Author Topic: New dog is a natural-born SD- can I register her?  (Read 1687 times)

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Offline RoseAndThorn

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New dog is a natural-born SD- can I register her?
« on: July 10, 2017, 10:07:05 AM »
Hi everyone, I'm new to the community and to the whole idea of getting a service dog. I'm fairly clueless (and gullible) and I just want to say I don't mean any offense if I come off sounding callous. I'm just confused here.

So, two weeks ago, I didn't realize I had asthma. But I got my first dog last week (9 moths old rescue pup off the streets). She's really polite and eager to learn, and you'd think she'd been with us her whole life the way she's so relaxed and well behaved. This weekend, I had my first major asthma attack. And she realized what was going on before I did.

I woke up feeling kind of funny, but I disregarded it, figuring I was just hungry or tired or something. It's not an uncommon feeling for me. But she was acting weird, being really fussy, whining and licking at me, refusing to go for a walk, not leaving my side. Then I started having trouble breathing and had to sit down. Again, not very unusual- I figured it would pass in a few seconds. It had even happened a few times since we'd gotten her, and she'd only been mildly concerned before. But this time she immediately went to the doorway and started barking down the hall (without leaving the room) until my mother came to investigate and found me, lying on the floor and nearly unconscious by that point (that's the unusual part).

I didn't train her for that- she instinctively knew something was wrong and I needed help. I had no warning it would be that bad. I'd feel better having someone around who did know. Now that I know what to look for, I realize due to the climate I live in, I've been experiencing more minor asthma attacks/symptoms pretty much every day. And now I'm kind of worried that it's getting worse. She's also been helping a lot with my crippling social/separation/general anxiety, and softening the effects of my bipolar disorder. So I was wondering, after she has more general basic training, learns to walk on a leash, gets over her fear of squirrels, and everything else, if I should or would be able to get her registered as a service dog. I have no idea what the process is, if she would need professional training, etc. I'm pretty gullible, I nearly fell for one of those $50 scams before I found this website. So I'm looking for some reliable info on what the process is like in the U.S. to get her legally recognized, if that's even possible/a good idea. I'm also a minor, so I'm not sure if that would affect it at all.

Offline Kirsten

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Re: New dog is a natural-born SD- can I register her?
« Reply #1 on: July 10, 2017, 11:25:08 AM »
First you have to be disabled.  Most people with asthma will not be disabled by their condition, but some will be.  Discuss with your doctor whether or not he or she considers you disabled.

Second, by definition "Service animal means any dog that is individually trained to do work or perform tasks for the benefit of an individual with a disability..." so the dog has to be trained to do something to mitigate your disability.  Natural behaviors that occur without training do not qualify a dog as a service dog.

"The work or tasks performed by a service animal must be directly related to the individual´s disability." So anything the dog is trained to do that helps you with asthma must be to mitigate a disability caused by asthma and anything the dog is trained to do for mental illness must be to mitigate a disability caused by mental illness.  Just for discussion sake, let's suppose you have asthma that isn't disabling but you also have mental illness that is.  If that was the case then anything the dog did for asthma would have no effect on whether the dog was a service dog.

The bulk of service dog training is done in proofing and generalization.  Once a dog understands how to do something like "sit" or "stay" in your home, you have to re-teach that behavior in a wide variety of places and under a wide variety of distractions for it to be reliable.  Dogs do not generalize as well as humans do so this can be a difficult concept for us to grasp.  For us humans, once we learn to do something like read, we can do it anywhere, but this is not the case for dogs.  They learn things with context attached.  So just because a dog understands what "sit" means when you are facing the dog in your living room doesn't mean he will still understand what "sit" means when you are standing beside him in the back yard. 

They are also easily distracted and the dog will have to be taught to ignore distractions, a process we call proofing.  A service dog will have to ignore people, including people who try to engage with him, who speak to him in baby talk, reach out to pet him, or offer him food.  They have to ignore food that is dropped on the ground or floor, ignore other dogs and animals, ignore machinery and technology like the movements elevators and automatic doors.  It doesn't matter what the dog is trained to do to mitigate a person's disability if he is not also trained to ignore distractions so that he can perform his tasks reliably in all situations.

The process of training a service dog typically takes 18-24 months from start to end.  This includes core obedience skills like housebreaking (toileting, not getting into trash or counter surfing, not barking or jumping on people, etc.), heeling (walking close to your side without pulling on the leash), sit, down, stay, come, getting in and out of the car calmly and under control, "leave it," and being still and cooperative for vet care and grooming.  It also includes task training, generalization and proofing.  Proofing is the part that takes the longest to train.

As a minor you are also subject to your parents' decisions about treatment for your asthma and mental illness and about whether or not you can have or use a service dog.  So you'll need to discuss this with them as well as with any medical providers treating you for asthma and mental illness.

There is no official registration.  ALL registration offerings are fake.  You can consider yourself disabled when your medical providers agree you are disabled and you can consider your dog a service dog when it has had all the training I've described and is reliable in all situations (not just at home).  Individual states, and Florida is one such state, do sometimes offer service dog ID tags.  This requires a doctor's letter and an affidavit.

As far as whether it's a good idea, that's something else to discuss with your therapist.  Right now your mental illness is not obvious to outsiders.  If you turn up with a service dog it's like wearing a neon sign that something is wrong with you.  This generally results in total strangers approaching and asking what is wrong with you and other invasive questions about you and your dog.  For some with anxiety this is going to be overwhelming.  For others with anxiety the benefits outweigh the costs.  For most where anxiety is the thing that disables them it's not going to be a good idea because you're in a catch 22:  if the anxiety is severe enough to be considered a disability then the invasiveness of the public reaction is going to tend to make that a lot worse, not better.

There is medication for asthma that can be very effective including pills you can take to prevent attacks from occuring and inhalers you can use during an attack to restore normal breathing.  Being told you're starting an asthma attack probably isn't going to change anything because there isn't anything you can do just before an asthma attack to prevent or mitigate it other than take your inhaler out of your pocket.  The pills have to be taken every day, regardless of whether you think an attack is coming and the inhaler can't be used until the attack starts.

There is also treatment for mental illness which might include medication and/or talk therapy.  We've seen courts rule that if you aren't in treatment for mental illness then you aren't disabled by it.  For your own sake you need to be in treatment because there's a lot that can be done to lessen the symptoms but to legally qualify for a service dog you also need to be in treatment.  So there's a third reason to discuss this with your mental health care providers.

School is another issue.  Access with a service animal at school is not automatic.  You'd need to get it on your IEP and the school would need to agree to you bringing the dog to school with you.  Unlike public accommodations, a school would have to take into consideration fears and allergies of other students and try to do some juggling to make it work.  With disabling mental illness you probably already have an IEP that covers things like test accommodations and this would be added to that.

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Offline RoseAndThorn

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Re: New dog is a natural-born SD- can I register her?
« Reply #2 on: July 10, 2017, 12:14:07 PM »
Thank you, that's very helpful. Although I am homeschooled, so that wouldn't be a problem, and I am actually able to treat an asthma attack on the spot (it's heat triggered, so if I eat an ice cube that instantly relieves some of the difficulty). And I'm currently not in any physical or mental therapy, and I'm not actually seeing a doctor about my asthma, as I have a huge fear of doctors (and it's also expensive). I think that would be the most difficult part- actually getting diagnosed as disabled. But I do tend to get extremely dizzy and unable to focus on my surroundings, and sometimes am unable to stand. This is the first time I've ever passed out completely, but it could very well happen again in public. I'm not sure if that's enough to qualify.

I've taken her to pet stores and parks and things, and she's been attracting some attention. I was, amazingly, able and even quite happy to talk to people about her. If things started getting more personal, that might be bad, though. I would probably be considered to be disabled by my anxiety (I have Selective Mutism, actually) but it's very unlikely I will ever allow myself to be examined by a phsyciatrist. If I could do a quick online test and get an official diagnosis, that might be okay, but I really don't like mental doctors. I had to drop out of public school because of social anxiety, and while I was there they did work to make allowances for me.

I'm aware that it would take a lot of obedience training for her to be a service dog, but I figured since she's so well-mannered and calm and eager to please, we would already have a head start there. She doesn't reliably know any commands yet, but she seems to always instinctively know what kind of behavior I expect. She's the most polite dog I've ever met.

To get a doctor's letter or diagnosis or whatever I'll need in that regard, can I just go to a walk-in clinic, or do I have to see a specialist or a therapist or something?

(By the way, I know it's not cool to self-diagnose, but I have a friend who has asthma, and when I described the episode to her she said that's exactly what an attack is like. It was pretty obvious even before she confirmed. I'm just really, really uncomfortable with doctors, and my problems are fairly self evident. I've been forcibly diagnosed by concerned mental doctors, but they never told me anything I didn't already know, so I don't really see the point.)
« Last Edit: July 10, 2017, 02:43:21 PM by RoseAndThorn »

Offline Kirsten

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Re: New dog is a natural-born SD- can I register her?
« Reply #3 on: July 10, 2017, 03:21:01 PM »
In the US, without a doctor's diagnosis and treatment you cannot qualify as disabled with mental illness.  The courts ruled that in the Debby Rose case.  It has to be a doctor or other mental health specialist who is actively treating you for mental illness, not a walk in clinic. 
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Offline EverConfused

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Re: New dog is a natural-born SD- can I register her?
« Reply #4 on: July 10, 2017, 04:00:59 PM »
from the timeline you are describing, you may be allergic to your dog.
i have no idea if that is the case or not. and even if you are allergic to the dog, that doesn't necessarily mean that you need to get rid of it.

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I had no warning it would be that bad. I'd feel better having someone around who did know.

i've had asthma my whole life. it is better now than it was when i was a child. but i am also much better at managing it.

the hardest period for me with my breathing was probably 12-14 when my parents were handing over the reins to me. my asthma was better at 12 than it was at 4 or at 8 or 10. but it was really scary to feel like i could have an asthma attack at any point in time. it was also overwhelming to feel like i didn't really know what to do about it.

but in time i learned to recognize the warning signs of an asthma attack myself, just as my parents had done for so long. i learned when i needed a rescue inhaler, when i needed nebs, and when i could just ride it out. i learned how to plan for and manage triggers. doing my twice daily treatments and charting my peak flows became a routine part of my day that i barely thought about. and i learned how to not freak out when i couldn't breathe from an attack.

eventually it all became just a thing in the background again, the way it had been when i was a child and my parents were managing it.

it will take a little time, but i think it's extremely likely that you will find a combination of medication and lifestyle strategies that will make this manageable for you. it will be more familiar to you. you'll know what to expect and what to do.

i know it's stressful now. it will get easier.

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By the way, I know it's not cool to self-diagnose

good. don't do it then. the differential diagnosis for asthma isn't as clear cut as you might think. see a doctor. get diagnosed properly. get the treatment you deserve.
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Offline Amber

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Re: New dog is a natural-born SD- can I register her?
« Reply #5 on: July 10, 2017, 08:04:29 PM »
Honestly, the way you describe it, it sounds like it is as likely to be a panic attack as an asthma attack.  It sounds to me like she was anxious because you were anxious.
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Offline PaperVoice24

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Re: New dog is a natural-born SD- can I register her?
« Reply #6 on: July 11, 2017, 12:24:56 AM »
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It's very unlikely I will ever allow myself to be examined by a phsyciatrist.

Having anxiety and depression myself, I understand your reluctance. But this is a very dangerous decision to make. Anxiety that it is as severe as you have described is very unlikely to get better without psychotherapeutic and/or psychiatric intervention. To decide against treatments which have proven to be effective in changing the lives of those with mental illness for the better would be to limit yourself tremendously. You are very, very young. I urge you, do not let your anxiety prevent you from leading the life you deserve.

The life you deserve is not one in which you are dependent upon a dog to get through the day. It is not one in which you are guaranteed to be approached by several strangers in the grocery store demanding to know, sometimes aggressively, what your disability is and why you need a dog. Some will follow you. Some will get angry and cause a scene. Some will distract your dog. Some will attempt to deny you entry to a public venue. It will happen. Don't let that life be your first choice. You don't deserve that.

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If I could do a quick online test and get an official diagnosis, that might be okay, but I really don't like mental doctors.

Online screenings do not provide diagnoses. Not for any illness, and especially not for mental illness. Especially the "quick" ones. Even a diagnosis received from a trained and experienced professional with whom you have met in person can be wrong sometimes. Relying on statistical algorithms from a computer is even more likely to be wrong.
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Offline Kirsten

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Re: New dog is a natural-born SD- can I register her?
« Reply #7 on: July 11, 2017, 02:01:41 AM »
A diagnosis alone is not sufficient.  It has to be from a mental health care provider who is treating the person.
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Offline Summertime.and.Azkaban

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Re: New dog is a natural-born SD- can I register her?
« Reply #8 on: July 11, 2017, 03:07:37 AM »
Note that a mental health care provider is not limited to psychiatrists and psychologists. Mental health care providers are anyone qualified and currently treating you for your mental illness. Licensed social workers, licensed counselors and even a general practitioner is qualified to diagnose and treat mental illness. (Note that not all social workers are qualified to diagnose and treat mental illness, but ones who are operating as counselors are).

If you'd feel more comfortable with a general practitioner than a psychiatrist then that's an option.
You need to distinguish if your episodes are anxiety attacks or asthma and you are not qualified to do that alone. If you want your dog to be a SD the best thing is to seek medical and mental health care attention, get proper diagnoses of disabling mental health problems or disabling anxiety, then work hard to fix that stuff without the dog.

I am a firm believer that psychiatric SDs should be a last resort, after all treatment available has been tried and no or little function has been restored. Psychiatric SDs stunt recovery and the development of coping skills. People often begin to rely on the dog to cope and comfort them, and that level of dependance is not conductive to the development of individual coping skills.

Long story short, see a doctor. Get proper diagnoses, seek long term treatment for your mental illness and possible asthma and have your doctor determine if you are disabled by your illnesses. Then decide if you're willing to sacrifice further recovery and development of healthy coping skills to have a dog mitigate your symptoms.
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Offline ccunnin3

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Re: New dog is a natural-born SD- can I register her?
« Reply #9 on: July 11, 2017, 07:34:28 AM »
I am a firm believer that psychiatric SDs should be a last resort, after all treatment available has been tried and no or little function has been restored

I'm going to disagree slightly here. I made great strides in therapy. Less so with medication but I did regain some more function with them. PSDs don't have to be just for people who can't be helped at all by other means. Just for people who can't be helped enough by other means.  To go from nonfunctioing to functioing at 50% is incredible improvement. That doesn't mean that person shouldn't get a PSD to get to 75%.
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Offline EverConfused

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Re: New dog is a natural-born SD- can I register her?
« Reply #10 on: July 11, 2017, 09:12:21 AM »
ccunnin, i suspect that summertime meant something similar to what you're saying. i.e., that psds are for when someone is still disabled despite trying multiple forms of treatment.

either way, i think that's the most important thing for roseandthorn to know is that treatment needs to be part of the picture.
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Offline Amber

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Re: New dog is a natural-born SD- can I register her?
« Reply #11 on: July 11, 2017, 11:25:33 AM »
That is how I read it too, ccunnin, that you should TRY therapy and medications first, not immediately jump to a dog.  A dog is a PART of treatment, it is not intended to be the sole treatment.
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Offline Kirsten

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Re: New dog is a natural-born SD- can I register her?
« Reply #12 on: July 11, 2017, 11:38:09 AM »
An ESA is part of treatment.  A PSD is not treatment.  It doesn't make you better.  It does not cure you.  It is assistive, like a friend or family member can be assistive, not treatment like a doctor or therapist gives.  It does what you cannot do.  A wheelchair does not make you better, it helps you do what you cannot.  A cane is not treatment.  A cochlear implant is not treatment.  A hearing aid is not treatment.  You are still the same person, with or without assistive devices.  Treatment changes the person.  Assistance helps you overcome the challenges without changing the person.  And by helping to overcome challenges without changing you it can actually shortcircuit treatment by making it easier to avoid treatment which, whether for physical or mental conditions, can be quite difficult and painful.  But at the end of treatment, what you've got is yours, not dependent on something external.

Treatment is what doctors and therapists do, not dogs.
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Offline Amber

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Re: New dog is a natural-born SD- can I register her?
« Reply #13 on: July 11, 2017, 11:53:28 AM »
I would disagree.  A dog who can alert you to rising anxiety by an external sign that you are unable to notice so that you can begin to do relaxation exercises or leave the environment I would consider treatment.  It was a task that Maigee is trained in that Luie likely will not be.  Why?  Because I can now recognise it myself nearly always because the treatment was successful.

A PSD can be treatment and/or an assistive device.  Just like a walker or crutches can be used while gaining strength in a limb weakened from a stroke or something OR it can be used because that limb is permanently weakened or missing in place of it.
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Offline Kirsten

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Re: New dog is a natural-born SD- can I register her?
« Reply #14 on: July 11, 2017, 12:06:43 PM »
Being used to support during treatment isn't treatment itself.  Doctors don't prescribe wheelchairs to cure you but as a way to get around until treatment takes effect.  And of course there is the same dependence risk.

Have you considered that with the same effort used to teach a dog to recognize a tell you could teach the person to recognize the tell for themselves through therapy?

Knowing what your blood sugar is isn't treatment.  Taking insulin is treatment to regulate your blood sugar is treatment because it changes you, your body to do what it is supposed to do as opposed to giving you a work around, a way to function around a body that isn't working right.
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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