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
15 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
3 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

Least Recommended
2 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 and Success Stories

Question
Leyroy
AnimalBreed object
11 Years
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Question
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Leyroy
AnimalBreed object
11 Years

Hi,im trying to train my dog to be a anxiety therapy dog(for my anxiety/panic attacks) what are some tips or ways to train him

Alisha Smith
Alisha S., Dog Trainer
92 Dog owners recommended

Hello! The process of training a dog to detect anxiety is a long one. There is no real short answer, so I am including a link which will provide you with info on the "how to". If you have any additional questions outside of this article, please feel free to send another message. https://wagwalking.com/training/detect-anxiety

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Ruger
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1 Day
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Ruger
AnimalBreed object
1 Day

I do not own my puppy yet! I will get him in Nov. but I am just researching in advance because this is extremely important to me.

I struggle with severe anxiety attacks and need to know how to get my puppy certified as a service dog. I cannot afford the expensive training that most people do so I plan on training my puppy on my own at home. While I may be able to function normally and go out in public most of the time, I never exactly know how anxious I can get at a certain point and time. Being in large crowds often makes me extremely anxious due to the fact that I also have ADHD, and lots of noises/things going on can overstimulate me, which can induce an attack. I just want to know if I could potentially be eligible for a service dog, I have been told to get an ESA, but that would not help me if I was in a situation where I could not take my dog.

Sorry for all of the questions and details!
Thank you,
Kayla

Alisha Smith
Alisha S., Dog Trainer
92 Dog owners recommended

Hello! I am going to send you an article that covers all of this. It is too much to type in this box! But I want to make sure you are equipped with everything you need. And this article will help you. Another step to take is to get your dogs Canine Good Citizen Certification. After you have trained him, the certification is usually only $25-$50. You can do a search online to see what trainers in your area offer this. Below is the article! https://wagwalking.com/training/detect-anxiety

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Question
Nala
AnimalBreed object
1 Year
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Question
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Nala
AnimalBreed object
1 Year

I want nala to become an anxiety service dog, I just want to know what I need to do to make that happen.

Alisha Smith
Alisha S., Dog Trainer
92 Dog owners recommended

Hi! I am sending you a link to a great article as there is no short answer to this question. You can follow the steps and work with her. I have known quite a few people who have trained Australian Shepherds for service work and they are wonderful service or alert dogs. https://wagwalking.com/training/detect-anxiety

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Question
Rose
AnimalBreed object
10 Weeks
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Rose
AnimalBreed object
10 Weeks

How long does it take to train a puppy to be an anxiety therapy dog

Darlene Stott
Darlene Stott
Dog Trainer and Groomer
85 Dog owners recommended

Hello, I would suggest that you direct your question to a site like this: https://www.servicedogcertifications.org/train-a-service-dog-for-anxiety/. They have contact info on the website and give information on how to get your dog certified. They should be able to answer your questions with knowledge. All the best and enjoy training Rose!

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Question
Trigger
AnimalBreed object
6 Weeks
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Trigger
AnimalBreed object
6 Weeks

We found him So unsure of breed. But definitely a big boy. But he is super calm. I work with autistic people and have the opportunity to take him to work with me. I’m wanting to train him to detect mood swings with my clients. Any tips would be greatful.

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