Author Topic: Is a service dog for me?  (Read 1353 times)

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Offline livvyalice

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Is a service dog for me?
« on: February 09, 2017, 05:46:35 PM »
Hello anyone who clicked to read this! I am Livvy or Alice or nothing, since you don't really have to call me anything. Sorry, I'm super awkward and easily distracted. So let's not get anymore distracted and start this.

So, I have been thinking about getting an emotional support dog for myself. Of course, who else would I get one for? I am 17 on the verge of 18 and I will be moving out of my parents' house soon. (Mainly because they won't allow any more pets in their house) Mega sadface. So I will be adopting a dog not long after moving out. I am willing to get the dog trained, mostly by myself but also with professional help.

But, I am kind of getting ahead of myself. First, let's start with why I think I need one. So, I suffer from mild depression, which really makes getting out of bed and average tasks difficult. In the past when my family had a dog, it really helped me out. I also suffer from a very severe case of anxiety. I can barely be in a grocery store for a half an hour without freaking out. Being in public triggers my anxiety the worst, but even being at home doing nothing can trigger it. I am very prone to panic attacks. Mine include physically hurting myself and being unable to breathe. Having a calming presence when I am having one of these attacks helps me greatly. I also have a number of phobias, the list is kind of concerning. One big phobia is plane flights. Which sucks horribly because my family are serious travelers. And I read that you are aloud to bring your emotional support dog on flights with you. That would be a huge help.

So, I guess I am wondering if all that means I can get an emotional support dog. And I have a few questions about getting an emotional support dog:
 - Do I have to adopt a specific breed? Because I plan on rescuing whatever sweetie steals my heart.
 - Do I have to start off with a puppy?
 - Or do I have to adopt a fully trained dog? Because I am willing to train the dog myself
 - Can I train my dog to recognize my triggers?
 - How do I register my dog as an emotional support dog? Do I need anything special?
 - Do I need to buy anything for my dog to be an emotional support dog?
 - Should I get a letter from my doctor or therapist?

Offline Kirsten

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Re: Is a service dog for me?
« Reply #1 on: February 09, 2017, 08:24:23 PM »
An emotional support animal doesn't require any special training beyond good pet manners (house training including where to toilet, what not to chew or destroy, not to bark and disturb neighbors especially at night, to be friendly and polite when meeting people on walks).

You choose any dog you like.  Or cat, or other species commonly used as a household pet.

There is not legitimate registration process.  Registration is unnecessary and only puts money in the pockets of liars and scammers.

It's not "should" get a letter from a doctor or therapist, but *must* get a letter.  That's what makes an ESA an ESA.  The letter must state that in the professional's opinion you are disabled or substantially limited by your condition.  Mild depression will not be sufficient to substantially limit your ability to function.  Roughly speaking, you would need to be among the 25% with the greatest impact on ability to function to be "substantially limited."  That's a determination for your mental health care provider to make, based on their experience in treating people with mental illness.

You asked about training for the dog to recognize your triggers.  I'm not sure you quite understand how it works.  A trigger is something you encounter and immediately react to with symptoms.  So suppose you had been in a terrible car wreck and the last thing you saw, the thing that caused the wreck, was a red car.  So now each time you see a red car you have a panic attack.  The red car is a trigger.  If you know what your triggers are, you and your dog are likely to see them at approximately the same time, so the dog telling you, "hey, there's a red car!"
(a) won't be news to you because you'll have seen it too and are now having a panic attack, or
(b) won't be helpful to you in managing symptoms because if you manage not to see it you'll still know it's there (because the dog told you) and be triggered and start having symptoms.

Will the dog know when you are upset and having a panic attack?  Almost certainly he will.  Dogs are particularly good at noticing the emotional state of people around them.  If you've heard the saying that dogs can smell fear, well to a large extent they actually can, especially when it's a person they know well.

An ESA's job is to be a good companion, to be supportive when you are upset/scared, to hang with you until you recover.  So you don't have to face the symptoms alone, so you don't feel isolated, so you know someone cares.

I mentioned you would need a doctor's or therapist's letter and that this is what makes an animal an ESA.  That's because the ESA designation only matters in two places and in those two places you will be required to show that letter.  They are:
1.  "no pets" housing (a rented house or apartment where the landlord has a rule that you cannot have a pet)
2.  on commercial aircraft

A person with an ESA does not have a right to take the animal shopping with them or to other businesses without the permission of the business owner.  In other words, outside of the two examples listed, an ESA is treated the same as a pet, so if a pet isn't allowed, then neither is an ESA (unless you get permission).
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Offline Kirsten

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Re: Is a service dog for me?
« Reply #2 on: February 09, 2017, 08:30:18 PM »
You asked about breeds.  Yes, this can matter.  A landlord might be able to refuse certain breeds if they are on a ban list.  Therefore you should choose a dog that is unlikely to make landlords generally unhappy to make your life easier.  You should avoid naturally protective breeds anyway (GSDs. dobes, rotties), and pit bull type dogs (because of the frequency of bans and insurance company blacklists).

The ideal candidate, from a "getting along with your landlord" point of view would be under 30 pounds and have the appearance of a breed or mix of breeds commonly viewed as friendly and gentle.  While you can get a larger dog or even a dog of a blacklisted breed, it's going to make your life more difficult and more stressful.  Choosing a medium or small dog that looks friendly will tend to make your life easier and less stressful and will make renting a home easier.  So that's why I recommend getting a "Benji" type of dog (small to medium sized, cute, expressive, friendly).  They also eat less and cost less for certain procedures at the vet (anything requiring anesthesia, such as spay/neuter or dental treatments).
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In loving memory of Cole (1/11/99 - 6/26/12)  He gave me back my life.

"The one absolute, unselfish friend that man can have in this selfish world -- the one that never proves ungrateful or treacherous -- is his dog." -George G. Vest

Offline livvyalice

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Re: Is a service dog for me?
« Reply #3 on: February 09, 2017, 08:43:24 PM »
Thank you for answering all my questions and explaining everything to me. It was very clear and easy for me too understand. I will be talking to me doctor about this and do more research on the subject.

Also, one more question. If a store says 'service dogs allowed' can I bring my emotional support dog into that building?

Lastly, my triggers are mainly high pitched noises. Would a dog be able to hear those before I do?

Offline Kirsten

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Re: Is a service dog for me?
« Reply #4 on: February 09, 2017, 11:34:49 PM »
An emotional support animal is not a type of service dog, so if a sign says "service animals welcome" it does not include emotional support animals.  You would need to contact the business and ask if you can bring your emotional support animal.

=====

A dog will hear the noise at the same time you hear it.  They don't hear faster, just a different range. 
Kirsten and Tardis
In loving memory of Cole (1/11/99 - 6/26/12)  He gave me back my life.

"The one absolute, unselfish friend that man can have in this selfish world -- the one that never proves ungrateful or treacherous -- is his dog." -George G. Vest

Offline RedSonia29

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Re: Is a service dog for me?
« Reply #5 on: February 27, 2017, 02:48:35 PM »
Hi Livvy,

I'm going to slightly step away from the SD/ESA discussion a bit and talk a little about what it means to have a dog at 18 y/o. I'm only talking from my experience, and I promise that I'm not trying to be antagonistic. Having a dog is HARD, no matter what age you are.

1) If you plan on going to college with an ESA, your dog must be fully housebroken and reliable with all types of people. Don't get him right before you graduate from high school. If you plan to stay in a dormitory, this is an ABSOLUTE must and expect some pushback if your dog is not fully trained. Your ESA must be legit and trained before you bring him to college. You need to be in an established human/ESA partnership before any major life changes happen (and graduating and going to college is a major life change).
2) It will probably cost around $1000/year just to feed and provide medical care for your dog. Make sure that you have the cash to support his needs.
3) You need to be able to make time for training. This does not mean 10 minutes in the morning when you get up. It means several HOURS per day.
4) Obedience training for your dog costs time and money and, if you plan on an SD/ESA, the training won't just be one class for 8 weeks at PetSmart. Again, make sure that you have the time and money available.
5) You will need to supervise your dog AT ALL TIMES. There are no breaks from this; no exceptions. If your dog bites someone or destroys property, YOU are responsible, not your parents.
6) Statistically speaking, young dog owners (e.g., college age) are the most likely to return a dog to a shelter, usually due to cost (costs too much), available time for training (none when your working a job, going to school, or hanging with your friends), and problems finding an apartment (see #9).
7) You will need to have a regular, reliable job, that may need to let you off work periodically to take your dog out, train, etc. Example: my sister just graduated from college and has been working as a 3rd grade teacher for almost a year. She has no money for decent food and no time, because she's always working. She's 24 and doesn't have either the time or the money to support/train a dog.
:cool: Young adults don't have a lot of street cred in the housing market. This means that if you show up for a rental interview, you may be passed over for housing because you don't have sufficient references or a secure job. Discrimination over an ESA? Possibly. But you can't argue that you have a perfect credit score when you just graduated from high school (or college).

Again, I'm not intending to sound harsh here, and I certainly don't want to dissuade you from getting the ESA that you need for your disability. Just be aware that living in the world with a SD is often more difficult than most people think it is. It's expensive, time-consuming, there's a never-ending stream of verbal abuse and attention, and 20 minute errands turn into an hour of listening to someone else's story about their favorite dog. If you NEED the ESA, get the ESA, but make sure you understand the difference between NEED and WANT and make sure that you have the time and money available to support your partner.

I wish you the best of luck in your last year of high school and hope that you meet the perfect ESA when you're ready and able to be a lifelong partner.
In loving memory of Clive (CLASS, CGC, Diabetic Alert Dog). You saved my life countless times just by using your heart, nose, and your fat pit bull head. Our time together was too short and I miss you every day. 12/21/11 - 11/19/2016

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Offline Summertime.and.Azkaban

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Re: Is a service dog for me?
« Reply #6 on: February 27, 2017, 09:11:28 PM »
Quote
6) Statistically speaking, young dog owners (e.g., college age) are the most likely to return a dog to a shelter, usually due to cost (costs too much), available time for training (none when your working a job, going to school, or hanging with your friends), and problems finding an apartment (see #9).

Can you cite your source? I'm interested as to what entity conducted the study that produced the statistics you're quoting.
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Offline Cocoajensen

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Re: Is a service dog for me?
« Reply #7 on: February 27, 2017, 11:16:47 PM »
What I found was a study (link here on pet finder, but study not done by them - source is cited & can be tracked down). that says most common reasons for surrender (relinquishment).  Many of these are issues that are more common in the younger population, transitioning from out of parents home to dorm or independent living, lots of changes. I was unable in my brief search to find a study that looks at specifically college populations - I'm sure it's out there, just not able to find it tonight.  In eiter case, these are serious issues to think about with any pet & how it will be handled.'
 Dogs:
Moving (7%)
Landlord not allowing pet (6%)
Too many animals in household (4%)
Cost of pet maintenance (5%)
Owner having personal problems (4%)
Inadequate facilities (4%)
No homes available for litter mates (3%)
Having no time for pet (4%)
Pet illness(es) (4%)
Biting (3%)

edited to add link mentioned above.  https://www.petfinder.com/pet-adoption/dog-adoption/pets-relinquished-shelters/

Offline Kirsten

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Re: Is a service dog for me?
« Reply #8 on: February 28, 2017, 01:15:02 AM »
There's a decent chance a single 8 week class would be sufficient for an ESA.  An ESA needs only sufficient training to be a well behaved pet.  They don't have to have task training, public access training, or even core obedience if they are naturally easy to live with.  They'll need toilet training.  Some will need instruction on nuisance behaviors like barking or jumping on people.

If you're going to take them on an airplane they'll need sufficient training and habituation to be confident and comfortable and well behaved as usual at the airport and on the aircraft.

Really the only training requirement of ESAs is toilet training.  The rest might simply be managed by the human with supervision, crating, exercise.

I'm not saying don't train an ESA because certainly any dog is going to benefit from training and be more enjoyable to live with.  But I am saying we shouldn't inflate the training requirement when legally there isn't one other than house training and very basic good pet manners.

====

Supervision all of the time is not possible.  There will be times when you sleep and times when you have to leave the home to work or get food or go to school and the ESA is going to be left at home to await your return.  You might crate him to keep him out of trouble, or you might teach him how to treat your stuff okay so he can be free in the apartment while you're gone.

Certainly it would not be appropriate or okay to allow your ESA to run at large outside or in the dorm.  He should in fact be on leash any time he is outside of your own apartment or room, not just supervised.  But when he is inside your personal space and secured so he is safe and can't cause problems for others, he need not be supervised.  There is a limit to how long a puppy can be left unsupervised, even when crated while older dogs can handle longer periods alone or unsupervised, up to say four hours during the day, or all night while you are asleep.
« Last Edit: February 28, 2017, 01:21:32 AM by Kirsten »
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"The one absolute, unselfish friend that man can have in this selfish world -- the one that never proves ungrateful or treacherous -- is his dog." -George G. Vest

Offline RedSonia29

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Re: Is a service dog for me?
« Reply #9 on: February 28, 2017, 09:21:18 AM »
Quote
6) Statistically speaking, young dog owners (e.g., college age) are the most likely to return a dog to a shelter, usually due to cost (costs too much), available time for training (none when your working a job, going to school, or hanging with your friends), and problems finding an apartment (see #9).

Can you cite your source? I'm interested as to what entity conducted the study that produced the statistics you're quoting.

Thanks for your comment Summertime and Azkaban:

I should know better than to use the words "statistically speaking" in conversation. According to the Humane Society and a few other news sources (see below), pet abandonment and strays are higher in college towns and pets are more frequently turned in during the months of May, June, and July. Is it factual that more pets are abandoned in college towns? Yes. Is this directly correlated with students? Possibly. I made a loose correlation without a direct link to causation. That was my error. Thanks for calling me on it.

There's no doubt that pets can help students with emotional support during this period of transition in their lives (studies are overwhelmingly positive on this matter). This is why many humane societies take their animals to college campuses for "Pet your stress away" events. The problem is that college is a transitional period between childhood and adulthood. Some students respond better to responsibility than others. My intent is not to say that all young people should avoid getting a dog, but to say that before getting a dog (or other pet), the student should consider a few things first. Students need to have adequate and consistent financial support, a stable place to live, a high level of personal responsibility, and time to spend with the dog. This is why many humane societies and shelters have policies in place to limit the placement of animals with college students. Students need to make an informed decision to adopt a new pet, not an emotional decision.

A few online Research Studies to start (Apologies: I don't have time to get to the libarary for the other studies, but both of these have direct references several excellent articles):
file:///C:/Users/Owner/Downloads/rutgers-lib-41221_PDF-1.pdf
https://www.americanhumane.org/app/uploads/2016/08/petsmart-keeping-pets-phase-ii.pdf

Sample of Anecdotal or Shelter Policies (Google: pet adoption, college students, pet surrender, pet abandonment, etc)
http://www.humanesociety.org/news/news/2010/07/pets_at_college_072810.html?referrer=https://www.google.com/
http://www.butlercountyhs.org/FAQ.asp#A2
http://www.streamvalleyvet.com/refId,52080/refDownload.pml
http://www.foxnews.com/story/2009/05/19/shelters-see-rise-in-abandoned-pets-as-college-students-year-ends.html
https://www.kshumane.org/images/pdf/Pet-Pals-Cadette-Senior-Guide.pdf
https://www.thestreet.com/story/12789746/1/should-college-students-have-pets.html

Again, my apologies for using a quantitative term when I should have been colloquial. I'll be careful of that in the future.
--S
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Bowie's Facebook Page: https://www.facebook.com/BowietheDAD/

Offline swimmergirl247

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Re: Is a service dog for me?
« Reply #10 on: February 28, 2017, 09:56:34 AM »
I would also like to mention that living on a dorm is no garentee they will accept an ESA so if you are going to college and planning on staying on campus housing especially with a roommate.

Also i would also Say to the Op if you get and ESA letter(note an ESA letteris phrased differently than a PSD letter) then I want to Emphasis your ESA does NOT have to be a dog, if you like animals you can get a cat, rabbit, genea pigs, or any other pocket pets.you can't have have reptiles and birds but they are much harder to justify flying with them(though some definlity do it). these animals do well in smaller situation and don't need to leave a room in and well  socialized they can enjoy taking feild trips, but don't require it. plus they can be there when you need them but do require near as much care as a dog does. now dog are the only things that do it for somebody and that's fie just something to consider

another unintended consequence can be that because you are basically announcing to your landord you are "disabling mentally ill" some landlords will discriminate with that info (there not suppose too but, some do and unless you have the money and gumption to fight in court for it then when it happens you have no choice to move on. 90% it doesn't happen but it can with other disabilities its not as stigatized as mental illness. no its not fair but that is one of the choice you will have to make is to fight for you animal even if it means having a hard time finding housing 

and when you fly with an ESA in the U.Sand canada you lose the protections once you land and then you must keep pet friendly (hotels, boarding facilitates, family or friends house) another choice are you willing to totally adapt your trip around your dogs needs? when alot of people are scared of flying

Also I'm thinking that you are trying to justify a taks or reason to bring you dog with with you. if you are thinking about a PSD then here some sobering things you might want to what you need to know. assuming you really think you need or want a PSD

first it is HUGELY harder than others thing it is. some think its a great and cool idea until they try then find out it makes life much worse,
1. only 1 and 100 dogs at a shelter can be trained for service work all the way(because of temperament or health issues) then you tact on the super specail temperament of a PSD then it could drop to I'm guessing 1 in 1,000+
2. the breeds that you want to be your friend apart from what Kristin said is fine but the there are really certain breeds that are good candidates (labs, corgis etc)
3. it takes 2 years no matter the age of the dog, and about 5-10k to do the proper work to train a service dog even when you do alot of the work yourself.
4. you WILL need a trainer in you corner FIRST including a "Finders fee" which is a trainer temperament testing dogs which is the best bet of you finding "the perfect dog"

So if you might also need to think about this info too.
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Offline Moonsong

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Re: Is a service dog for me?
« Reply #11 on: February 28, 2017, 10:10:07 AM »
Swimmer, a bird (depending on the species) can be a great ESA. Being an ESA only requires from the animal to be effective in providing comfort (though they should be acceptably trained). A bird can be restrained from flying around with a harness or flightsuit or similar product, and the flightsuits work as bird diapers, so there isn't an issue of unacceptable toileting if you invest in those products.

I have an ESA letter for Kirby, my cockatiel. He's a very social bird who will hold my finger with his little foot when he notices that I am upset/not feeling well. I can pet him, play with him, and talk to him (and as a parrot he talks back). He provides excellent emotional support.

Parrots are naturally social creatures who live in family groups in the wild; they want to interact with their human flock. They don't necessarily have the drive to please like dogs do, but other than that they are similar to dogs in that they want to be part of the family, they want to love and be loved, and they are highly trainable.


I'm not by any means saying that a parrot would be a good ESA for anybody, or that they are better than a dog or a cat. I just wanted to discount the idea that birds would not make good ESAs because, depending on the species, they do. If the parrots are well cared for and acceptably trained (i.e. trained not to bite or scream), then they are excellent companions.
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