Should I get a service dog?

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LoveTea

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I’ve been having a really rough few months. I’ve been hospitalized 4 times, I see my therapist, psychiatrist, dbt theraptist, and emder therapist every week. I’ve been thinking about this for a long time. I will be getting a dog once I move in November, and it will be an emotional support animal at the very least. But I don’t know if I want/need to train a full blown service animal. I have been having a lot of issues dissociating and my mother is worried that I could end up in a bad situation because of it. I am also having a lot of trouble going to my college campus because it is extremely triggering for me. I’m alone a lot and that makes my symptoms much worse. My main therapist thinks it is a good idea because a lot of my symptoms seem to be getting worse, but I still have some apprehension.

On the one hand I think it could be helpful to calm me down and keep me grounded, but I also have a lot of concerns. I have been working a lot on not identifying myself purely on PTSD (because it feels like it has taken over so much of my life). I don’t want to just be “that girl with mental issues with the dog”. I also don’t know what to tell people. I’m less concerned about stangers asking questions, I’m more concerned with what to tell my grandparents, friends etc. since I have had a lot of problems in the past when I’ve told anyone I have PTSD and I know some people just aren’t going to understand. Also, at what point is a dog helpful and when is it a crutch to keep me from learning skills on my own?

I’m also concerned from a logistical stand point. What happens if I am hospitalized again? The places I’ve been are complete lock down facilities and there is not outside time. Will I have issues getting a job? In theory they aren’t allowed to discriminate based on a service dog, but I also know that isn’t always true in reality. I’d love to hear from anyone with experiance or thoughts about this. I know a service dog is a big commitment for both time and money and I don’t want to go into it lightly.
 

Friday

Moderator
I’m also concerned from a logistical stand point. What happens if I am hospitalized again?

The same as with a regular dog, yes? Kennel. Which means needing to set that up in advance... finding one, getting them registered with it (shot records, etc. all on file), setting aside the funds to be able to pay for it (or paying in advance), etc.

Will I have issues getting a job? In theory they aren’t allowed to discriminate based on a service dog, but I also know that isn’t always true in reality.
Many people don’t bring their SDs to work. Is having them at work a primary function you’re looking at?
I will be getting a dog once I move in November, and it will be an emotional support animal at the very least. But I don’t know if I want/need to train a full blown service animal.
have you had a dog in the past?
 

LoveTea

Not Active
@Friday I have had a dog in the past, but that is when I lived with my parents. Now I live alone. I did help train my previous dog, but I’m also aware that training a service dog is a lot more intensive.

I don’t kmow what type of job I will be getting yet, but depending on the environment, I may need the dog to keep me grounded. I tend to dissociate a lot when I’m bored, stressed, anxious, etc. Obviously it’d be best to avoid such environments, but situations where I get overwhelmed are inevitable to a certain extent.

I’m just not sure where the healthy line is depending on a dog to help me through it, or to keep trying other tecniques on my own and have the dog as an ESA.
 

littleoc

Sponsor
I would say it depends on the dog (can the dog handle the stress of being a service animal? Can they do tasks without getting too distracted?) but also depends on if you’ve exhausted your resources otherwise. If that makes sense.

I got my dog because I was unable to function in public settings or was getting into danger any time I was left alone. A doctor told me it would be immediately helpful as, after eight years (at the time) of trying medications and being in therapy, I was still having problems.

But, I am getting much better, and the dog really did help. It might be worth y’all with your doctor/therapist or both on it.

My doctor had a flow chart about “is it a permanent disability, would a dog be beneficial, would other options work better or have those options been tried yet,” and it was very helpful.

I hope that helps a little!
 

Friday

Moderator
Since you’re looking at getting a dog, and then training it to be a service dog? (Rather than either getting a dog or getting a service dog).

My suggestion would be to get a dog.

See how ‘just’ a dog benefits you in your life. From the routines, to attention & focus of training (if you have no intention of training your dog, get a cat), to the companionship & social interaction, to navigating being out in public (just because you can’t go everywhere, doesn’t mean that you can’t go most places // some people choose to leave their dogs at home 99% of the time, others -like me- went nearly everywhere with them), to all the daily ins & outs.

Basic highly skilled / rock solid training, for most breeds, takes about a year. (For some it takes 2-3. Generally speaking, the smarter the dog, the longer the training time. Which sounds backwards, but it’s about capability. It’s the same with people. Someone who caps out at the 3rd grade? Won’t be going onto university, much less getting their masters or doctorate. Dogs who are smart and pick things up quickly? Will need more training than dogs who are lawn ornaments or basically brain dead.). The couple weeks for this, that, or the other? Are just intros or specific lessons. Learning the skill and applying it when instructed may only take a couple weeks. Incorporating that into their daily lives, in conjunction with all their other training, and being spot on / trustworthy with all of them? You’re looking at a year of working with them every day, and using those skills several times a day.

A year with a dog as a pet? Should give you a better idea of what you actually need in your life.
 
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Freida

Sponsor
The easy answer for the difference between emotional support and service is that a service dog performs tasks strictly for that person. For example, SD is an alert dog -- he tells me when to take my pain pills, blocks people from coming too close to me and watches for people behind me. He goes every where I go, including work, the movies, one a plane, etc. I had to ask for accommodations for him but it was pretty much a non event because a service dog goes under the desk and should never be disruptive.

An emotional support dog can live with you in a house with a no pet policy, and can (for now) fly with you. That is IT. They have no rights to public places that don't allow all dogs in. A service dog goes every where you go.

So the first question to ask is -- what do you want the dog to do? If you want something to cuddle and help you feel better when you are home you want an ES dog. If you have a specific thing you want a dog to do, and you need him around at all times- its a service dog.

The number one thing my trainer warned me about is that I would never again be "unseen". People see the dog and think they are looking at a unicorn. SD is fairly unusual looking and I am constantly getting stopped and asked about him. Some days that is tough -- even if I don't interact EVERYONE sees us. And comments.

Plus its kind of like having a toddler -- water dishes, leash, treats, vest, ...he has his own bag! :laugh:
 

littleoc

Sponsor
he has his own bag! :laugh:
SD is fairly unusual looking and I am constantly getting stopped and asked about him. Some days that is tough -- even if I don't interact EVERYONE sees us. And comments.
So, so true!

And besides him needing his own suitcase basically for every trip, and you always being seen all the time and asked all kind of way-too-personal questions, you will also have to wait on handicap stalls in restrooms, unless you can squeeze. :)
 

Justmehere

Moderator
A service dog might be the right option for you. At the same time, it’s early into getting through this spike in symptoms. You are working on good therapies that can take time to work. It's quite common for things to get worse before they get better. A service dog is a long term expensive commitment, and I think it may be too early in the process to know if you should commit to a service dog.

I have utilized a service dog for many years.

I think it is a good option of last resort, when years of extensive treatment has been insufficient, and a pet dog has been very helpful when symptomatic, and one has identified specific tasks that a dog could perform to increase functioning. (Simple comforting presence of a dog is insufficient for service dog use, the dog must perform a task that helps mitigate symptoms.)

Training or applying for a service dog is at least a 1-2 year process, if not longer. It will come with significant costs. Many experts on owner-trained psych service dogs recommend planning on $6,000 - $8,000 dollars in getting help training a dog, resources to learn to select the right dog for service dog work, and navigating matters like dogs that fail due to temperament or health issues. A few are able to do it for less.

Training a service dog is a lot of work. It’s like a part time job.

Having a service dog is a major lifestyle change. Spend a lot of time reading up on what it is like before making the 10-15 year commitment to the lifestyle. One key thing most people don’t think about is that one must be really ready to communicate boundaries with strangers on a very regular basis, college campuses included. People will ask you what’s wrong with you in various ways, sometimes very rudely, and will try to distract or pet the dog often.

Discrimination is real. I have my dog about 1/2 the time when I do contractual work. With my dog, I get lots of compliments about her unshakable training and good behavior. People are more friendly towards me when I have her with me. But my success rates in renewals of contracts is about half of what I get if I don’t have the dog. I’m actually more symptomatic without her, but I no longer have to overcome so. many. stereotypes. I can’t prove any one case is discrimination as they never state it’s the dog. But. It’s still real.

Many other people treat me differently with then dog than without the dog. It hurts.

Generally, I have to work extra hard and take extra time to prove myself as capable as everyone else when I have the dog. Even to friends.

I love my dog and she’s helped my battle in many ways. I don’t know if I’d be alive without her here. I’m also looking forward to when I can have a pet dog instead of a service dog.

I’d suggest considering getting a pet dog that is professionally tested to have the right temperament if you later want to explore the possibility of service dog work. Then, enjoy caring for the dog as a pet, see how it goes, keep at treatment for a good solid year, then reassess if the service dog route still makes sense before making the 10-15 year commitment to a service dog.
 
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lostforgottensoul

MyPTSD Pro
Why not an Emotional Support animal? ESAs don't have public access but they do have a job. They also don't have the training needs! Nor cost anymore then a pet but can be in non-pet friendly housing and in the cabin with you in an airplane.


Training a service dog is a lot of work. It’s like a part time job.

Yes, yes, and yes! One at which one will give up if they actually do not need a dog in the public with them in my opinion. It is very, very, VERY, hard work and if you are not gaining equal benefit, you will likey give it up at some point. It requires accute dedication and consistancy to be successful. I gave up even sitting to watch a tv show for an entire year. It takes up every minute of my day when also working full time. It's starting to take up less time after a year and a half but accute dedication nonetheless.
 
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