I have been diagnosed and have been on many different medications for about 10 years now, for generalized anxiety disorder, panic disorder, agoraphobia and depression. I could have PTSD in my records as well, not sure. I don't want to be on medication anymore, I have been in the process of weaning off for the past few months.
I think a PSD would highly benefit me.
I am considering training Rogue (my 8 month old GSD I have now) if she passes an evaluation. I think for PSD the most important qualification would be solid nerves. An anxious dog would NOT be good
So my questions are:
1. Can I have her as a PSD and also let her be involved in French Ring?
2. She has issues with certain surfaces. ... That is the only downfall I can see with her so far. Otherwise she's very stable, loves to work, likes people but is more aloof the older she gets. Loves kids, easy to train etc.
3. When trained for anxiety and panic attacks, do the dogs actually recognize the panic attack or does the handler give them a command?
4.Where do I go/who do I contact for an evaluation of her? and for future training?
To give you an idea of what I would like out of a PSD here is a list I have come up with so far,
*accompany me places, especially crowded places. I can get very overwhelmed and anxious in crowds.
*I have fainted/passed out before from a panic attack. which is one of my biggest fears because I have children. I would like her to be trained to try and wake me up if that happens, ie: licking/barking/pawing at me. If at home I would like her to be able to call 911 if it happens, because my kids could be in danger if she could not get me to wake up quickly.
*When I start getting anxious, distract me to try and snap me out of it or stop it from progressing.
The biggest for me in the passing out/fainting from panic attacks. It is rare, but has happened. So that is the most important. ...
Lot of topics to address here.
"I don't want to be on medication anymore,"
A PSD may affect the amount of medication you are currently taking -- OR it may not. I have known people who have taken medication for what you mentioned for years before a dog and continue taking medication years after. If a dog could help enough on that point where someone could toss their meds away it would be WONDERFUL, but life doesn't seem to work that way.
A Service Dog of any type is a medical tool/equipment to be used along with whatever is deemed necessary by your medical care provider. It is possible that a dog can help lower your anxiety or depression levels or frequency but that doesn't make it a SD but in line what a loved pet can do for you.
" ... the provision of emotional support, well-being, comfort, or companionship do not constitute work or tasks for the purposes of this definition."
~ Dept. of Justice w/ Definition of Service Animal
" ... I think for PSD the most important qualification would be solid nerves. An anxious dog would NOT be good ... "
This is so very important. If the handler is having a meltdown, thinks an army of scary things are attacking, or believes there is a good chance that ... (fill in whatever scares you), a proper PSD needs to be able to basically say:
"Stop. Let us pause here and evaluate. You, the other part of the team are not at this particular moment in time in a calm mind set, so I temporary acting as your backup, need to consider quickly how to take care of us while you calm yourself and can take the decision making back over for us."
A PSD can never be a dog that wants to take over the lead position but because of their personality, work ethic, and team drive are capable to take over some of the decision making and because of their training know how to carry through.
A PSD can not react to his handler's incorrect fears by taking them on his own.
Handler not able to go into their dark home when they return. The dog can not sit there by the handler's legs and shake in fear because "something" is in there even though the dog can not hear or smell anything or anyone strange inside. The dog has to react in a "hey, you stay here, I've got this covered for you" and proceed into the house doing a quick sniff and look into all rooms, turning on any lights that he has been trained to turn on, and go back to the handler.
"*accompany me places, especially crowded places. I can get very overwhelmed and anxious in crowds."
Just by being there at your side is not a PSD task. At the most, being able to glance down and see your dog or reaching down and stroking his soft fur is a bonus
of having him close by. Some people are able to do the same by carrying something in a pocket (piece of material), on a bracelet (a charm holding a picture of a loved one), or some other object on their person. To be something that makes this dog a SD of any type is that he is doing something that he was trained to do to mitigate your disability.
IF when you get overwhelmed in a crowd to the point you loose your vision then your dog can (through training) act much like a Guide Dog in this instance and safely guide you through the crowd and to a quiet place. If you react by getting dizzy and unable to walk without falling then your dog can (through training) act much like a Mobility Dog in this instance and help brace you so you can catch your balance and then help you walk through the crowd by a means such as counter-balance.
"Can I have her as a PSD and also let her be involved in French Ring?"
Grey area here.
So far Federal Law doesn't address it but it is possible that at any time a State may pop it into their statutes or if on the chance your dog ever bit someone -- even just an open mouth on skin, an air snap at someone, a pinch but no broken skin -- a lawyer for the other side could bring that up and it could be used against your dog. It is also possible that your insurance company would not cover your dog if they found out that she participated in any type of sport involving using her mouth on a person. If not now they could turn around in six months and say not going to cover her. This may not be quite as important if your dog is a pet or sport dog only and never really deals in such close quarters with strangers as a SD is expected to.
Time for a break here .....