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5 Ways Service Dogs Can Help People Living With Bipolar Disorder

Can those with psychiatric disorders such as bipolar disorder benefit from interaction with animals? For most people the answer is a resounding “YES!” There are an increasing number of dogs being trained to assist individuals with a range of disabilities. 

It has been noted through many types of studies that service dogs have a positive impact on an individuals' health, psychological well-being, social interactions, performance of activities and participation in various life roles at home and in the community. 

There are a few different types of dogs and other animals that can help people living with mental illness. This blogs is about service dogs specifically, to learn about the other ways animals can benefit mental health, watch our webinar on Animals in Mental Health Recovery

According to the American's with Disabilities Act, service animals are allowed to go in public places anywhere that a non-disabled person is allowed to go. This includes a public business, restaurant, taxi, bus, or park, even if a local or state law states otherwise. The ADA supersedes local and state laws because it is a federal law. Note that this is an American law and the rules might be different in other countries. 

Here are some specific task areas service dogs can be trained to help with: 

1. Emotional Coping Assistance: Service dogs can be trained to perform specific tasks that soothe the negative effects of the person's mental illness and coping with emotional overload. Service Dogs can be taught to prevent others from crowding their owner. They can be taught to recognize a panic attack and nuzzle a distraught owner to help him calm down. 

2. Treatment Related Assistance: These special animals can be trained to deliver messages, remind their owner to take medications at a specific time, assist with walking as well as alerting sedated individuals to doorbells, phones or smoke detectors. Dogs can be balance trained with a stiff harness to help keep the individual from falling and trained to help them regain balance and stand.

3. Assistance in a Medical Crisis: Service dogs can be trained to retrieve medications for the individual from a specially located spot, beverages to swallow them with, and telephones to call for help. They can bark for help, answer a doorbell, open doors and even dial 911 on special K9 speaker telephones.

4. Driving Safety: Service dogs can be trained to determine if a person’s judgment capacity while driving is diminished and can prompt the person to slow down and pull off the road as soon as possible.

5. Security Enhancement: These canines are often trained to check the house for intruders. They can turn on lights and open doors. They can assist with leaving a premises during an emergency. 

For anyone looking for a service animal contact Assistance Dogs International for dogs throughout the world.Their site explains training for a service dog, length of time in training and gives contact emails for different regions of the world.

To read more from Teresa, see the rest of her posts for IBPF here or visit her personal blog here


What are the qualifications to be able to get a service dog how much do they cost?

I was told to get a therapy dog. Not one that is necessarily trained but one that will keep me from being lonely, hug and kiss me when I'm upset and give me something to do that makes me laugh. I have a kennel saved dog that is older but he loves just the same. Recently I picked up another dog, younger, who is being trained by the older dog which is great because the older dog is in his prime at age 10. We love them, they love us, and yes, they won't let anyone near us without us knowing that there is someone there. I agree, therapy dogs save lives.

Therapy dogs are the dogs that go to hospitals and nursing homes. What you're talking about is an Emotional Support Animal, aka an ESA.

Unfortunately when my mother is in a crisis she retreats from everything and everyone, including her dog

Where do you find a service dog? Everywhere we have looked only serves Vets, medically disabled or those with Autism.
Having a service dog for my son would be a life changer for all of us.

If you find a reputable dog trainer in your area they will help you find a suitable dog and train it to your son's specific needs. There are certain temperament requirements, so not all breeds/ individual dogs are capable of being a service dog.

I take an anti-seizure medicine and was diagnosed with depression, bi-polar and anxiety 25 - 30 years ago. Where can I find out about service-animals. I'm 66 years. Thank you.

cats aren't as trainable as dogs but both can help people...AND they are affordable...horses. goats, and other large animals can help but they require serious budgets

Great article. I've never had luck finding a trained service dog for bipolar and anxiety or emotional comfort. I don't think they are as available as they are for people with physical disabilities. And what is the cost for one with special training? How long is the waiting list?

I had to put down my best fur friend and companion in 2011. I have yet to meet another dog I thought would be as comforting as she was. I've looked at shelter dogs, but so many of them are at risk of having their own behavioral health problems that I'm reluctant to take one home. A puppy at my age is out of the question.

I'm curious. How many of you have had your family and friends advise against getting a dog, because they didn't think you could function well enough to take care of one? I'm getting that feedback, now, especially since I live alone, which is exactly why I want another dog.

I am bipolar with enormous anxiety and social phobias. I am 62 yrs old.

A lot of people have cats that they cuddle with. I live in a building that was built in 1970 as a second home for retirees and preretiriees. Because of sanitation issues and the fear that aging residents would become unable to tidy up after their animals, most of the buildings on this street in Florida do not allow pets. I'm lucky in that mine allows 'housebound,' i.e. cats, gerbils, hamsters, etc. No Dogs. My cats know when I'm depressed or manic and they RUN from me. They don't want the extra attention, definitely do not want to be held. In fact, on a morning while I'm sleeping and my moods are turning, before I even know it myself, they are already hidden from view when I wake up in an extreme mood state either way. They know before I do! A dog would be so much better. It makes us want to ditch this high rise for a house. Great piece.

I could desperately use a service dog. It could ease my anxiety and lessen my xanax intake. I could walk without so much fear of falling. I love ed dogs and no one knows there person better than a dog.

how do I look into this has some great easy to read info.
The cost of the dog will vary because the dog will have to be specifically trained to you. Talking to a local dog trainer can help you figure out an over all cost and help you find a dog.

Someone told me that if you have a mental disease you can apply for a license in order to take your service dog wherever you go, I just don't know where to get that?

Hi Debra, 

People with a mental illness (or any disability) can have their pet be an Emotional Support Animal under the Americans with Disabilities Act (in the US, other countries may have similar laws). This allows them to live with them even if they live somewhere with a no-pet policy. It does not mean they can go with you anywhere that you go. To qualify, your psychiatrist needs to write a letter to your landlord. 

This is different from a Service Dog. A service dog requires years of special training to learn specific tasks that help the person with the disablity. Service dogs are allowed to go with their owner everwhere that they go. 

Untrue. People with mental Psychiatric conditions/ disabilities to include PTSD/ Bipolar etc can have a service dog as well not just an ESA. And there is no license for Service dogs etc. the dog needs to be trained in at least one specific task related to your disability. IE if you get panic attacks from PTSD your dog can be trained to lie across you and put pressure on your body. The service dog must be trained according to certain standards but there is no license needed.

hi i would like to know how i could get my dog trained for my mom to be a service dog she is bipolar and it would help alot i need to know good trainers hes 5 now but he is good behavied

If you have a PetSmart nearby, they have training classes for owed training service animals. It's kinda pricey, but well worth it. Just make sure that the animal responds to the situation. I have a three year old fox terrier mix and he has always responded to me. he will actually let my husband no if I am going through a flashback with my PTSD. In order for me to be able to take him everywhere, I had to get him certified as a service dog, then people still told me that he wasn't one because of his size. The most important thing with psd dogs is to make sure they respond to you, some will not and some will

I am bipolar and need a companion service dog. How do I get one?

I had no idea that an emotional support animal could help with driving and that they can prompt someone to slow down or pull off the road if the person's judgment may be diminished. That is something that I will have to keep in mind since I was recently diagnosed with bipolar disorder. My therapist suggested looking into an emotional support animal so I'll be sure to ask her about these tips. Thanks for sharing!

And esa is not the same thing as a service animal.

Can my puppy be able to travel with me while being trained under the disability act

A Service Dog in Training (SDiT) has the same status as a pet.

This isn’t exactly true. ADA does not recognize a dog in training however many state have laws where a dog in training has the same protection. So you need to check your state law.

Very useful post, i think amazing content is very Useful for any website to attract people.


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