The National Institute of Mental Health estimates nearly 20% of adults in the United States live with some form of emotional or mental disability with symptoms ranging from mild to severe.
Some of the most common disorders such as Generalized Anxiety, Post Traumatic Stress Disorder, Depression, Panic Disorder and certain Phobias if treated properly can be very manageable and have only a minimal impact on everyday life.
Research has even shown individuals partnered with a Psychiatric Service Dog experience a dramatic reduction in unwanted symptoms and require substantially less medication.
One Study performed by Researchers at McMaster University showed Veterans who suffered from PTSD and utilized the help of a Psychiatric Service Dog found that 82% of respondents indicated a reduction in their symptoms and 40% of the trial group required less medication!
Federal law permits anyone with a disability (physical or psychological) to have and train their own Service Animal.
Psychiatric Service Dogs have the same rights and privileges as any other Service Animal under the American with Disabilities Act.
Recognized Emotional and Physical Disabilities may include:
* Post Traumatic Stress Disorder or PTSD
* Generalized Anxiety
* Panic Disorder
* Phobia's (identifiable fear)
* Mood Disorders
* Melancholia Disorder
* Personality Disorder
* Social Anxiety
* Severe Nightmare Disorder
* Bipolar Disorder
* Obsessive Compulsive
* Autism Spectrum Disorder
* Dizziness/Balance issues
* Mobility limitations (difficulty walking, reaching, ect)
* Severe Sleep Disorder
* Severe Eating Disorders
If you are one of the nearly 60 million Americans who suffer from an identifiable physical or emotional disorder and it is determined you can benefit from the presence of a trained Service Dog you can use our service to register and train your own Service Animal.
Our Free Online Guide will walk you through a step by step process that anyone can follow. In as little as 2-3 months you can have a trained Service Dog that can accompany you ANYWHERE!
And if you are like many Americans who do not have access to affordable Mental Healthcare the National Service Dog Institute has partnered with Keystone Psychological Services to provide online therapy and Mental Health services which specialize in utilizing Psychiatric Service Dogs to help treat emotional disabilities.
Please see our Evaluation section below for more information about Psychiatric Service Dogs.
Service Dog Training and RegistrationNationalServiceDogInstitute.org
Registering your Service Dog and having him/her wear a vest and ID will help other members of the public identify your dog as a Service Animal.
Much in the same way a person's uniform identifies what profession they practice so will a proper Service Dog ID, Registration, and Vest.
We will handle ANY questions you get beyond the two questions you are required to answer by law: (1) is the dog a service animal required because of a disability? and (2) what work or task has the dog been trained to perform?
Any further questions YOU are not required to answer and you can either choose not to answer OR provide our contact information to whoever has questions about YOUR service dog. WE will handle any further questions ANYONE asks you.
(1) Service Dog ID badge with OUR contact information should you ever have a problem you can provide our phone number and we will help handle the situation.
(2) Your Service Dog will be listed in our online registry so people can verify your service animal's training and working skills.
* Help calm a person with PTSD or Anxiety by providing tactile stimulation. This can be done by having the Service Dog place his/her paws on their handler in extremely stressful situations or by having the dog trained to be physically present at their handler's side when needed.
* Protect a person during a seizure or panic attack by guarding their handler to prevent harm from others and if unconscious licking the person to awaken them.
* Detect and prevent future panic attacks, seizures and even low/high blood sugar levels for diabetics.
* Search dark rooms to reassure handler of their safety and reduce anxiety.
* Awaken handler if suffering from night-mares
* Remind handler to take his/her medicine.
* Use K-9 adapted telephone to alert authorities during an emergency.
* Help a person out of bed, into a wheelchair, or other mobility functions.
* Alert hearing impaired handlers to specific sounds.
* Retrieve mobility aids such as canes or walkers.
* And so much more! Service Dogs which are trained to assist their handler with any of the above functions are NOT a pet but instead considered a necessary and essential medical tool.
Service Dogs are protected by Federal Law and to discriminate against a Service Dog or their handler is a Civil Rights crime punishable by steep fines by the Department of Justice.
Psychiatric Service Dog Evaluation
(1) If you don't already have access to a Mental Health Specialist we have partnered with U.S. Therapy Network to provide professional TeleTherapy services online and by telephone. If it's determined through our evaluation you would benefit from a Psychiatric Service Dog a licensed therapist will write you a letter of recommendation for a flat fee of $99.95.
Should you not qualify for a letter of recommendation using our online evaluation your full purchase price will be refunded.
(2) If you already have a Mental Health Specialist you can Register your Service Dog with the NationalServiceDogInstitute.com and receive the following:
Registration Certificate confirming your dog as a Service Animal with your Dog's picture and verifiable ID number.
(3) A Service Dog ID Card with your dog's picture that you can clip to your service animal's collar
(4) Service Dog Vest: We also suggest you purchase a Service Dog vest through Amazon or Ebay that comfortably fits your dog. Any Vest which identifies your dog as a Service Dog to the public will work.
(5) If you experience ANY difficulties with your Service Dog while in public please give your Service Dog Registration Information to any inquiring party and we will help clarify any questions or issues that may arise.
Training Your own Service Dog
Training a Service Dog is a significant time commitment which can take 8 to 16 months to complete. All training should be done using positive reinforcement techniques primarily using food treats and praise and should never involvement punishment of any sort.
Does a Service Animal have to be a Dog?
Only dogs and miniature horses are permitted to be service animals in the United States per the American’s with Disabilities Act (ADA). For purposes of this guide we will only cover Service Dogs however it should be noted the same rules for Service Dogs also applies to miniature horses with the addition of the following requirements (1) the miniature horse needs to be house broken (2) the miniature horse needs to be under the handler’s control (3) whether the public facility (i.e. restaurant, movie theater, ect) can accommodate the miniature horse’s type, size and weight (4) the presence of the miniature horse cannot compromise public safety. Miniature horses are typically 24 to 34 inches tall and weigh approximately 70 to 100 pounds and can be trained in a similar manner as a service dog.
Choosing a Service Dog
The breed of dog you choose for your service animal will also determine how successful training will be. Certain breeds tend to perform better than others. For example, though Border Collies are highly intelligent they require an extraordinary amount of exercise everyday and would probably not make the best candidate for a service animal.
While German Shepherds and Labradors are often chosen as Service Animals because of their high intelligence and mild temperament, two important traits you will want to look for in a service animal. However, if you have a mixed breed dog or a breed not mentioned above that does not mean your dog wont make a good service animal. If your dog is easily trained and well tempered those two qualities are more important than breed by itself.
Training by Positive Reinforcement
Training your service dog using positive reinforcement methods are primarily based upon using food and praise as rewards. When your dog performs a command correctly he or she is rewarded with a treat. We suggest you use dry kibble or another healthy alternative during routine training and when your dog has mastered a command or rather difficult task to use special rewards such as small a small piece of chicken or other special healthy treat. We suggest you only use meat sparingly as if used too often such a treat wont be as prized by your dog.
Besides dry kibble and the occasional special reward of chicken, bread, or other treat you will want to purchase a “clicker” that you can hold in the palm of your hand and whenever your dog successfully performs a command to then click the clicker and then give your dog his treat. Soon your dog will come to associate the sound of the clicker to mean he succeeded in his task and a reward will soon follow.
Basic training – teach your dog his name
To teach your dog his name you want to start in a quiet place with as few distractions as possible. Wait until your dog is not looking at you – he may be sniffing around the room or looking for something to do and THEN clearly say your dog’s name. When he looks at you press your clicker and reward him with a few pieces of dry kibble (it’s a good idea to buy a pouch or pack you can wear to store the kibble so you can keep your hands free) and you can also praise your dog by saying “good Boy” or “good girl.”
Now repeat this process several times the same as before, most dogs will quickly learn their name.
Teaching the “Sit” “Stay” “Here” and “Come” command
It will likely be easier to teach your dog the “here” command rather than “stay” which will usually take some practice to master. Your dog should already know his name and when you add the command “here” you will want your dog to simply walk to you. The more formal command to “come” which should mean to walk to you and then sit in the heel position can be taught later.
To do this, again use the positive reinforcement approach. You do not want your dog to associate their name with anything bad and you should never call your dog by name to scold him for any reason. Start off a few feet from your dog and call his name and then add “here” or “come.” If your dog does not walk to you hold out your hand with the dry kibble which should entice him or her. When your dog approaches press your clicker and reward with dry kibble.
Practice this command a few times from a further and further distance and reward your dog every time he follows your command. After several successful practices give your dog a special treat such as a piece of chicken, bread or other fresh food. He should quickly learn this command.
The “sit” and “stay” command will likely take a little more time to learn but can be mastered using a few tricks. With your dog standing hold some dry kibble in your hand just over your dog’s nose and then move your hand back over his head keeping your hand closed so he cannot get the treat in your hand. Most dogs will try to follow your hand and then sit looking up once your hand and treat are over their sit. Just as your dog sits add the verbal command “sit” press your clicker and then reward your dog with the dry kibble in your hand and verbally praise.
To teach the “stay” command once your dog sits use your clicker and reward with dry kibble if they don’t move from their sit position while adding the command to “stay.” Start off in short intervals of 5 to 10 seconds and then add a release command such as “free” while holding out your hand with kibble so your dog will sit up and walk to you. And once again reward with food and praise.
You will want to use the “stay” command over longer and longer intervals and even add in a few distractions or change the location of where your dog will sit. Once your dog can sit and stay for at least 30 seconds you will then want to teach them the “down” command as a dog can stay more comfortable while lying down than sitting.
The “Down” command
Once your dog has mastered the “sit” command place some dry kibble in your palm and then hold your hand in front of your dogs nose and then lower your hand to the ground. Your dog should want to follow the treat by sliding forward, once on his tummy use your clicker and then reward with food.
Within the first 30 days of training you should have a pretty good idea of how well your dog will perform as a service animal. A good service dog candidate will master these commands within the first month assuming you have the time to train full time during the first 30 days.
Service Dog tasks – retrieving items
To train your dog to retrieve items you can first start with one of your dog’s toys or something your dog can easily place in their mouth such as a tennis ball. Hold the ball in front of your dog he should begin to investigate to see what you have and when he first touches the ball with his nose or mouth press your clicker, say the name of the object which in the case is a “ball” and reward with a dry kibble treat.
Your dog should now show an interest in the ball. Place the ball in front of your dog and reward only when your dog picks up the ball with his mouth. Hold your hands under his mouth so he can drop it into your hands and when he does use your clicker and say the phrase “bring me the ball,” then praise and reward with dry kibble. Repeat this process several times and gradually increase the distance your dog is retrieving the item from.
The “Heel” and “Side” command
The heel position is typically at the handler’s left while the “side” position is on the right. Start by calling your dog’s name and hold some dry kibble in your left hand with your palm closed and point to your left side. When your dog arrives at your left side use your clicker, say “heel” and then reward with the dry kibble in your hand.
Teaching the “side” command can be done the same way. As your dog learns the heel and side command you may want to attempt changing your walking pattern in an attempt to try to lose your dog and make him pay attention more where you’re walking.
The “Pull” or “Open” command
The pull or open command can be used to train your dog to open doors such as bedroom and refrigerator doors or any item you can tie a rope to. To begin place a short piece of rope in front of your dog and wait for him to bite onto the rope. If your dog doesn’t show interest in the rope you can place a touch of peanut butter on the end of the rope.
Once your dog bites onto the rope use your clicker, verbally praise, and reward with dry kibble. Practice this a few times and then lightly tug on the rope with your dog holding onto the other end with his mouth. Once he pulls on the rope himself use your clicker, reward with a high value treat and then use the command “pull.”
As you practice the pull command it’s also a good idea to change the types of ropes used so your dog will learn to pull whatever you want on command. Once your dog is consistently pulling on command you can tie your rope to a door, laundry basket or other item you would like pulled. Using the same command have your dog pull on the rope, once the door is opened as desired use your clicker, praise and then reward with dry kibble.
You can later add in the command “open” to substitute for “pull” by commanding your dog to pull on the rope and then before rewarding your dog and praising say the command “open” and then praise and reward.
The “Close” and “Push” command
Place a post-it note or tape a bright small piece of paper to the edge of a door, this will provide a target for your dog and make it easier for him to close. Tap the piece of paper with your finger until your dog touches it with his nose then use your clicker, give the command “close” and then reward your dog. Start with the door open only a few inches and increase distance as your dog learns the “close” command. Once your dog has mastered the close command you can add the name “door” so your dog will know what object you are referring to.
You can use the same technique to teach the “push” command for a door and then carry that over to more important tasks such as pushing a wheel chair or pushing a dresser drawer closed.
The “Leave it” command
The “Leave it” command will teach your not only not to eat food he finds on the floor but also to leave other items and things, including other dogs alone. To accomplish this begin with two types of treats, the first a low value treat such as dried kibble and the second a high value treat such as white meat chicken.
Place the low value treat in the your hand and close your palm. Your dog will likely begin nosing your hand but do not open your hand to give him the food. As soon as he stops trying to get the food in your hand use your clicker, give the command “leave it” and then reward your dog with the high value chicken treat, do not reward with the dry kibble in your hand.
Repeat this process several times and soon your dog will begin to lose interest in the dry kibble you have in your closed hand. To make the process interesting again open your hand with the dry kibble and then give the command to “leave it.” If your dog still rushes to retrieve the dry kibble quickly close your hand and begin the process all over until your dog is again following the “leave it” command.
As your dog learns the “leave it” command advance training further by placing the dry kibble in front of your dog quickly followed by the “leave it” command. By this point your dog should associate the “leave it” command with a higher value treat and leave whatever item he has taken interest in alone. If your dog requires further practice it may be helpful to have him leashed while you practice and place the food on the floor just slightly out of his reach. As soon as your dog stops attempting to get to the low value treat press your clicker, give the “leave it” command, praise and reward your dog with the high value chicken treat.
You can repeat this process using anything you want your dog to avoid such as people or even other dogs.
Psychiatric Service Dogs
A Psychiatric Service Dog is trained to provide psychological support for individuals suffering from a variety of psychological disorders such as PTSD, Anxiety, Phobias and Mood Disorders. A trained service dog can provide psychological support to afflicted individuals by providing tactile stimulation to his/her handler by making physical contact during a panic attack or other stressful situation. The simple act of a trained dog standing at their handler's side when needed and placing a paw on their handler or using their body weight to provide a sense of presence for their handler has been shown to greatly reduce and lessen the severity of such psychological episodes.
First think of a command to give your dog when you want them to make physical contact by either standing at your side or placing a paw on your lap, in this case we will use the term "Side." Place a treat in the palm of your closed hand and hold your hand at your side. As soon as your dog approaches your side to get the treat press the clicker, give the "Side" command, and then reward your dog with the treat that was in your hand. Repeat this process until you are comfortable your dog has learned the "Side" command. Next use the same "Side" command but reward only when your dog is placing a noticeable weight against your side. Once learned this simple act of closeness has been clinically proven to reduce panic attacks and stress for individuals with PTSD or anxiety disorders.
Next teach your dog to place a paw on your lap when sitting down. To do this place a treat in your palm and hold your hand on your hip. Your dog will first probably try to nose your hand open to get the treat but continue holding the treat in your hand. Next your dog will likely try to open your hand with his paw. Once he does this press the clicker, give the command which in this case is "Lap" and reward with the treat that is in your hand.
To get your dog to keep his paw on your lap use the "Lap" command but reward only when he keeps his paw on your lap for an extended period of time OR continue to praise your dog after he is rewarded and then follow this with a second use of your clicker and then another treat. You want your dog to keep his paw on your lap until you give the command "off" or "down."
Advanced Service Dog training – Low/High Blood Sugar and Seizures
Dogs are able to use their sense of smell to detect low or high blood sugar levels, sometimes even before they can be detected by a blood glucose monitor which is thought to be because dogs can sense even the smallest changes in brain chemistry which also explains how they can sense the onset of a seizure.
When experiencing low blood sugar levels take several saliva samples using a sterile cotton swab and freeze the sample in a clean plastic bag until ready for use. Then using a steel mesh colander as a cover place the cotton swab sample into a clean strainer and cover with the mesh colander. The idea here is to teach your dog to search for the smell and not make physical contact with the cotton swab sample.
Bring the mesh colander and container to your dog, as soon as he begins to smell the container use your clicker and reward with a treat and praise. Practice this several times and move the bowl around to different locations, each time rewarding your dog for sniffing the bowl.
When you’re comfortable your dog has learned this task use a second bowl exactly the same as the first but instead of placing a saliva sample inside leave the second bowl empty. Placing both bowls approximately two feet apart observe what your dog does. He should sniff but pass on the empty bowl and then stop at the first bowl in anticipation of a treat. For a trained service dog to learn this task may take many months or even a year or more so be patient.
When your dog does begin to successfully alert you to the low blood sugar sample you can add a command and teach them various ways of alerting you such as by licking or nudging you.
Alerting for Seizures
Unlike Low/High blood sugar levels a seizure cannot be replicated or saved using frozen samples. If you are by yourself one way for your dog to alert you to seizures is for the dog to experience the owner having a seizure. It is possible that after repeated seizures with the service dog being rewarded for staying by you during each episode by rewarding with food and treats following each event your dog will eventually learn to alert you prior to your next seizure in anticipation of receiving a treat.
Where are Service Dogs permitted?
Service Dogs are permitted almost anywhere their handler can go including restaurants, grocery stores, movie theaters, hotels, motels, condos, apartments, airplanes, trains, busses and most other places their handler can go and that are open to the public.
There are only an extremely limited number of exceptions where Service Animals are not permitted which are generally not open to the public such as a hospital operating room where the presence of a service dog or any other animal would compromise public health and safety and are not allowed.
Restaurants and supermarkets though required to adhere to acceptable cleanliness standards ARE open to the public and must permit Service Animals per the Federal Law.
Hotels and Motels may have rules regarding pets however these do not apply to Service Dogs which by law are not considered a pet. If a Hotel or Motel attempts to charge a customer any additional fees for having a Service Dog they are in violation of Federal Law.
When can a business or other establishment deny access to a Service Dog?
Except in the very extremely limited situations previously mentioned such as a hospital operating room any business or institution which is open to the public must accept Service Dogs. However, if your Service Dog were to cause a disturbance or otherwise be out of control then the business would be well within there right to refuse access to both you and your dog. This is why your service dog needs to be well trained and well mannered. In the event you are ever denied access to a business for this reason the business or establishment must provide the disabled customer the option of attaining their goods or services without the dog present – since your dog will be well trained hopefully this will never happen to you.
Can a Hotel or Motel charge a cleaning fee for a Service Dog?
No. Hotels or Motels cannot charge guests for cleaning the fur or dander shed by a Service Dog. However if the Service Dog or their handler causes damage to the property the establishment would be permitted to charge a fee for damages similar to what any other guest would be required to pay.
What Questions can a business or establishment ask about your Service Dog?
The questions any business (public or private) are able to ask about your Service Dog is controlled by Federal Law (American’s with Disabilities Act). Per ADA a business is permitted only to ask two questions (1) is the Service Dog required because of a disability? (2) What work or task has the dog been trained to perform?
A business may not ask to see documentation of any sort to “prove” your dog is a Service Animal. The reason for this is if a blind person is accompanied by a Service Dog it would be unconscionable to expect a blind person to produce paperwork attesting to their dog’s skills or their disability.
Federal Privacy Laws do not permit a business to ask a person with a Service Dog to disclose their specific disability. For example if your Service Dog is trained to assist to mitigate symptoms of PTSD you do not have to say you have PTSD, rather you can provide a general answer and say the dog helps you with a psychiatric condition and leave it at that.
The business cannot ask you to have your Service Dog demonstrate it’s trained task as proof the dog is a trained Service Animal. They are only permitted to ask what the dog is trained to do. You never need to answer or provide any further information other than (1) is the Service Dog required because of a disability? And (2) What work or task has the dog been trained to perform? Any other question is no one’s business and per Federal Law you are not required to answer.
Who can train a Service Dog?
Per Federal Law ANYONE can train their own Service Dog. Our online guide will assist you with this process which can take as little as several months or several years. Much will depend on the task your dog is being trained to perform and how well your dog is acclimated to training. Some dogs can be trained simple tasks such as opening a door relatively easily while other dogs may be more difficult. Finding a dog that is easy to train is not always an easy task, even for skilled animal trainers.
Does Your Service Dog need a vest or ID badge?
Technically, your Service Dog is not required to have a vest or ID badge. However it is probably a good idea to have something that identifies your dog as a Service Animal. This will help inform the public that you have a Service Dog without needing to verbally ask you.
Does my Service Dog need to be Registered?
No. There is no requirement to register your Service Dog however much like a vest or ID badge registering your Service Dog can provide the public with an additional reference point that your dog is a Service Animal.
What to do if your Service Dog is denied access to a business or other establishment?
If your dog is denied access to a business or other establishment you have the right to file a complaint with the Department of Justice which will investigate the matter and may fine or sue the establishment on your behalf. Or you also have the right to file your own Civil Rights lawsuit against the establishment in court.