What traits make for a good psychiatric service dog?

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It’s important to determine just what you will need the dog for. For instance, a service dog for anxiety is a working companion who is trained to distract a person during an anxiety attack. The dog can turn on a light, give a calming touch, remind the person to take medication and check a room when entering it. Someone with post traumatic stress disorder may want a service dog that will stand between the partner and another person to decrease any feeling of threat.

Generally, these are some traits they all need:

• Intelligence: Dogs who are intelligent can be trained to help their owner accomplish tasks of daily living, whether it’s negotiating streets, climbing stairs safely or avoiding any other obstacles that may cause injury.
• Calm and confident, able to block out all distractions.
• Willingness to work.
• Good manners are other traits that must be present in any dog training to be a service dog. Dogs who display aggressive tendencies or lash out will not be allowed to proceed with training.
• Appearance: Service dog candidates must have good overall appearance and qualities for their particular breed. They must be large enough to guide their owners while in a harness, but not so large that they cannot be controlled easily or if they’re too large to fit under a restaurant table or on buses or other forms of public transportation.
• Good health: Dogs who are prone to genetic disorders, such as hip dysplasia, are carefully screened before training. Any dog that exhibits hip abnormalities will be retired and no longer available for service work. Pure breeds that are prone to genetic illnesses that can strike quickly are not good candidates for service dogs.
• Friendly, loyal, courageous.

Training a service dog takes many hours and owners depend on these animals. People who need to replace their service dog, must attend a refresher training course they and their dog can go home together.

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