Published on October 18, 2023

How to Train a Service Dog for Anxiety and Depression

Service dogs have become a staple of treatment for physical and mental disabilities. People who struggle with anxiety, depression, and other mental health disorders can get help from a service dog that’s trained to manage those conditions. 

That said, learning about how to train a service dog for anxiety and depression is essential if you plan on going down this route. Even if you don’t plan on training the dog yourself, understanding the training process can help you build a better relationship with your service animal.

Read on to learn about how to train a service dog for anxiety and depression below.

Can You Train a Service Dog Yourself?

Yes, you can train a service dog on your own. As long as you follow the guidelines for service dogs in your state, you shouldn’t have any problems training them. Keep in mind that the process takes several years and can be a waste of time if you don’t train your dog properly. For this reason, we always recommend working with a professional service dog trainer.

Where to Find a Service Dog Trainer

Service dog trainers are available all across the United States. That said, always make sure you verify the trainers you plan on working with to ensure that they’re high in quality. The wrong trainer can cost you thousands and leave you stranded with a dog that can’t help your anxiety and depression.

For these reasons, we always recommend working with US Service Animals when possible. You can learn about some of the best service dog trainers in your state without having to do all of the research yourself.

5 Steps to Train a Service Dog for Anxiety and Depression

Training a service dog for anxiety and depression doesn’t have to be challenging as long as you know the steps. Below we take you through the steps to train a service dog for mental health disorders. 

Step 1: Breed Selection

When you’re training a dog to care for someone’s mental health, selecting the right breed is essential. Plus, you have more options because you don’t have to worry about finding large dogs that need to reach certain heights or push wheelchairs. Therefore, take your time with breed selection.

Step 2: Socialization

When you’re training a psychiatric service dog socialization is essential. If your dog isn’t social with other dogs or people it will cause problems down the line. Plus, a psychiatric service dog that’s not properly socialized won’t be able to understand your moods, triggers, or anxiety.

Most puppies are socialized by boarders or breeders and most foster dogs also go through some type of socialization. So, it typically comes down to remaining engaged with your companion.

Step 3: Begin Basic Training

When it’s time to train your dog for service dog tasks it’s best to start with the basics. The basics will include things like teaching your dog to sit, come, and heel. You can also teach them other commands that suit your needs and we recommend starting this process while they’re still a puppy. It will help you get the best results.

Step 4: Public Access Skills

Service dogs are in a class of their own when it comes to public access. Laws outlined in the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) and Fair Housing Act (FHA) ensure that service dogs can enter most public spaces. For this reason, make sure you train your dog to be calm in those spaces. While they’re young, bring them to breweries, cafes, and other busy locations to help them adjust.

Step 5: Individual Response Training

The last step in the training process is to teach them individual responses. This is where training will branch out for anxiety, depression, and other specific tasks. When training a dog for anxiety or depression it’s all about having them understand the signs of your attacks or moods. You can do so by giving them dog treats when you’re going through a panic attack or by holding them tightly when you feel stressed.

Dogs are remarkable animals that can also sense your emotions once they get to know you. Therefore, you don’t have to worry about too much here. Just make sure you also teach them to get you out of public spaces if you have social anxiety and focus on tasks that are specific to your needs.

You can follow these steps to train your service dog or have your dog trained by a professional.

Train Your Service Dog for Anxiety and Depression Today!

Training your service dog for anxiety and depression is possible but it does take time. We always recommend working with a professional service dog trainer to ensure that your dog is trained properly. This will help them pass any tests and help your dog get certified. While you can get this done on your own the entire process is easier when you have some help.

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