How to Train Your Dog to Detect Anxiety

Hard
6-9 Months
Work

Introduction

Imagine a bride that suffers from anxiety attacks-- how does she manage on her wedding day, a day full of anxiety-producing triggers? The answer: with the help of her anxiety detecting service dog. Pictures of a bride and her anxiety service dog, Bella, comforting her on her wedding day, captured the hearts of many, when they appeared on social media. Bella helps her mistress by alerting to symptoms of a heightened anxious state in her owner, and allowing her owner, to take a moment, get help, adjust her environment, and receive comfort from her anxiety service dog. Bella helped her owner get through her special day with flying colors. Dogs like Bella can make a big difference in the life of people who suffer from anxiety attacks, heightened states of anxiety in response to stressors in the environment. Allowing people suffering from anxiety to function and conduct a normal life by participating in events, holding down a career and functioning in public settings are just a few of the benefits an anxiety detecting dog can provide.

Defining Tasks

People experiencing anxiety attacks are triggered by a stressor in the environment, however, the anxiety reaction can far exceed that of what a non-anxious person would experience. Symptoms such as shortness of breath,a racing heart, muscle tremors, foot tapping, or leg bouncing, or other involuntary movements may occur. These symptoms can act as triggers for a vigilant anxiety detecting dog to pick up on, before the person suffering the anxiety attack is even aware that their anxiety level is rising. The service dog can alert the person to their rising anxiety level, providing distraction, allowing owners to consciously engage in anti-anxiety activities to bring down their anxiety level, receive medication, or remove themselves from the anxiety-producing situation. In addition, some anxiety detecting dogs are also taught to provide comfort such as deep pressure therapy, or other anxiety relieving behaviors. An anxiety service dog may help guide a confused person to a safe place, alert a loved one, or put their body between the person and others to protect them and give them a sense of security.

Service dogs must have quiet, calm temperaments so they can be used in public, but be alert enough to pick up on small cues that an anxiety attack is occurring, and motivated to work to alert their handlers and provide comfort. Most dogs begin training at 1-2 years of age, and training can take several months to a year or more. Dogs are trained to alert their handlers with a predetermined alert such as a nudge of the leg or the hand, which gets the handler's attention and allows them to initiate steps to prevent their anxiety from escalating further.

Getting Started

Before training, you will need to determine what alert you will want to have your dog use to let you know that anxiety levels are rising. Frequently, a nudge with the nose is used as a signal. You will also need to identify what symptoms of anxiety you manifest that your dog will need to alert on. For example, increased heart rate, breathing rate, muscle movements, scratching, or touching your face are all possible signs people exhibit when their anxiety level starts to rise. Lastly, you will need to determine what actions you want your dog to take to help you reduce anxiety, lead you away from the situation, provide DPT, or fetch medication are all possible tasks your anxiety service dog can perform to help resolve anxiety conditions. All service dogs being used in public places will need to be well socialized and obedient in a variety of circumstances and around a variety of people, so a lot of work to establish the dog is comfortable working in various situations prior to training will be required. You should also investigate service dog certification requirements in your area.

The Link Alert & Anxiety Method

Most Recommended
12 Votes
Link Alert & Anxiety method for Detect Anxiety
Step
1
Reward alert
Tech an alert behavior such as a nose nudge. Capture the behavior and reward with treats.
Step
2
Command alert
Now add a verbal cue, such as ‘nudge’.
Step
3
Vary
Change position train your dog to perform the alert in several different places and while you are sitting or standing.
Step
4
Choose anxiety cue
Identify an anxiety symptom, for example scratching, touching face, or fidgeting.
Step
5
Provide anxiety cue
Act out the anxiety symptom, and give the verbal cue for your dog’s alert.
Step
6
Associate
When your dog provides an alert in response to the command and anxiety symptom, reward. Ignore false alerts. Repeat for several weeks multiple times per day.
Step
7
Remove command
Now manifest the anxiety symptom without providing the verbal cue. Reward when your dog performs the alert behavior in response to the anxiety cue alone.
Step
8
Vary
Practice in different places and positions.
Recommend training method?

The Link Anxiety & Reward Method

Effective
0 Votes
Link Anxiety & Reward method for Detect Anxiety
Step
1
Choose anxiety cue
Identify an anxiety symptom, for example scratching, touching face, or fidgeting.
Step
2
Present cue
Present the symptom in the presence of your dog. When your dog pays attention to what is happening, reward him with a treat.
Step
3
Teach alert
Teach your dog an alert such as a nudge and put it on a verbal command.
Step
4
Associate
Present the anxiety symptom and the verbal command for the alert. When the dog practices the alert while you are practicing the symptoms, reward your dog. Ignore false alerts.
Step
5
Remove command
Practice the symptom without providing verbal command. When the dog alerts to symptoms or cues for anxiety, provide your dog a reward.
Step
6
Add complexity
Practice in a variety of situations and environments with distractions.
Recommend training method?

The Clicker Training Method

Effective
0 Votes
Clicker Training method for Detect Anxiety
Step
1
Capture alert
Capture an alert behavior, such as nudging your hand. Mark with a clicker and provide a treat as a reward.
Step
2
Verbally command
Associate a verbal command such as “nudge” when the dog nudges. Mark with clicker and provide treat.
Step
3
Add anxiety
Manifest an anxiety symptom, use the verbal command for the alert, and mark alert with the clicker when the dog alerts appropriately.
Step
4
Remove verbal command
Remove the verbal command, manifest the anxiety symptom, and continue to mark successful alert behavior with clicker and reward.
Step
5
Remove clicker
Remove clicker command, manifest anxiety symptom and reward alert behavior that occurs with anxiety cue only.
Step
6
Practice and vary
Practice in lots of different places, positions and with distractions. Go back to step 3 if necessary in different distracting situations and proceed through steps until the dog is able to alert to anxiety cues in a variety of circumstances.
Recommend training method?

Success Stories and Training Questions

Training Questions and Answers

Question
Kanati
Pit bull
1 Year
2 found helpful
Question
2 found helpful
Kanati
Pit bull
1 Year

im trying to train him as my p.t.s.d service dog but he is so stubborn. i need to train him before 8th grade starts. what commands does he need to know?

Caitlin Crittenden
Caitlin Crittenden
Dog Trainer
421 Dog owners recommended

Hello Alura, Kanati will need to know basic obedience to make him safe and non-disruptive in public locations. This includes "Down Stay" for very long periods of time, "Sit Stay", and "Heel". He will also need to be calm and quiet when he is with you at school, and he cannot have any aggressive tendencies towards other people or dogs. To be considered a Service Dog he will need to learn at least one action that directly helps your P.T.S.D. That action can be alerting you when you are anxious. You can teach him to nudge you, lean against you, or paw at you whenever you do the things that indicate that you are nervous such as rubbing your arms, picking at yourself, wiggling your leg, chewing on your hair, hanging your head, or something else. Pay attention to what you specifically tend to do when anxious and teach him to alert you when you do those things. Another task you can teach him is to provide Pressure Therapy by leaning against you on cue, or climbing into your lap and standing still while you hug him. Another thing that you can teach him is to lead you to exits during panic attacks. Although not a P.T.S.D task teaching him to lay underneath your chair can also be helpful because it will get him out of people's way and also can provide comfort to you. The minimum commands that he needs to know are: "Heel", "Down Stay", "Sit Stay", and one specialized PTSD related action such as Pressure Therapy, Interrupting your anxious behavior, or leading you to exits during panic attacks, as well as having no major behavior issues that will cause disruptions or endanger anyone while in public, such as barking or aggression. Joining a Canine Good Citizen Class can help with all of the basic manners and obedience that he will need, and then you can teach him at least one P.T.S.D specific task as well. Best of luck training, Caitlin Crittenden

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Sonny
Dashand
4 Years
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Sonny
Dashand
4 Years

How much would it be to train an autism service dog and what tasks do they need to know to qualify as a service dog and how long would it take any ideas thanks 😊

Caitlin Crittenden
Caitlin Crittenden
Dog Trainer
421 Dog owners recommended

Hello Maya, That would depend very largely on the level of training that your dog already has and the type of training that you pursue. If you complete all of your dog's general obedience, manners, socialization, and behavior problem resolution, if needed, on your own, and only need help with the Service Dog specific tasks, then the price will be considerably less. If your dog has no prior training, then expect the price to be at least twice to three times as expensive, due to general obedience training, behavior problem training, and socialization. The three basic routes that you can go if you only need Service Dog task training are: Group classes, Private Training, and Board and Train at a facility that specializes in Service Dog Training. Group classes tend to cost between $150-$300 for six to eight weeks worth of training. You would be expected to work with your pup on your own at home after being shown what to do during the class each week. This type of training will only work if you have the time to commit to it at home, and possibly if you can take your dog places during the week to practice in public places also, but many of the tasks are not too difficult to train yourself once you know how. If your pup is already well socialized and knows basic obedience, but is not calm enough or quite ready to be out in public, then you will need to go through a Canine Good Citizen class with him also, to prepare him for the distractions that he will need to handle. That type of class typically costs around $150-$300 as well. So $350-$600, with $400-$450 being the average for both classes combined, is what you can expect. Prices vary wildly by area though. Private training usually costs about $80-$150 per session. These sessions are usually held in your home or at public locations to practice around distractions. This training is much more geared toward your specific needs and can often accommodate multiple needs, such as obedience and task training, at once. Expect to need at least six sessions for task specific training only. So $480-$900 if the trainer is close to you. Possibly more if the trainer lives further away from you. Double that cost if your pup is well socialized, has general obedience, but is not quite ready to be out in public and be calm all of the time. With that additional cost expect: $960-$1,800 total for task specific training and to prepare your pup for going places with the person that he is assisting. The cost will go up again if your dog has no prior training or has behavior problems that need to be resolved first. Board and Train usually costs between $2,000-$4,000 depending on where you go, the level of training that your dog needs, and what area you live in. Successful Board and Train programs will usually involve multiple weeks of your dog being at their facility training, and then several follow up sessions with you and your dog after he goes home, to make sure that your dog will perform the training for you as well. All of these prices can vary though if your dog needs more or less training in a particular area. The more of the training that you are willing to do yourself, even under the guidance of a trainer, the less expensive the training will be. To qualify as a Service Dog your dog must know at least one task that specifically relates to Autism. If he knows more than one that is even better. The person that the dog is working for must also have a medical diagnoses from a doctor for the condition that the dog is helping with. Autism specific tasks might include: pressure therapy, where the dog climbs into the persons lap, stands in front of him if the dog is tall enough, or leans against him, when the person is anxious. The dog also can facilitate social interactions through the use of a tethering system, as emotional support, by pulling or nudging the person towards the social situation, or by initiating social interactions first. The dog also might perform interrupting behaviors if the person is self-destructive, anxious, or does repetitive behaviors. The dog would be trained to automatically nudge, block, or interrupt the person in another way whenever the person starts to do the behavior. That behavior could be rocking, head banging, picking at sores, wiggling a leg anxiously, rubbing arms, or anything else that falls under one those categories and is specific to that person. Training for basic task training typically takes about two months. If your dog needs training for being out in public, general obedience, socialization, or behavior problems than the training time can vary wildly between two months and two years. I would recommend contacting a few different trainers in your area who offer various forms of Service Dog training. Discuss your specific training needs with that person and see if they can give you a general quote. The person will probably not be able to give you a guaranteed amount quote because other needs might arise during training that you previously were not aware of, and the speed of training and thus number of sessions for training will depend on how often you practice if you are training yourself, and on the speed of your dog's own learning, but the quote number will definitely give you a general idea of what to expect, and can help you decide what form of training you would like to pursue and with what training group. Best of luck training, Caitlin Crittenden

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Question
Emmi Lou
Australian Shepherd
11 Years
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Question
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Emmi Lou
Australian Shepherd
11 Years

Hello:) I just finished school and would like to start study veterinary medicine in the next 1-2 years. But i have a lot of problems with anxiety, depressive episodes and i am stressed very easily and use to tend to destructive behavior. I thought about owner train a new dog ( because Emmi is quite old) to a sd or asd but i live in Germany and the whole service dog situation is not very common here. And i don't find someone to ask all my questions so i try my luck here:)
1. What breeds are best for anxiety service dogs?
2. How can i train a dog to alert to my breathing pattern (it sounds really difficult to me as long as i am not hyperventilating...)
3. Would my dog still be a service dog if i could take him anywhere i go? Because dogs aren't allowed in anatomy/ pathology lessons because of toxic fumes:(
4. Can you recommend any good books/ sites/ videos for training?

I also struggle with the decision if i "deserve" a service dog because i could also manage my life without one. it is not that i can't leave my house on my own or something like that but i think tasks like dpt,blocking,anxiety/distress alerts could really help me..

I'm sorry for this long question(s) but i have so many and i don't know who to ask.
Thank you for reading this and i hope you can help me:)

Caitlin Crittenden
Caitlin Crittenden
Dog Trainer
421 Dog owners recommended

Hello Emilia, Congratulations on graduating school. There are many breeds that make wonderful Service Dogs. Golden Retrievers are probably the most popular breed because of their friendly nature, intelligence, desire to please, and well rounded temperaments. Other popular breeds are: Labrador Retrievers, Poodles, and German Shepherds. There are many other breeds, such as Australian Shepherds that make good service dogs for certain tasks, but some of those breeds are too sensitive for emotional support roles or are not large enough for pressure therapy. Learning how to assess the individual temperament of a puppy and look at the puppy's parents' temperaments are just as important though. A service dog needs to have a balanced temperament. To be at least moderately intelligent, desire to please, be confident but not overly pushy or dominant, not be fearful or timid, and have enough social skills to handle being around lots of people and animals and be in different environments. Your dog should not be excluded as a Service Dog just because there are some places that he cannot go for safety reasons. I do not know about Germany, but in the United States you do not have to take your Service Dog with you everywhere for that dog to still be considered a Service Dog and admitted into places where you need him. Check out these websites for further educational resources: http://servicedogtraininginstitute.ca/nanaimo https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCbClNYe2z7nRwPNU9y3fDzQ YouTube is also a great resource for free training videos, but you have to be selective about who you listen to since anyone can post there. I cannot speak to the attitude in Germany about Service Dogs, but I will say that if you lived in the United States, assuming that your struggles have been medically documented, then you would absolutely qualify for a Service Dog. Service Dog's are designed to help individuals who struggle to cope with everyday activities like social interactions, physical tasks, getting places, and generally contributing to society. There are certain medically diagnosed conditions, including PTDS, Autism, Anxiety, Depression, and other psychiatric conditions, that hinder individuals from doing that. Having a Service Dog simply because you enjoy your dog's company is unacceptable because that can make it harder for others who need them to receive them, but having a Service Dog who can actively help prevent anxiety attacks, social withdrawal, self-destructive behaviors, and generally things that hinder ones quality of life is not only acceptable but it is a gift that you should never feel guilty about receiving. If you are in better health, including mental health, because of your Service Dog, then that dog's help is one hundred percent worthwhile and valuable and should be received, no matter what anyone thinks. It is extremely important to well socialize your dog and teach him general manners so that he is safe and non-disruptive and non-destructive in public however. If the breathing alerts seem confusing, then you can also pay attention to other body language cues that you tend to do when anxious, such as rubbing your arms, wiggling your leg, picking at your skin, shaking, twirling your hair, or anything else that you notice that you tend to do when you are anxious. Once you know those cues, then you can do them during training and teach your dog to alert you or provide other assistance, such as pressure therapy, whenever you do those things. When he alerts you or does whatever else you would like for him to do, then you praise him and reward him. If he alerts you when you are not doing those things, then do not reward him. For the breathing, pay attention to your breathing when you are anxious at some point though. If you wish to use that as a signal, then simply notice how you are breathing while anxious. Is it shallow? Large breaths? Fast? Holding your breath periodically? For the training, you do not have to exaggerate your breathing, simply mimic your breathing during an anxious episode, and teach him to alert you when you breath like that, and then practice breathing like that and rewarding him when he alerts, and breathing normally and not rewarding him if he alerts. Overtime he should learn to tell the difference. The difference can be subtle, but the more you train, the better a dog will tend to become at reading you. Since you want your dog to alert you when you are anxious, then you will want to teach him your own individual signs of anxiety. Those signs can be whatever you tend to do when anxious. To find out what those signs are simply pay attention to yourself when you are anxious, or have another person watch you carefully and write down what you tend to do. For better accuracy, have that person observe you multiple times and pick out the things that seem to be consistent expressions of your anxiety. Best of luck training, Caitlin Crittenden

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Moose
Mutt
6 Months
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Question
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Moose
Mutt
6 Months

Hello I was wondering how old does a dog have to be to start training him when asked I've been told 6 Months 18 months and even been told I should have started training at 3 montns. But I need him for my anxiety attacks to alert me before I go into a full blown attack and I want him to either nudge my leg or sit/stand at my feet between me and a person either one works for me just because I do tend to go into anxiety attacks when people get to close to me and a now friend of mine has a black lab mix as her service dog and over hearing her say to a store manager that she was trained for anxiety I wanted to ask her if after she got her did it help with her anxiety and so I asked her and she said yes it did. Which caused me to go to my Dr and see if he thinks it will also help me. Which he said yes it might help and he recommended me to look into it saying he suggested it to my mother before but she said no now that I'm 18 I have looked into it more so and ended up getting the puppy from jewels(the girl in the store with her dog) her uncle was selling the puppies and she said one of the puppies from him had the right look and personality she thought for a service dog and so I got moose. But I don't know when to start his training if I wanted to train him not have someone else train him for me. I just feel like it would give us more bonding time. But I am looking into great trainers near me to help me navigate through the training. But I would like to b the only one to train him. And I won't make any 100% decisions about any particular trainer until he's old enough to be trained.sorry for the long paragraph I honestly didn't intend to type this much so sorry for the length of this

Caitlin Crittenden
Caitlin Crittenden
Dog Trainer
421 Dog owners recommended

Hello Summer, You can start to work on general obedience, socialization, and manners, which are all needed in order for your puppy to go with you to public places as a Service Dog. That type of training can start as early as eight weeks of age. Formal training for Service Dog tasks, like blocking and alerting, can begin as early as six months, but specifically as soon as your puppy masters general obedience, socialization, and manners. Socialization is time sensitive and needs to happen as early as possible. Task training can be done at a later age if your puppy is not ready in the other areas. The sooner you start training in all of the areas, the better trained he should be for the rest of his life because you will be forming strong, good habits early on, but the training will take longer if you start while he is still a puppy, which is why many people recommend that you wait. Puppies even younger than six months of age can learn to perform specialized tasks, but they may not do those tasks consistently and with focus until after one year of age. So begin teaching him now, but be prepared to work with him for a while before he is ready to perform his training anywhere with you. Best of luck training, Caitlin Crittenden

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Question
Barbie
Labrador Retriever
1 Year
0 found helpful
Question
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Barbie
Labrador Retriever
1 Year

I am currently working on finding a dog to train as my service dog. I may have found one at the local shelter here so the dog I have named isn’t officially mine just yet. I have chronic depression, general anxiety, and also really bad social anxiety. I have a family, including 3 children, 6, 10, & 12. How would I go about getting the dog I choose to be “mine” so to say. My kids love animals and I want the dog to have a relationship with my family as well but also for the dog to understand that I’m the person that needs him/her and to still watch for my cues when I start getting anxious.

Caitlin Crittenden
Caitlin Crittenden
Dog Trainer
421 Dog owners recommended

Hello Crystal, The best way to get the dog to attach to you more than other people is to do the following: 1. Be the one to train the dog and work with him or her. This can be with the help of a trainer or a class, but whoever puts in the time to actually work with the dog will usually be the person that the dog attaches to most strongly. 2. Be the one to feed the dog the majority of the time. This one is less important than the others. Your family can still help you with this some, but you want the dog to associate the most rewards with you. 3. Tether the dog to yourself whenever you are at home for the first couple of months while the dog is in the training phase. Tethering simply means attaching the dog to yourself with a long leash by clipping one end to the dog and the other end to yourself. There can be exceptions to this, like while everyone is playing with the dog when he is "off duty", you are sleeping, ect...But you want your dog to learn to tune into your cues, which will mostly happen through training but will also happen by simply being around you more than anyone else. The most important thing to do out of all of those things is be the one to work with your dog on training. If you choose to do all of the training yourself, then I suggest finding a trainer with good references who specializes in Private Service Dog Training, and who does in person or phone or Skype consultations. Book at least one session just to get a lot of your questions answered while getting started or to be able to call when you run into issues or need direction along the way. You might also be able to find a group online or a Meetup.com or club type group of Service Dog Owner/Trainers to use as a resource during the training process. There is a strong community of such people in most medium to large sized cities if you can locate them. Best of luck training, Caitlin Crittenden

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Nillie
Pit bull
3 Years
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Nillie
Pit bull
3 Years

I have a dog that I adopted from the SPCA almost a year ago. She looks like a Pit Bull but we think that she might be an American Bulldog or maybe some sort of hound mix as well. She is almost 3. She is deaf. I have her registered as an emotional support animal with a note from my doctor. I am looking to make her a service dog. Her emotional support is great while I am home but I need to bring her with me places because of my depression, OCD, as well as anxiety. I wanted to know if it was possible to train her to be more of a service dog by teaching her to be better in crowds, not pull on the leash, and maybe sense when I am going to have a panic attack. Right now she knows basic signs for sit, paw (both sides), and lay down. She just needs to work on focusing on me and not getting excited in crowds. Thanks so much for your help and I look forward to hearing from you soon!

Caitlin Crittenden
Caitlin Crittenden
Dog Trainer
421 Dog owners recommended

Hello Amanda, I would highly suggest finding a Canine Good Citizen class in your area. That class will work on the leash manners, focus, and general obedience while also providing opportunities to practice around other dogs and people. It will also work on the heel command more. The class typically practices teaching the dogs to ignore other dogs so it would be a good fit for improving her general obedience around distractions. They may go on field trips or suggest other places and environment to practice too. If they do not, then when she has shown some improvement, start taking her to places like parks, the farmers market, and outdoor shopping centers to practice her commands around distractions. You can purchase a vet that says "In Training". As a Service Dog she should not be petted or interrupted while working and the vest will help people learn to not interrupt her. To become a Service Dog Nillie will also need to learn how to perform at least one specific task that helps with your panic attacks, depression, or OCD in addition to generally being well behaved. Doing pressure therapy, learning how to interrupt you when you start doing anxious behaviors or repetitive tasks, or leading you to an exit can all apply. There are other tasks that can also apply, depending on what seems to help you specifically the most. Best of luck training, Caitlin Crittenden

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Koda
Mastiff
7 Months
0 found helpful
Question
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Koda
Mastiff
7 Months

I’m trying to train koda to be my service dog for my anxiety and I want to know the basic things I need to know for him. I have a service dog in training vest and right now we’re working on walking by my side. I just want to know what else I need before he can be considered a service dog. Thank you!

Caitlin Crittenden
Caitlin Crittenden
Dog Trainer
421 Dog owners recommended

Hello Gabby, To be a service dog your dog must be able to do the following: 1. Perform basic obedience commands around distractions. Including heeling, sit, down, and stay. He must be able to stay in the down for position for long periods of time, so that he will be out of the way when you are places like restaurants and movies. 2. Not be a nuisance in anyway while out in public. That means no barking, pulling, aggression of any form, begging, peeing or pooping where he should not, or trying to get away from you. 3. Perform at least one special task that directly helps with your anxiety. Depending on what you need that task could be: interrupting you when you are doing repetitive or self-destructive behaviors, doing pressure therapy to help relieve your anxiety, leading you to exits during on-coming panic attacks, interrupting you and calming you down during on-coming panic attacks, helping to initiate social interactions, alerting you when its time to take medication if medication is taken during symptom onset. You can train several of these to help with your anxiety even more, but he must know at least one task. 4. You must also have a medically diagnosed condition that warrants a service dog. Anxiety can be one of those. Your doctor should be able to write you a note for things like airline travel and housing rental. 5. Although not necessary for everywhere, for renting and flying you must have a note for your doctor specifying that you do have a medical condition that warrants a service dog. You must also have a copy of his up-to-date medical records with shot information, and a form of ID for him. You are only required to show those things to airlines, housing, and at very rare other times. A shop or store owner is not allowed to request proof. Your word and your dog's ability to do the job and be non-disruptive is all that is required in most places. 6. Although not required, to make life easier I would recommend carrying a copy of your dog's vet records, ID, and a laminated card with ADA law on it (The American with Disabilities Act). The ADA law card will state your rights to anyone asking. If your dog needs to improve his behavior around distractions, then I would highly recommend attending a Canine Good Citizen class because that will give you a lot of opportunity to practice your dog's general behavior around other dogs, people, and places. Best of luck training, Caitlin Crittenden

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Harley
Havanese
2 Years
1 found helpful
Question
1 found helpful
Harley
Havanese
2 Years

What do I do if my dog is obiedient but gets too excited? I made a command called “focus” but it doesn’t seem to help...she’s a PSD in training.

Caitlin Crittenden
Caitlin Crittenden
Dog Trainer
421 Dog owners recommended

Hello Alyssa, I suggest working on general self-control type behaviors to help teach her to focus and be calm when working. She is also young, so calmness usually improves with age too. I suggest enrolling in a canine good citizen class to give her practice on behaving calmly. That class practices things like heeling past another dog, greeting people politely, ignoring distractions, and other things that require self-control. Also, teach her a place command and have her work up to two hours on place. https://youtu.be/omg5DVPWIWo Teach her to automatically lay down when you stop walking and stand still for a bit, and other stay type commands. You want her to practice having to be self-controlled so that she can improve at it - which takes practice like any skill. You also want to work up to practicing around distractions too so that the distractions will become more routine and less exciting. Best of luck training, Caitlin Crittenden

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Bear
German Shepherd Husky Mix
8 Months
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Question
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Bear
German Shepherd Husky Mix
8 Months

Hi I was wondering what some key commands are that I would need to focus on. I am training Bear to be a service dog for my anxiety and OCD. I need him to assist me through panic attacks or manic episodes. I have already started by teaching him a cue that when I snap he knows to give me paw and help distract me. He also knows to stay still if I hug him. My only concern is how I am going to train him in large crowds. He gets intimidated if people are crowding him. I am also struggling with keeping him focused on walks. How would I go about keeping him focused when there are a lot of distractors? Thanks.

Caitlin Crittenden
Caitlin Crittenden
Dog Trainer
421 Dog owners recommended

Hello Rachael, Teaching Bear to interrupt you during times of anxiety and to stay still while you hug him are good starts. You might also want to teach him to lead you to exits and to do pressure therapy where he will come over to you during times of stress when you do certain stress related habita like wiggling a leg or rubbing your arms, and stay in front of you or climb into your lap without having to be told and lay on you or press against you consistently to help calm your body down. You will also want a long Down-Stay that he can do around distractions, since he will need to do that to be out of the way when you take him places like school, work, restaurants, ect... The two tasks you are already teaching him are sufficient for him to qualify as a service dog once his obedience and behavior in public are better though. You only have to have one specialized task, but the more that you teach him the better he can help you. For the crowds, heeling, and public behaviors I highly suggest attending an intermediate obedience class with him where you will practice heeling around distractions and obedience around other people. A canine good citizen class would also be very helpful, since the purpose of that class is to train a dog to be a model citizen out in public and around other people and dogs specifically. You want to go somewhere where you are not only being shown how to do those commands around distractions but also being given opportunities to practice the commands around the distractions of the class and field trips during the class. The difference in intermediate obedience and basic obedience is distractions. A class would also be a good place to potentially meet others who are taking their dog's places between class times to practice each week's obedience homework around other forms of distractions, which is essential in order for your dog to learn. A community of fellow owner-trainers like yourself is a good resource. You may also want to look online on places like Facebook groups and Instagram for other service dog owners who can be a support and offer guidance and maybe even practice the public aspects of the together. For the class, look for a trainer who has a good reputation in the community and also is experienced in off-leash obedience, which will help to ensure that she understands the final goal of intermediate training. Best of luck training, Caitlin Crittenden

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Dexter
Pit bull
15 Weeks
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Question
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Dexter
Pit bull
15 Weeks

How do I train my service dog in training to ignore people and other distractions? He will literally stop on our walks to wait and see if a person across the street will come over to pet him and it takes a lot to get his attention back on me.

Caitlin Crittenden
Caitlin Crittenden
Dog Trainer
421 Dog owners recommended

Hello Sebastian, At four months of age that is completely normal behavior. You are in a key socialization period and he is learning about the world around him and wondering who is friendly or not. First, make sure that his reaction is in anticipation of fun attention and is not slight nervousness. A bit of nervousness around people is typically at this age. A puppy might love people but as he gets older he starts to realize that not all people are safe and might be trying to assess each person and whether to anticipate fun or scary interactions. Socialization is the most important thing for a future Service Dog to learn at this age. You can teach obedience to an older dog but you cannot fully socialize an older dog the way you can a puppy. If there is any chance that the interaction is a bit of fear, then when he stops, get really excited and make the experience a party. Praise him excitedly and do a little goofy dance to get him excited about you, then when he relaxes physically or focuses on you, tell him Let's Go!" in an upbeat tone, and quickly do lots of little steps forward, like a little jog. Make your movements fun and distracting and don't wait for him to catch up, keep moving! He should realize that he needs to hurry up and catch up the more you practice this. Once he is moving forward a bit, if he is still turning his head back to watch the person, then start running with him a little bit and turn different directions sporadically. This should get his focus back on you because he cannot watch you and the person at the same time. When you know that you are going to pass a new person, you can also tell him to "Heel" and run past the person with him. This will help him practice watching you while you pass a person, instead of stopping. You might feel a bit silly doing all of this, but try to enjoy yourself and have fun with it! Dexter will pick up on your energy and that should help his attention be focused on you. Best of luck training, Caitlin Crittenden

Hey Sebastian! What I do when my SDIT get distracted, I made a command called “focus” and they are supposed to look at only you and not get distracted. Hope this helps!

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Mia
Goberian
1 Month
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Mia
Goberian
1 Month

Hi, I want to adopt a puppy to train as a service dog for anxiety and depression, but I need them for school as that is what triggers me most. How long does it usually take to train a dog enough to take out with me? I am planning on taking her out at least 5 days per week with me but I dont want to wait 6 months to have her trained enough to bring to school. Will leaving her at home while I train her for going out impact the relationship? I want her to be used to going out with me alot but i am worried leaving her will have an impact

Caitlin Crittenden
Caitlin Crittenden
Dog Trainer
421 Dog owners recommended

Hello Sara, The average service dog is trained in two years. There is a period where the dog is taken a lot of places to practice though and could accompany you to some of the places that you regularly go. Many dogs are ready to start that at a year. Puppies need to be thoroughly socialized and taken a lot of places to prepare them so trips on school campus, to pet stores, parks, dog friendly stores, dog training classes, friends' homes, ect need to happen very early on. Leaving your puppy during school hours will not necessarily negatively impact your relationship as long as you spend extra time socializing her by taking her where you can when you can focus on her training, joining classes like a puppy class and canine good citizen class and make sure she is well socialized during her first year. Best of luck training, Caitlin Crittenden

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Dawson
Frengle
2 Years
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Question
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Dawson
Frengle
2 Years

I want to start training him but dont exactly how to

Caitlin Crittenden
Caitlin Crittenden
Dog Trainer
421 Dog owners recommended

Hello Skylar, First, I suggest attending a Canine Good Citizen class with him to help with the manners, focus, and relationship aspect of being a Service Dog. The next step is to teach him a command that can be used as an alert, like Sit, Paw at you, nudge you, or something else that will interrupt you and get your attention. Teach this as a command first, so that he simply learns to do it when told to. Next decide which tasks you want him to perform to help you, such as alerting you when you are anxious, performing pressure therapy, initiating interactions with other people, leading you to an exit, ect... Once you have decided what tasks would benefit you, see if you can find resources that explain how to teach each individual task that you want to train, such as Wag! Articles that teach how to train that specific task. In addition to Wag! Articles, many Service dog trainers have YouTube videos demonstrating the training, there are private trainers you can hire to help you teach your dog the task, and there are many Service Dog owner groups on social medial like Facebook and Instagram that help each other learn, and you may even connect with someone else in your city who has taught their dog what you are wanting to teach, who you could get together with to practice. Best of luck training, Caitlin Crittenden

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Princess
Shepadoodle
11 Months
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Princess
Shepadoodle
11 Months

I have a service dog for psych and mobility support and I was wondering if she can be trained to alert to raising cortisol levels to let me know I'm about to have a panic attack. many people believe that this can't be taught, is that true? and if not, would I train her similar to how a diabetic alert dog is trained? how do i collect samples of high cortisol?

Caitlin Crittenden
Caitlin Crittenden
Dog Trainer
421 Dog owners recommended

Hello Alexandria, Many dogs do learn how to do this. Not all dogs have the propensity for it, but many learn it on their own as part of their other tasks. Essentially, you will have to cue your dog to alert you when you feel yourself being anxious or tense - this does not have to be a full anxiety attack (which can be debilitating and not a good time to train) but these smaller times of anxiety likely release smaller amounts of the same chemicals so she may learn to pick up on that scent in addition to your body language, and alert even when only the scent is present, so that she will indicate when an anxiety attack is coming on even when you don't feel anxious beforehand. Some people start the training by teaching the dog to alert to certain anxious body language - noticing what you tend to do when feeling anxious (like rubbing arms, twirling hair, cracking knuckles, wiggling leg, anything specific to you) and then mimic those motions even when calm and teach the dog to alert to that, then some dogs learn to alert to scent and other indicators that happen at the same time when there is actually anxiety present and will alert even without the body language, just when the scent is there. Best of luck training, Caitlin Crittenden

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Rochelle
Border Collie Pyrenees
6 Years
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Rochelle
Border Collie Pyrenees
6 Years

I'm getting a puppy to train as a Service Dog for medical alert and psychiatric disability's because my own dogs are too stubborn, and I can't find anything on training a high heart rate alert, guiding and pulling me out of a flashback. I know a lot of people say that high heart rate alert should be a natural alert for the puppy, but I want to know how to train it in case my puppy doesn't have a natural alert. Thanks in advance!!

Caitlin Crittenden
Caitlin Crittenden
Dog Trainer
421 Dog owners recommended

Hello Christina, For a dog with a very sensitive nose you can often teach a scent alert. You would need to collect a saliva sample right after a high heart rate episode, while all of the adrenaline and other chemicals are still in your system, and use those samples for training an alert. Check out the article linked below for details on scent alert training and sample storage. The article focuses on diabetes alert, but you can do the same type of training for high heart rate using those heart rate saliva samples instead of blood sugar samples. You can also command your dog to give their alert during times of anxiety or right after an episode when levels are still high and reward when they do - until they start to alert on their own earlier and earlier in the process when they begin to detect changes in your body chemistry. This may be hard to do so close to a traumatic episode so the saliva samples might be easier. You can definitely also do both though. Keep a small ziplock bag of treats in your pocket in general, along with some cotton balls or cotton gauze and a baggie to put them in, so that if you do have an episode you have everything with you so that you don't have to deal with gathering things during your recovery. https://helponfourpaws.wordpress.com/2017/03/11/how-to-service-dog-medical-alert-scent-training/ Best of luck training, Caitlin Crittenden

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Max
German Shepherd
1 Year
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Max
German Shepherd
1 Year

I'm training him to become a service dog for my anxiety, but he doesn't stop biting or attacking me and my friends and family. I need help,fast my parents are debating whether or not to send him away.

Caitlin Crittenden
Caitlin Crittenden
Dog Trainer
421 Dog owners recommended

Hello Melanie, Is the biting excited playful puppy mouthing or aggressive? If the biting is playful puppy mouthing, then check out the article linked below and follow the Leave It method. Leave It method: https://wagwalking.com/training/train-a-shih-tzu-puppy-to-not-bite If the biting is aggressive in nature, then he should not be a Service Dog. With the right help the aggressiveness can likely become manageable and you may be able to keep the dog as a pet if the family agrees and you are able to put in the level of work needed to address the aggression. A Service Dog is different though. A Service Dog has to be able to handle unexpected situations, be in close quarters with other people and animals, be surprised by loud noises and strange things. My sister's Service Dog has multiple times been run up to by a young child and hugged before she could even say anything to stop the child. Her dog has been trained to be tolerant and he just stood there and waited for someone to remove the child - He is a German Shepherd. A dog with a tendency toward aggression can likely be managed and trained with the right help to be a pet dog who is in environments where more predictable things happen, but that dog doesn't have the balanced temperament to handle kids running up, loud noises, other Service dogs nearby, lots of strange people in their space, airplane rides, crowded places, and the thousands of other odd things that a Service Dog experiences being out in public with you, that your average dog doesn't have to deal with. I don't recommend continuing Service Dog Training with him, but as a pet dog, I suggest hiring a trainer who specializes in aggression and behavior problems. Look for someone who comes well recommended by previous clients, who uses both positive reinforcement and fair corrections, and has dealt with the type of aggression you are dealing with. Best of luck training, Caitlin Crittenden

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Snowball
Pit Bull German Shepard mix
4 Years
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Snowball
Pit Bull German Shepard mix
4 Years

I'm 16 years old with severe social anxiety and my family couldn't afford a service dog, so I am training our big mixed dog to be my service dog instead. My problem is that he is deaf and I'm unsure how to go about training him as my service dog without using verbal commands. He knows his basic hand signals and can walk on a leash perfectly. Any tips?

Caitlin Crittenden
Caitlin Crittenden
Dog Trainer
421 Dog owners recommended

Hello Rachel, Look into vibration collar training, to teach him to look at you when you vibrate the collar, then respond to hand signals once he is looking at you. You can pair the vibration collar with rewards for looking at you to teach attention and make the collar an enjoyable experience. Using a long leash during training to reel him in if he ignores the collar can also help. Best of luck training, Caitlin Crittenden

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Little Bee
Mixed breed
7 Years
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Little Bee
Mixed breed
7 Years

How do I train Little Bee to alert my family members if I am outside with her and I fall and get hurt?

Caitlin Crittenden
Caitlin Crittenden
Dog Trainer
421 Dog owners recommended

Hello Kate, First teach him the Go Find command. Inside your home tell him to Go Find, then have another family member make a noise to encourage him over, when he arrives, have them give a treat, and then have that person have him "Go Find Kate" (yours by name), and you make a noise and when he goes to you, give a treat. Practice this in one room until you can say Go Find and he will go to the other person without them encouraging him (have them give him a treat they have in their pocket still when he arrives). When he can consistently go to them in one room, then as he improves have the person move out of the room a couple of feet at a time until he will go into another room to get them. As he improves, have them go somewhere further and further away, like other parts of the house, gradually so that he really has to go looking for them (always give a treat when he finds them at this stage and help him if he is really struggling so he doesn't give up). Finally, when he can consistently find someone inside without hints, move the training outside, and send him to "Go Find" someone who is slightly inside while he is outside - have the person be somewhere easy inside first, then make that harder in other rooms as he improves. At this point, pretend to fall, then while on the ground tell him to "Go Find". Practice this in the den so it's easy again when you first introduce falling. Practice this until he starts to look for another person when you fall before you give the command, when he will do that, then fall and wait seven seconds before giving the command. If he goes to the other person without a verbal command- just the fall, have them reward him, then have the person tell him to "Go Find Kate" to bring the person back to you. If he doesn't go find someone when you fall and wait seven seconds, give the command "Go Find" as a hint and have them reward when he gets to someone. Practice this with the fall first, followed by seven seconds of quiet, then giving a Go Find hint if he doesn't go look for someone during that time. As he improves he should start to go find someone when you fall without the Go Find command. When he can get someone when you fall, then practice the training with new people also, and gradually make it harder again by having the people move out of the room as he improves, until finally he will go get someone inside while you are outside after a fall. You will likely need to practice the pretend falls for a while after he is trained to keep his training fresh after he learns this, especially if your real falls are less than three times a week - so he stays shape on the training and remembers what to do when the real thing happens. Best of luck training, Caitlin Crittenden

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Faith
Chihuahua
5 Years
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Faith
Chihuahua
5 Years

I'm trying to train her to be my anxiety service dog but I'm not sure if she will understand it all. I started on trying to get her notice my symptoms and things like "nudge" But she really doesn't understand. I give her rewards and everything, maybe I should go slower with the training?

Caitlin Crittenden
Caitlin Crittenden
Dog Trainer
421 Dog owners recommended

Hello Ceirah, While training it, reward small amounts of progress. If she gets slightly closer to the goal but doesn't get it just right, still reward until she can at least do that amount consistently, then when she can do a tiny bit right wait until she gets slightly closer again and then reward that. Some dogs need the training broken down into even small steps. For example, if I was teaching a touch and my pup wouldn't touch the item, then I would make it a little easier by putting a little peanut butter on the item, rewarding any movement toward it, or wiggling the item around so she would reach in to investigate. I would reward any progress toward touching it until she started to move toward it consistently, then I would only reward if she got slightly closer than before, until she could finally touch the item consistently through those baby steps. If you really feel stumped, then it may be worth trying one of the other methods instead. Certain methods are easier for some dogs and not others - which is why it's great to have multiple ways to teach something. Best of luck training, Caitlin Crittenden

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Zoey
Pit bull
6 Years
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Zoey
Pit bull
6 Years

I have bad anxiety or I think I do. I sometimes shake and my heart beats rapidly, when I don't know what to do in a situation, when I'm getting yelled at, or in large crowd with noone I know. Or sometimes just in a large crowd. My pitbull that a friend gave to me because they could no longer keep him, sleeps with me, is always near me. He doesn't leave my side. When I use the restroom, he lays patiently outside the door. He keeps me calm in situations when I get anxious. He wasn't trained so I began training him, he has almost masters 2 basic commands. Sit/down in only a week. He has also learn not to be distracted and focus on me when he is getting petted by random people and also learn not to eat food given to him unless I allow him too. He isn't agressive, he is more timid around other dogs, any size.(Reason being becuase his old family the other dogs picked on him) he doesn't bark unless someone approaches the property.he doesn't pay attention to other dogs. He is about the size of a 7 month old German Shepard puppy.

Is he good enough to be my Anxiety alret. Once I fully train him?


Ps. He also gets really anxious if I leave him for more than an hour.

Caitlin Crittenden
Caitlin Crittenden
Dog Trainer
421 Dog owners recommended

Hello Maidson, He definitely needs further training to be considered a Service Dog and be allowed public access places - things like overcoming his separation anxiety and timidity around other dogs, but he does sound like a good candidate. Emotional support dogs also require a less intense level of training but are allowed less access places - if he can't learn everything needed for a Service Dog but is calm, well behaved in public, and attentive to you, he may at least make a great emotional support animal, and be allowed to go many places still. To be considered a Service Dog, a dog needs to be able to be calm in a huge variety of situations (from kids running up and hugging un-expectedly, sudden loud noises, airplane rides, crowded restaurants with lots of good smells, places with lots of other dogs, ect...) He needs not to cause a disruption in public (quiet, calm...my sister's German Shepherd Service Dog often lies under restaurant tables for the entire meal and people are surprised when she gets up and they realize a huge dog was there the whole time without them even noticing him). A service dog also has to be able to perform at least one task that specifically helps with your need...such as pressure therapy during times of anxiety, leading you to an exit during times of panic, getting help during a panic attack, interrupting cyclic thinking, ect... An emotional support animal doesn't have to perform specific tasks that help but are simply well trained to go into public without being a disruption and their very presence provides support to the person. They don't have to be allowed access as many places, but may be allowed to accompany a person places like school or work if the employer or school is supportive - emotional support dogs do not have legal protection to accompany a person somewhere though. Best of luck training, Caitlin Crittenden

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Jewel
Shepweiler
5 Months
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Jewel
Shepweiler
5 Months

Is there a way to get my dog to alert to anxiety by just scent? If there is,How? Also I wanted to know easy ways to have her do certain things during an episode such as licking my face while I cry and moving my hands when I repeatedly hit my head with them.

Caitlin Crittenden
Caitlin Crittenden
Dog Trainer
421 Dog owners recommended

Hello Ashley, Some dogs are able to detect anxiety based on scent. This is done using saliva samples taken during times of high anxiety. The dog is taught an alert, such as Sit, paw, bark, or nose. You then practice having the dog sniff the sample, give their alert, and you reward with a treat. Practice this until you don't have to tell the dog to alert but they will simply alert when they smell the sample, then you reward. Once pup can alert really well on the sample, then Saliva samples taken during anxious times and saliva samples taken during normal times are practiced together - with the dog only being praised and rewarded for alerting to the anxious sample, and not the normal sample. Ignore incorrect alerts and don't reward them. Practice this until pup can reliably alert to the correct sample only. Whether pup can do this depends on the sensitivity of their nose and scenting ability and on whether your body chemistry changes enough during times of high anxiety for the saliva sample to be different enough from the normal sample for pup to detect the change. Best of luck training, Caitlin Crittenden

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Australi sheperds
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