Service dog question.... HELP

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GoatGirl's picture
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Joined: 2016-10-06

Hello everyone!

I am search of some opinions from experienced SD owners...

I suffer from depression along with anxiety and it is not uncommon for me to have multiple anxiety/panic attacks a week.

I was wondering which type of service dog would be best for me? A psychiatric service dog? An emotional support dog? A therapy dog? I have had numerous people including two doctors suggest me looking into getting a service dog. I am currently on medication and will likely stay on it, however, it is not helping me like they had hoped.

I understand that a service dog is 'to preform a task that the handler cannot do for itself'. I cannot pull myself out of an attack nor can I tell when an attack is on the horizon. I was wondering if the dog could pull me out of/prevent an attack if that would be considered a task I cannot do for myself.

I also am interested in finding out what breeds/sexes would be best. I have done lots of research and am leaning towards a female doberman. Any help/replies are greatly appreciated! Thanks in advance!

I'm not against you getting a service dog - I would think that it would be more of an emotional support dog.... but that is my opinion as I am not a professional. I think for panic attacks, a emotional support dog is going to be there to ground you - maybe will help you get through it faster. Also, just having the dog there for you might help you be able to focus on something that can help you have fewer full blown attacks. I'm assuming that you already have tried tapping or other therapies to help keep a panic attack at bay.

I will tell you that it is a journey to find the medication that will help you. It can take a long time and many tries to find the one that will make a difference. One of my daughters has gone through and still struggles with anxiety and panic attacks. At one point, she was on so many medications that we actually weaned her off of all of them and started over. She is now a college freshman and is doing much better on minimal medication and has pretty much been able to learn how to avoid panic attacks. She is successfully living 5 hours from home and is doing well both academically and socially. If you had asked me 2 or 3 years ago if I thought that would be possible, I'd have probably said "NO". I'm so proud of what she has accomplished. Our local high school has a great program that is a virtual school within the school. The classes are on-line, but the students are in the school with staff support.  Some students do no regular classes and some only do one or two virtual classes. It was the best thing EVER.

Finding a good therapist is key in helping you to learn how to live with and have success over your depression/anxiety. Obviously, they have to work hand in hand with a Psy Dr. - you need both. 

I will also tell you that maturity is something that will hopefully help - even just a couple of years will hopefully make a big difference in the quality of your life. I know at your age that 2 years sounds like a lifetime - but it passes by very quickly. At your age, hormones and emotions are practically at war with themselves. It is very real and very difficult to live with even without the anxiety - it will get better and it is worth the the time and effort for you and your family. 

I myself have a degree in secondary education with basically a minor in Psy/Soc - it helped with finding ways to help my own teen.

GoatGirl's picture
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Joined: 2016-10-06

Thank you so much! I have tried i think 5 different meds now, and am going to therapy along with regular check ups to see how the meds are working. I have tried several different things to calm down but it only seems to make things worse, so i am not sure what else to try. My school doesn't have the option of any online classes, despite my mothers requests.

I think that all states have to have the option of on-line school... but it may not be through your public school. I see ads on tv for school options all the time. If you are a self motivated person and can do on-line school, it may be an option. However, it is not a good option for everyone.  My daughter is very self motivated and did really well. By her senior year, she only took one virtual class and was dual enrolled at the local community college part of the day earning both high school credit AND college credit. 

You seem like a pretty bright kid with your posts here - so you may want to look into on line schools.  I know how debilitating the panic attacks can be - the nurses office becomes a second home at the school!  Hopefully they will get somewhat better over the next couple of years.

Don't give up on finding the right medication - my daughter tried way more than 5 different meds before finding something that helps. No med is going to make everything better - it takes a lot of work along with the meds ... that is really where the therapist comes in. 

In the meantime, work with the dogs you have. Even just walking them and training can help focus you on something positive. You can teach old dogs new tricks :-)  And the best part is that they never judge you! 

Also - I know that high school can be tough. Believe that life gets better after high school!  They certainly were not the best 4 years of my life!!  After only 2 months at college, my daughter is so much more happy than she was in high school. A totally different level of people that are not as judgemental as high school kids. 

Just as an fyi, I will be out of the country for a couple of weeks starting Friday - so won't be on-line.... I don't want you to think that I'd ignore you. In the meantime, keep learning about the breed!

GoatGirl's picture
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Joined: 2016-10-06

Thank you so much! I fully intend to keep learning :) Have a safe and fun trip!

Wolfgirl_121's picture
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Joined: 2010-11-08

Pet Profiles

It really depends on what your symptoms of anxiety/panic attacks are when it comes to getting a service dog vs an emotional support animal.

An emotional support animal is there to do exactly that, give you emotional support. They are there for you to pet and stroke to calm yourself down and to provide a confidante and friend.

A service dog is there to perform a service, such as notify you if you are getting too anxious/ heading toward a panic attack. They can also provide services like protecting you if you faint due to a panic attack and making sure that no one gets too close to you while you are out if you have severe social anxiety. 

The difference between the two is very straightforward in regards to training and the law. An emotional support animal is a pet that is allowed on public transportation and on airplanes. Unlike a service dog, they do not have to be allowed access to public businesses. Under the law, they are emotional support animals, not service animals. A service dog goes through a lot more training to be able to read panic triggers and to provide you with safety in public places. By law, they are allowed to go wherever it is that you go, and cannot lawfully be denied access to any business or place of service. Both are protected under the law in housing situations and can't be turned away from a homing situation where pets aren't normally allowed. 

I suggest looking into the ADA (the Americans with Disabilities Act) if you are from the U.S. and learning the laws/restrictions that come with both service dogs and emotional support animals. 

As someone who has emotional support animals (two cats) to help me when I am dealing with my own severe anxiety/panic attacks, I wish you the best of luck and I am always willing to help you out/answer your questions, or just to talk if you need to. You can email me directly from the site. :)

GoatGirl's picture
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Joined: 2016-10-06

Thank you so much!

I have social anxiety mainly, and my 'cue' is a mixture of things such as:

Exessive leg bouncing, tensing up, biting my nails/ skin around nails, issues breathing, and headaches.

I have almost blacked out before during an attack and when this happens i usually will hyperventilate, cry, shake uncontrollably, and sometimes scream.

rlinam's picture
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Joined: 2017-04-13

Pet Profiles

Hello GoatGirl!

A girl I dated in high school lived on a farm. Her dad owned a large herd of "fainting goats." We had so much fun with them! O, I'm sorry. I was chasing rabbits.

I am 58 and have suffered with anxiety disorder for the majority of my life. About a year ago my doctor suggested an Emotional Support Animal to help with my anxiety. I had the same question for him. What breed would be the best? He answered with a series of questions such as my likes and dislikes, etc. I also went through a sicological profile analysis which determined a large, protective breed. I enjoyed a Doberman Doberman  for 13 years as a young man, so I decided on another. BTW- there is no stipulation on breed. As a matter of fact, according to the ADA (Americans with Disabilities Act) an emotional support animal doesn't even have to be canine.

You will need a letter from your doctor (a prescription) for the animal and the reason you need it. This letter from your doctor will qualify you for the protections offered by the federal government under the ADA. Also, the are no special training stipulations for an Emotional Support Animal. However, I would highly recommend obedience training. Also, PLEASE study the ADA and its provisions for Emotional Support Animals. It is very important that you know your rights!

Since I have Axel I have been able to reduce my medication by 50%.

Axel - my loyal friend and Support Animal