The Benefits of a Therapy Dog for ADHD
For individuals with ADHD, a therapy dog can be comforting and help them feel calm. Research has shown that having a therapy dog can have many physical and mental benefits. It can:
- Lower cholesterol
- Lower blood pressure,
- Decrease anxiety and depression
- Decrease levels of stress
- Provide social interaction opportunities
- Encourage routines – e.g., feeding and walking
- Be an outlet for excess energy
- Offer a healthy distraction
- Combat loneliness
A therapy dog provides not only companionship but emotional and mental support as well. And, they don’t criticize, judge or voice opinions.
Types of Therapy Dogs
There are essentially two types of therapy dogs:
- Emotional support animal (ESA)
- Psychiatric service dog (PSD)
PSDs and ESAs are both assistance animals that can be “prescribed” by a licensed mental health professional or doctor can as part of their treatment plan.
However, only PSDs are recognized in the United States as official ‘service animals’ under the Americans with Disabilities Act. As legally recognized service animals, they’re entitled to the following rights:
- Public Access Rights – They can accompany their owner into grocery stores, restaurants, etc.
- Travel Rights – They can accompany their owner in the airline cabin and the owner does not have to pay a pet fee.
- Fair Housing Rights – They can live in housing units even if there’s a no pets policy.
- Educational Facility Access – They can accompany their owner into schools, colleges, universities, etc.
ESAs do not enjoy these same privileges, with the exception of the fair housing rights.
The primary reason for this difference is that PSDs have to be specially trained to perform a certain task or type of work that helps support a person living with a disorder. ESAs on the other hand receive no special training. They’re just meant to offer comfort through their companionship. To be considered a service dog, a PSD must be trained to perform specific tasks. For this reason, partnering with a professional trainer is the best option.
How to Get a Therapy Dog
To obtain a psychiatric service dog, or therapy dog, you must receive a recommendation from a licensed mental health professional or a doctor. This prescription takes the form of a letter, which will be written on your health professional’s letterhead and include their license number.
There are no limitations to the breed of dog you can use as your psychiatric service dog. Your PSD can therefore either be a dog you already own, a dog you adopt from a shelter or rescue group, or a dog you receive from a service dog organization. Keep in mind, however, that the dog must be specially trained to perform certain tasks in order to be recognized as a service dog under the Americans with Disabilities Act.
If you not able to qualify for a psychiatric service dog, don’t be discouraged. If you’re living with ADHD, almost any kind of companion can be of great benefit to you. Whether you have a service dog, emotional support animal, or simply a dog for a pet, you can benefit from this special relationship.
Exploring how my psychiatric service dog can help with ADHD and Anxiety – Jessica McCabe