April 15, 2019

How to Train Your Dog to Be a Therapy Dog for Anxiety

by Mike Stiven


A dog is regarded as man’s best friend. Dogs make the best pets and provide us with companionship.  The good thing about having dogs as pets is that they develop a close bond with us and want to please us.  This is why they are usually easily trained.   If you are a person who experiences anxiety, and enjoy the company of dogs, you may want to consider how an emotional support/therapy dog may help you lessen or eliminate your anxiety.

There are different triggers and environments that can cause you to have anxiety. People express anxiety in different ways which include shortness of breath, leg bouncing, racing heart, muscle tremors and other involuntary movements.

For your dog to be an emotional support animal, it doesn’t have to be a highly trained or a certified service dog.  Before you start to train your dog, it is a great idea to find out if you really qualify to have an emotional support dog. This guide provides you with more details on how you can train your dog to be a therapy dog for anxiety. Read on to find more detailed information.


What Exactly Is A Therapy Dog?

Before we dig deeper, it is great to know what exactly a therapy dog is. In simple terms, this is a pet that a doctor or licensed therapist can recommend for a person dealing with anxiety. These dogs provide support and comfort through companionship for people who are suffering from emotional or mental issues. The dogs are trained to give you support if you show signs of anxiety or panic.

If you qualify for a therapy dog, it is important to learn the qualities that your dog should have and then know how you can train the dog to provide emotional support.

It is important to note that there is a difference between therapy dogs and service dogs. For example, a service dog is trained to do some specific tasks such as helping people with disability or guiding the blind among others. These dogs enjoy privileges like public places, restaurants and planes. On the other hand a therapy/comfort dog doesn’t have any exceptions to public places that bar dogs.


Benefits of Having a Therapy Dog

Research shows that having a trained dog to comfort someone who suffers from anxiety makes the problem much more manageable. According to RedBarn inc , a therapy dog can provide you with the following physical and mental benefits.

  • Lowers physical pain
  • Lowers blood pressure
  • Boosts cardiovascular health
  • Releases calming endorphins
  • Provides comfort
  • Reduces anxiety and boredom 


Step By Step Guide On How to Train Your Dog to Be a Therapy Dog for Anxiety

Can trained dogs help with anxiety? This is probably what you are asking yourself and the answer is yes. Before you train your dog, it is important to find out if it has the qualities of an emotional support animal. Naturally, dogs are devoted to their owner. However, you can still find some dogs that are timid and cannot help you when you need them

If your doctor recommends you for an emotional support dog to help with your problem, you can look for a dog that is around one year old and it is calm in nature. You should have a connection with your dog just like you need to do with any pet so that it can always be there for you when you need it. Here are some of the ways you can train your dog.


Step 1: Find the Right Dog

You need to begin by finding the right puppy. Pay attention to some important qualities like being social, follows, eager to be held, alert and doesn’t startle easily among others.


Step 2: Basic Training Skills and Develop Socialization Skills

You need to train your dog good behavior and other basic skills especially if you intend to bring it to public places. Basics include:  leave, stay, sit, drop, come, heel.  More advanced training includes teaching the dog not to react to things around you such as other dogs, approaching strangers, loud noises and that sort of thing.

When you get your dog, keep it well socialized with other dogs and people. Of course you do not want a dog that is stressed or frightened all the time. Introduce the dog to different people and situations  outside of home.


Step 3: Individual Response Training

Training your dog to alert you before you get a panic attack can be quite hard. However, if you have a close bond with your dog, they can learn your body language or the chemicals changes that can take place in your body.  If your dog appears to come to you when you  start to feel anxiety symptoms reward the dog with treats, praise, and affection.

You may choose to cuddle your dog when you are stressed and this will help you feel better and give the dog an ability to recognize tell signs. This is why it is crucial to invest in the right dog  that you can train to help you deal with anxiety and panic attacks.  


How Else Can You Cope With Anxiety?

People have different ways to cope with anxiety. Apart from training your dog, you can also look for ways that will work best for you. Such as:

  • Exercising regularly
  • Taking walks
  • Doing breathing exercises
  • Getting enough sleep
  • Practicing mindfulness among others


Final Words

Training your dog to be a therapy dog for anxiety will be a wonderful and rewarding experience. Dogs will stand by you if you are dealing with emotional and other mental issues. 


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