[by Navily Zhen] Psychiatric Service Dogs (PSDs) are trained specifically to assist people with mental illnesses to live more independent, productive lives. Are they actually helpful? Research shows that veterans who were provided with a service dog had their PTSD symptoms decrease, along with lower depression scores, greater satisfaction of life, and increase in well-being. For these veterans, having a service dog motivated them to seek employment and absenteeism decreased. Generally, PSDs allow for humans to feel independent, not having to rely on people for assistance, which might even worsen the condition. PSDs also allow for increased confidence in social settings as a service dog can empower individuals to become more comfortable interacting with others.
PSDs are able to transform the lives of those with mental illnesses, a goal of Healing Companions. Our psychiatric service dogs are rescued and trained to aid our clients, giving both dogs and clients a second chance at life. At Healing Companions, PSDs are trained in two stages: Basic Obedience Training and Specialized Training, where training consists of weekly sessions involving professional hands-on training with the handler (client) and the dog. Some tasks PSDs are trained to perform include:
- Interrupting obsessive/compulsive behaviors i.e. Sitting playing video games for hours, the dog is trained to tug on their sleeve and drop the leash on humans lap while leading the handler to the front door. Paw person that is picking at skin, hair etc.
- Waking up from a nightmare, retrieving remote control and lying beside the handler while they watch TV.
- Retrieving medications stored in a bag at times of day that the handler needs to take them.
These tasks, along with many others are tailored to each handler’s needs so they can function more productively, independently, and be able to attend to critical activities of daily life.
If you qualify for a PSD with Healing Companions, which can be answered here: http://healing-companions.org/do-i-qualify-for-a-psd/, we provide access to shelter dogs with potential, working for 1 1/2- 2 years with the handler until the dog is ready to work as their PSD in order to diminish the effects of their specific individual symptoms. Overall, PSDs provide immense support through the tasks they are trained to perform, helping the individuals diminish their symptoms. The PSD is trained to mitigate the effects of the handlers’ specific symptoms –motivating people to transform their lives to become stronger, more productive, and lead more independent lives.
More information on training psychiatric service dogs can be found on the website here: http://healing-companions.org/the-program/training-psychiatric-service-dogs/
More information on the benefits of psychiatric service dogs: