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Not All Disabilities Are Visible

Having a Service Dog for Anxiety

By Brittany Nicole AllenPublished 6 years ago 5 min read

My name is Brittany. I have been diagnosed with anxiety and depression. I also suffer from panic attacks. This is why I have been training my dog to be my service dog. The one thing that really annoys me is when someone says "Isn't he too little to be a service dog?" The answer is no. Any breed of dog can be a service dog. This also depends on what you will need the service dog for. Having a smaller dog works well for me because when I feel like I am anxious or about to have a panic attack, I can easily pick him up and hold him close to me. I have also trained him to recognize when my breathing is changing and he will jump up on my leg so I can pick him up. If I am sitting, he will lick my face as a way of stimulation. (Some people have judged me on stimulation, however this is a very successful technique as it calms me down and distracts me from the situation.) I feel like some people don't understand this. I also trained him to do this when I say "Alert" so that he knows something is wrong in case my breathing has not changed.

Some people feel like service animals are only for people who are physically disabled (blind, amputee, ect.). THIS IS NOT TRUE.My service animal is what you would call a psychiatric service dog. A psychiatric service dog is a specific type of service dog trained to assist their handler with a psychiatric disability or a mental disability, such as post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), schizophrenia, depression, anxiety, and bipolar disorder. They are trained to fit the individual's specific needs, and they also perform a task for the handler. (My dog alerts me when I am having a panic attack so I can take the appropriate measures.) It is also preferred if these types of service dogs are trained by their handler so they can form a bond and learn what works for both the dog and handler.

Many people with a psychiatric service dog face social issues because other people feel that because there is no visible disability that this is a fake service animal. NOT ALL DISABILITIES ARE VISIBLE. I can walk, talk, and such just fine...I just get extremely anxious from time to time and can end up getting a panic attack that no person can help me with. Having my service dog with me also makes me feel more comfortable and relaxed in environments and around people. I know that I can pick him up anytime I feel I need to and he makes me smile and can prevent me from getting anxious. His vest also has a handle on it so I can clench onto it if I feel I'm going to have a panic attack. This also helps those with a psychiatric service dog.

I have to say that if you see a service animal in public:

1. Please do not distract them by trying to gain their attention. This can cause the service animal to miss an alert or attack that the handler might end up having.

2. Ask to pet. Do not just go up to a service animal and pet them. This is another form of distraction. It is preferred to not pet service animals, but some handlers will allow this. I allow this while my service dog is in training so he can get comfortable with people and children. However, if I feel I am having a bad day, I will ask you politely to not distract him or say that he is a service dog and you are not allowed to pet.

3. Service dogs are not required to have a vest or identification. Don't assume that just because someone's service dog has nothing on them that they are not a service animal. Under ADA law, this is not required. However, it is easy to tell when the animal is not a service dog. Service dogs are required to behave in public. If a dog is aggressively barking and/or not house trained (uses the bathroom indoors), this could be a sign of a fake service animal.

4. Do not ask what the person needs the service animal for. This may be rude if the handler doesn't want to share their medical history. (Ask to ask questions.) If the handler wants you to know, they will tell you. People in public notice that his vest says "service dog in training." This leads to questions that I don't mind answering. People will ask what he is being trained for, who he is being trained for, and what I do to train him.

NOTE: Under the ADA, the dog must already be trained before it can be taken into public places. However, some state or local laws cover animals that are still in training. (I made sure to check my state before taking my dog in public places. If your state does not allow this, take him/her places that dogs are allowed in order to train them for the public.)

5. It's okay to smile and say "cute dog," but don't do anything else without permission.

6. Do not confuse a service animal with an emotional support animal (ESA) or a therapy dog. THEY ARE NOT THE SAME. Only service animals are covered under ADA law and can be allowed in public places. A service animal is trained to perform tasks for the handler and is well-trained in public. An ESA animal is an animal that provides emotional support. They are not trained to perform tasks for the handler. They are just there if the person feels lonely. However, some state or local governments have laws that allow people to take emotional support animals into public places. A therapy dog is used for therapy. They are basically for petting. Some therapy dogs visit hospitals to comfort the patients. They are not trained for only one individual.

7. If a service animal is out of control and the handler does not take effective action to control it, staff may request that the animal be removed from the premises.

8. Some people assume that service animals have to be professionally trained. This is not true. People with disabilities have the right to train the dog themselves and are not required to use a professional service dog training program.

Having a service animal has made my life easier and helps me with living with anxiety. I don't always take him with me because I don't always want to depend on him. However, if I know that I am going to a new place with new people, I will make sure to take him with me. Some situations I know I will need him in case I get too anxious. It is worth it to have a service animal, but please just don't assume that just because you can't see a person's disability that they are faking it. That applies to any situation. Mental illness is also a disability, and many people suffer from different kinds.

Thank you :)


About the Creator

Brittany Nicole Allen

Actor/Writer/Author - Crime & Vampires

My eBooks can be found on

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