in a position to cause physical distress or pull you off balance. However that is what training is for. A dog that cannot learn to walk loose leash or off a leash, to wait without being told, exits a vehicle or door without a command is useless to a person holding an armload of packages, trying to talk to the kid, make a co-pay and whatever other distractions there are around. Even if there are 50 angry cats wanting to kick your dogs but he should stay still.

As for carrying your PSD or any SD I object strenuously. They have feet and can walk for themselves. The exception is unless the dog needs to be in physical contact at all times to do his work and I don't think that is necessary. There are a couple of reasons I object. First it leans people away from completing what is considered minimum training for any program or OT service dog. Most people use the ADI PAT for that standard. A dog that is carried everywhere will not be able to pass the PAT. Second (note there may be some unintentional triggers here)
the advent of the faker dog in recent years. People who carry and push there dogs around and claim they are service dogs. These dogs are generally easy to spot as fakers but not always. Things like fear and reactivity and control problems plague these dogs when they are in public and cause no end of problems for legitimate SD and especially PSDs that are carried. If you are going got have a SD of any kind it should be able to pass the ADI PAT minimum. Being on the ground, behaving in a proper manner and wearing a vest is how it's done. It is a question of protecting all teams and establishing a standard for ourselves before the pundits and politicos write it into law.
how do i apply for a PSD? i am disabled with agoraphobia/severe panic disorder, PTSD and am housebound i cannot go out in public and need assistance...where do i go or how do i go about getting my dog/partner...please if you could respond i would be forever grateful...sincerly Amy thank you
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Old 02-02-2011, 11:16 AM   #7
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Originally Posted by Amy N View Post
how do i apply for a PSD? i am disabled with agoraphobia/severe panic disorder, PTSD and am housebound i cannot go out in public and need assistance...where do i go or how do i go about getting my dog/partner...please if you could respond i would be forever grateful...sincerly Amy thank you
Hi Amy ..
There is no formal application and I will be writing more about that in a new thread by this weekend. If you rent and since are legally disabled (per SS/SSI criteria) because you cannot work, then your psychiatrist is your first stop, making sure he knows your full set of symptoms and how they specifically impact your ability to function, and pointing out how you feel a dog, in both trained and untrained way, will be able to help you function more independently and have greater access to the use and enjoyment of what a slightly wider slice of the world.

He can write you a letter.. a kinda prescription. This letter will give you a way around any pet-restrictive provisions in a lease and it will free you from any pet deposits. When you eventually leave, you will be responsible for pet-caused damage, but your basic rental deposit will hopefully cover all of it.

I will deal with other aspects of "how it works" in another thread by this coming weekend, but I will now talk to you about "finding a dog" - the right dog.

Start here - http://www.iaadp.org/criteria.html

First of all, realize you are going to be getting a dog of at least 2 years of age (finally fully mature, past the puppy stage, ready to be an adult). Most dogs have to retire from being a service dog by the time they are 10... BUT the smaller the breed, the longer they live. A small poodle or small poodle/small dog cross can give you a dog with an active life span of at least 15 years... That may be something you want to think about.

Think about what you want the dog to do for you, with you. How active/inactive are you? Do you want a cuddler and shadow, someone to curl up on your lap or lay his head on your legs? Or would a more independent dog be easier on your personality? Are you active or mostly a homebody - will you need a short-legged pooch who doesn't need an hours walk or a actual jog or outright run?

Pick a size first - read up on breeds. And time involved for care. While all animals shed hair either continually (most short flat smooth coats) and have the type of hair that spears in, embedding itself in upholstery... or heavily for 3 weeks in March-April when you need to brush (if you can) twice a day (at least once) for those 3 weeks. For the rest of the year, a weekly brushing or so can keep tangles from forming.

Visit dog shelters and take various dogs out on a leash for some time on their grassy area. SOME dogs are purebreds, even registered. And the shelter tries to figure out what breeds have gone into a cross-bred (crosses are healthier with fewer genetic problems). SOME are surrendered by loving owners who give information on whether the animal is house-broken and information on their personality, likes and dislikes.

Eventually, should you find a possible, you can ask the shelter to give the dog a battery of tests to assess for emotional stability, dog aggression and traits necessary to determine how well and quickly he/she can be trained.

Any dog adopted from a shelter or rescue organization will come tested for various serious illnesses, spayed/neutered, wormed, full shots and a "certificate" of good health. Plus, you can always return the dog in the first weeks if it just doesn't work out.

There are other ways to get a dog. I posted on Craigslist and had mine within 2 days just by telling a bit about me and about what kind of dog I was looking for... A lady who could no longer keep her Pekingese went on Craigslist for the first time to place an ad, saw me, called me, we found out we lived about 15 minutes apart. I wasn't looking for a purebred, just an adult small housebroken dog who would be happy living in a quiet home with a homebody, who had great couch-potato potential.

You can go online to PetFinder.org and go looking for shelters and the ads from people trying to find new homes for the dogs they can no longer keep. For shelters and such, you put in the size, sex, breed sort you are looking for, your zip code and how far you are willing to travel, and you will get a list of possibles. They give you information on whether the dog is safe around children, cats or even people in general. They disclose any health problems, behavioral short-comings, size, weight and includes a photo and phone number.

If you have the money, you can contact those who have show dogs (go to a big breed dog show and have the time of your life) and ask the handler if they might suggest an owner of retired show dogs the owner doesn't want to use for breeding. They will make you sign a contract that you will have the dog spayed/neutered and never try to breed the animal. They will care about matching the right dog to you. Or ask dog groomers about ethical breeders in the area that might give you some leads to possible available dogs. Vets are a source of the occasional stray or knowledge of an owner who needs to place their dog. And of course there is PetsMart Saturdays when there is often an adoption day (call your nearest to check).

Breed rescues will often also have cross-breds, too. Some are rescues from dog pounds and other kill shelters, most are owner surrenders. An ethical rescue is methodically in checking you out and matching you will the right dog for you. Only choose a rescue nearby so you can visit foster homes. The foster mom will be the best source of all the good and the naughty about the dogs since rescues don't have an overnight turnover - the want to get to know the dog and get to know the dog.

There are several ways you can get a suitable dog, but take your time, see lots of dogs, give it a lot of thought, then spend some quality time with the dog, one on one, playing, a walk, before you make that decision.

Trainability is so very important - the dog must show a tremendous desire to please you. Or you can go the "tiny pieces of Pupperoni" food reward route. You want an easily trainable dog who focuses strongly on you.

Look for my next thread....
Theresa
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Last edited by OneMoreTime; 02-02-2011 at 11:22 AM. Reason: made fragment a full sentence
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Old 04-30-2014, 12:00 AM   #8
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I want to report my own experiences in having and training a dog. I think the disagreement with OneMoreTime was just semantics.

My dog started out as my pet and I thought I would need to get another and go through extensive training and money to do so. In reading more on the needed attributes of a PSD, I realized mine seemed just right, so I spoke with trainers. I was able to do much of the training in between sessions, advancing her progress and saving on the cost . . . considerably.

She is a 16 pound schnoodle, smart, and calm - unless a cat runs in front of her, but she will stop when I say so even under this condition. She is not either aggressive nor passive, nor anxious. She loves people, children, and other animals, living as we do with another dog and three cats. She is very well socialized and very tuned into my moods and behaviours.

She walks extremely well off-leash and on, and is trained in many commands. Sometimes I think she understands English. I am not greatly physically disabled, though I have fibromyalgia which limits the extent of my activities, but long walks are definitely on our daily agenda and she keeps healthy and happy. We both benefit from the walks and the other playtime we share with each other or on "play dates" with other dogs.

She does not need nor particularly like to be confined even in a soft carrier, but I do like the idea of having a carrier for certain activities and in some places. For instance, it makes it much easier and keeps customers happier to confine her when we go grocery shopping. It isn't necessary as she does not cause commotions, and out of the carrier can perform her duties in case I need her help. Sometimes this is needed as I become anxious in lines and crowds, and might resort to aggressive behaviour and she gently can nudge me out of this stress response.

So thank you all for this discussion. Incidentally, she is 8 years old and we embarked on this adventure 2 years ago. I am bipolar and I am satisfied; so are my psychiatrist and my therapist. They report seeing less of my hypo-manic and aggressive states since then.
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