10 Cons of a Psychiatric Service Dog That Cause High Anxiety

I wouldn't trade my PTSD service dog for anything. He is literally my harbor in the storm of my anxiety and helps me keep my independence.

But life with a psychiatric service dog is not all sunshine and roses, even though it is filled with kisses and wagging tails! There are some serious cons of a psychiatric service dog that no one talk about.

But I'm going to spill them all, so buckle up and get ready to hear the dirty secrets about service dog life.

If you're joining me for the first time, hello! My name is Krystian, and I am a psychiatric service dog consultant with a degree in force free dog training and a self care coach for anxiety. I help you get answers to your questions about living with a psychiatric service dog and care for your anxiety, one day at a time. And I have lived with a psychiatric service dog in my life since 2007.

I'm going to walk you through my experience with my psychiatric service dog(s), past and present. Enlightening you to the cons of life with a service dog through my own mistakes and experience.

This post includes:

  • What is a psychiatric service dog?
    • What are service dog tasks?
    • Examples of Tasks a Service Dog Can Perform
  • Where to find our list of Pros of a Psychiatric Service Dog.
  • 10 Cons of a Psychiatric Service Dog That Can Cause a Handler More Anxiety

This list is about the cons of psychiatric service dog and how that affects your anxiety disorder. And at the end, I'll describe a bonus con of living with a psychiatric service dog that no one talk about. Let's begin.


Cons Of A Psychiatric Service Dog That Cause High Anxiety
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While this blog contains advice for PTSD & Anxiety, I am not a Licensed Mental Health Professional (*Doctor or Therapist*). Always consult with your mental health care team when adding in our tips to your self care & mental health plan.

While I am a certified force free dog trainer, I am NOT certified to train service dogs for others. Only documented disabled handlers are eligible for a service dog. Do not buy a letter from a service and put a vest on your dog. It is a Federal Crime to impersonate a service dog.

This blog features snippets from the ADA about service dogs. All our service dog legal information comes from the ADA website. I am not a lawyer, nor am I associated with the ADA. This blog's information about service dogs is for the United States only as laws vary from states & countries.

See more in our affiliate disclaimer & general disclaimer.



TABLE OF CONTENTS

What is a Psychiatric Service Dog?

The Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) states, “a service animal is defined as a dog that has been individually trained to work or perform tasks for an individual with a disability. The task(s) performed by the dog must be directly related to the person's disability.”

That means that a dog must be trained to interrupt, prevent, alert, and respond to a person's disability with a trained task(s).

A service dog is a trained helper. The dog learns skills called tasks to help with a specific disability.

A dog that provides comfort by it's presence is an Emotional Support Animal, not a service dog. It does not have the same rights as a service dog. The difference is a service dog is trained to perform the tasks to help the handler, while an ESA is not.

What are Service Dog Tasks?

What are these “tasks” they talk about? A trained psychiatric service dog learns how to perform an action aka task when a trigger (or stimulus) happens or when the handler cues.

A psychiatric service dog learns behaviors to help negate mental health issues.

What task can a service dog perform for anxiety?

Example: I have PTSD. Nightmares and sleep paralysis plague me when I am overly tired, anxious, or depressed. Koda has been taught to react to my thrashing prior to waking with the paralysis. He will come paw at me to wake me, then lick my face to reorient me back to reality while lying on me to perform deep pressure therapy to keep me calm while I wait for my body to catch up.

A psychiatric service dog does not naturally perform a behavior to help you feel better. It is taught to them. Psychiatric service dogs are taught to perform certain behaviors to improve the mental health of their handler.

Examples of Psychiatric Service Dog Tasks include:
  • Crowd control and behaviors that give the handler more personal space.
  • Blocking so the handler is not bumped.
  • Alerting the handler to a presence in the home.
  • Fetching items or medication for the handler.
  • Alerting a person to a problem with the handler.
  • Applying deep pressure therapy when the handler is anxious.
  • Interrupting self harmful behaviors.
  • Alerting the handler to take medication.
  • Fetching water for the handler to take medication.
  • And more!
Cons Of A Psychiatric Service Dog- What Is A Psychiatric Service Dog?
A psychiatric dog can be any breed or size as long as they are task trained to work for the handler. Chloe was trained for Deep Pressure Therapy and Nightmare Alert.

If you want to learn the PROS of a psychiatric service dog, read the post below!

The pros of a psychiatric service dog are pretty good so we gave them their own list! Read this post to see how my life with a psychiatric service dog changed, and what it's like to live with a psychiatric service dog.


What are the Cons of a Psychiatric Service Dog?

So how can something that sounds great be negative? Like everything in life, there comes bad with the good.

Life with a serving dog can benefit you greatly, but it also comes with unique challenges. These challenges may be too much for friends, loved ones, and yourself.

Your mental health will suffer if you can't take the stress that will come with the benefits. So consider these cons carefully with your family and your doctor when you consider life with a service dog. Not everyone can handle the stress living with a psychiatric service dog can cause.

1- Caring for a Service Dog May be Difficult

A service dog is just like any other dog, except it needs MORE care, not less.

Why? Because of the nature of the work. Going out, walking and working are exhausting on the mind and body of the dog.

As a working dog, your service dog will require additional care to have a long healthy life and career. This level of care may be difficult to maintain, physically, financially, or emotionally making this one of the most important cons of a psychiatric service dog.

A service dog is still a dog. They have emotional, physical, and mental needs that need to be addressed daily.

Examples of How I Care for My Psychiatric Service Dog's Needs:

  • Twice a year or more, as needed, vet visits to make sure the service dog can continue to work.
  • More preventative care like: dental cleanings , nail clips, anal gland expressions, vaccines, and checkups to keep the dog in top shape for the work.
  • Pet license to comply with local service dog laws.
  • A higher quality food: kibble, raw, and high quality treats.
  • Time or money spent grooming the dog
  • Continued education for myself and the dog to help keep his training updated
  • Toys, games, and activities for the dog to stimulate and relax so he can continue working.
  • Supplies to protect the dog from the elements: dog friendly sunscreen, boots, coat, etc.
  • Supplies for the dog: bowls, leashes, collar, tags, etc.
  • Avoiding dog parks to protect the service dog from unsocial and untrained dogs. While still making friends with well mannered dogs so the service dog can learn and play.

Check out our Amazon Storefront for our favorite Service Dog Products!

When you have a service dog, you will still have to care for it, even on your worst days.

Are you ready to fight your instincts to lay in bed all day and sleep when you're depressed? What about stay indoors and hide from the world when you're overly anxious? And when you're sick, are you ready to get up multiple times a day when your dog alerts or when his needs arise?

No matter how late I have stayed up, my service dog wakes me up when his bladder calls. Yeah, even when I forgot my medication and fall asleep at 3 am. 8 am comes early even when you're sick or stressed.

If you really need to be left alone for your psychological needs, a service dog will be an annoyance and not a help.

And if you have trained your dog to alert when you are showing specific signs of depression or anxiety, and want to be left alone, are you ready to have a dog pester you? You can't lay in bed all day and ignore the world with a service dog. They just don't let you. It's their job.

A service dog that lays around and has his alerts ignored, quickly learns not to display that behavior anymore. He becomes ineffective. He turns into a pet. Then you have to repeat your training. Do you have the mental and physical energy to practice with your psychiatric service dog?

Do you want to walk your service dog, play with them, and train with them even when it's cold, wet, hot, snowing, etc?

Life with a service dog is still active, physically and mentally, even when I am staying at home. Caring for the dog is part of what helps me care for myself.

Cons Of A Psychiatric Service Dog That Cause High Anxiety- List
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2- Adjusting to Living & Working with a Dog is Exhausting

Going places with a dog isn't quick.

Are you ready to give up those quick trips to your local store?

Having a service dog can make a 5 minute in and out turn into a 30 minute + excursion. Yeah. It's not quick or fast.

Your dog may have to potty before entering a business, and you're going to need supplies as well, making carrying a service dog kit a must.

Are you ready to make accommodations for your dog in your daily life?

You will have dog hair all over your car, need dog seatbelts or a crate to secure your pup, and you might need to get your car cleaned way more than before.

And I can't tell you how many times I have stepped on dog food while walking to the kitchen. Your home will have fluff, toys, and food in places your didn't know existed. Are you ready to clean all that?

I was, but I am a little ocd about cleaning. Not everyone is ready to commit to deep cleaning every week.

When you become a service dog handler, the dog is now classified as medical equipment and accompanies the handler on a daily basis to most places.

A service dog is medical equipment. Would you leave your wheelchair at home? No. For the most part, your dog will go with you everywhere. Yes, even to that little bathroom in an airplane.

To qualify for a service dog for your mental health illness, you will need to be disabled because of it. Meaning you and your dog will be working together daily to improve your mental health daily. If you only need a service dog on occassion for your mental health, you are not disabled. Sorry.

There are some places a service dog cannot go due to health and safety concerns. Be sure to check out our service dog public access guide for all the details. Do you want to make other arrangements for days your dog is unable to accompany your or when your dog is sick?

Do you want to work with the community, your job, and your family to make your life with a service dog easier? Or are you far too busy for that?

Do you want to take a dog with you on your self care vacation? If you don't want your dog to accompany you to the hospital, the grocery store, the pharmacy, school plays, etc; then a service dog is not a good fit for you. Your service dog is a working dog and will need to work.

You need to work with hospitals, hotels, businesses, friends, family, and more to accommodate your service dog.

But shouldn't they have to respect my need for a service dog? Yes, they do. But learning to work with others only makes a better relationship and easier access for you and your service dog.

If this sounds like too much trouble, a service dog is not for you.

Not all lifestyles are suitable for service dogs.

Can you imagine an Olympic athletic having to work around having a service dog? Or a zoo keepers?

While an actor can have a service dog for daily life, it wouldn't be appropriate for the dog to be in the film with the actor.

Some lifestyles just are not dog friendly. A few examples: frequent travelers to foreign countries, doctors, anyone working in a kitchen or food prep area, etc. Not all lifestyles are friendly to having a dog around.

Would a dog impede the services you are trying to provide at your job? Having a service dog in an operating room and other sterile areas is a no-no.

Some service dogs are taught to jump to alert you to distressing symptoms. Can you physically handle a dog's weight on you? Bumping you until you react appropriately? My dog alerts me to the floor so he can lie on my lap and apply Deep Pressure Therapy. Can you get up off the floor? I'm 38 and some days it's a lot, especially on a cold, hard grocery store floor. Can you physically handle a dog?

These are all things you need to ask yourself if you can handle before getting a psychiatric service dog.

Retired Service Dog Chloe At The Therapist'S Office
A psychiatric service dog preforms tasks for the handler. Here Chloe is learning deep pressure therapy and practicing on my therapist. Close, but not quite LOL.

3- Service Dogs Have Off Days Too…

Your psychiatric service dog will not be 100% perfect. Sometimes they will have their own ideas or they will be sick. –I'm about to embark on a year long socialization training exercises to reacclimate my own service dog to working in public again after a year of chronic illness kicking my ass.-

Recently, my psychiatric service dog in training Koda decided he wanted to spin while walking. Yup, he was literally spinning and getting tangled in his leash. He wrapped me up in the leash, and himself, and we looked absolutely insane. Like we had not trained for years tohave public access He just wanted to play that day. He did not want to work.

I had to scratch my plans that day and go home because he was just not having it.

You cannot take an unruly service dog into businesses. It's poor manners, and the business has the legal right to ask any service dog team to leave if they are being unruly or disruptive.

Too bad if you were going to the walk in pharmacy or the grocery store. You're going home now.

Your dog will have days where he is sick or tired as well. There are days when your dog is going to have to be at the vet all day for procedures or the groomer because you're too tired to do it yourself.

Do you have the means to care for yourself mentally on those days?

Do you have a backup plan for these days? They WILL happen more often than you would like.

While psychiatric service dogs are wonderful 98% of the time, that 2% will leave you without a working psychiatric service dog for the day and leave you feeling vulnerable or frustrated.

4- It Takes Time to Get a Trained Psychiatric Service Dog

There are two ways to get a psychiatric service dog. And I'm going to talk about them both.

A Professional Service Dog Training Service

Many companies breed suitable dogs to offer to their clients. They raise them from birth as service dogs. They are socialized and start training from day 1. But it comes with a hefty price tag and time on a waiting list.

You are required to raise funds for the cost of the dog with a professional service, which could be thousands of dollars or more.

This includes all care and training for the dog during his stay with the company. If you need a multi-purpose dog, you could accrue extra cost. I have only seen fees waived for the serving members of the military.

The Waiting List of Professional Services.

I haven't seen a professional waiting list yet that wasn't 1-2 years long! If you require a multi-purpose dog, you might wait even longer. Everyone using this service gets put on this list. There is a high demand for well trained psychiatric service dogs.

The wait is about 2 years because they are dedicating 2 years of everyday all day training and socialization to the dog. And that's if the dog doesn't wash out of the program.

If they raise their own temperamentally sound dogs for this line of work, and most of them do, you have little to no say in size, color, or breed. You get the dog they have trained for that line of work.

You are required to attend a series of training courses to help you adjust to life with a service dog in person. You handle your meals, accommodations, and such. And that's for however long the service deems.

You are responsible for travel costs for the trainer and dog to come to your home until they see fit you have graduated from the program.

These programs have a higher success rate because of their strict training, socialization, and intake guidelines for their dogs. But many dogs still fail out of the program because they cannot handle the job.

You can hire a professional trainer to train your dog for you, but you are still looking at thousands of dollars in training fees. More if you want private sessions, and you will probably need them for task training, there will be additional fees.

A service dog from a training company comes with a long wait and is expensive, which is not a good option for someone who needs help today.

Baby Koda Starts Training As A Service Dog Early In Life At Just 7 Weeks Old.
Koda started Psychiatric Service dog training at just 7 weeks old!

Training Your Own Psychiatric Service Dog

When you train your own psychiatric service dog, the failure rate goes up, unless you are like me and have spent the time getting a dog training degree. Especially if you don't have the budget to take the appropriate courses to learn to train your own dog.

You have to teach your dog basic obedience, advance obedience, canine good citizen skills, public access skills, socialization skills, task training, advanced leash skills, off leash skills, and more!

And you have to keep up your training for the entire life & career of the dog. It's hard work and not easy if you're easily overwhelmed.

I have spent over a decade of my life learning to train dogs so I could train my own psychiatric service dog. It takes a lot of time, patience, trial and error to learn the skills needed to train your own psychiatric service dog. And I am still learning every day!

It is a more budget friendly option because once you have learned these skills, you only have to read your training notes from your classes to remember what you did. –Yes, keeping training notes may help you train your next service dog, should you need one.-

Service Dog Training Tracker- Etsy Affiliate Ad
10 Cons of a Psychiatric Service Dog That Cause High Anxiety 18

However, it is more time consuming overall. You commit to learning how to train dogs, not just how to teach them down, sit, etc. You learn how a dog learns, what motivates them, what to do when your teaching plan fails, etc. It is difficult being the person making all the decisions and doing all the teaching. It's like being a parent but to an alien. And if your training fails, it's on you. You have to go back to square one and figure out what you did wrong, because it's not the dog's fault. It's the teacher's.

A service dog is required to have 300 hours MINIMUM of training doing its public access tasks.

That does not include time spent learning socialization skills, advanced manners, canine good citizen & more.

You can include a professional trainer in your training plan, but you will still cover all costs.

If you decide to rescue a dog, like I have, you may have to retrain the dog to solve problem behaviors such as non alert barking, digging, anxiety, etc. It took me 4 years to train my previous service dog. And an additional 6 months of training in the middle of his career to retrain him after an injury which almost cost him his career.

Late Ptsd Service Dog, Zeak, Taking A Short Nap While I Work With My Dog Training Class.
Service Dog Zeak sleeping during my group dog training class. Yup. He was so good, he slept around all the excited yapping dogs.

5- People May Not Respect Your Service Dog Or You

Be prepared to join the club of frustrated service dog handlers who just want respect.

Service dog etiquette is frustrating to say the least.

You have overly friendly people who want to know your life story. There are people who just want you to “get over it” and leave your dog at ahome. You have the people who just can't stop trying to pet the dog. And then you have the fake service dogs to deal with as well.

And service dog etiquette is always hit or miss. There are days no one will bother you and it will be a perfect day.

And other days you meet every single mean person and fake service dog on the planet. You just never know what you will encounter when you go out.

Cons of a Psychiatric Service Dog When Interacting with the Public (My Own Experiences)

  • People trap me in the aisles so they can get a better view of the dog or talk to me about the dog.As a service dog handler, you will frequently get questions about your service dog and how to get one. And some days you just don't want to be bothered. I sometimes take a buddy with me just so I have a tried and true escape plan.
  • People talk about me loudly or not to me at all. “Oh look! Wonder what's wrong with her that she needs a service dog ? She doesn't look disabled.” “Look at the service dog. He has such pretty eyes. Are you a good boy for your mama?,” while staring directly at the dog, but ignoring me completely.
  • People ask me what's medically wrong with me. Please don't do this if you see a service dog handler.
  • Some adults will fight with me to pet the service dog, especially if their kids want to pet the dog. Even when told no, people will still try to pet the dog by passing too closely with outstretched hands. There are some really nice and respectful people out there as well, but the bad ones will make you want to become a hermit. -Petting a service dog is at the handler's discretion. While I don't allow others to pet Koda, I do allow them to ask him to sit so he can get a treat.- (I carry treats everywhere.)
  • I have been physically and verbally assaulted for having a “dog” in a grocery store. No, people do not care it is a service dog. All they see is a dog, especially if it is a tiny dog like Chloe. Yes, this is the reason Chloe's career was ended. She and I were put into physical danger for being a working team. And her career ended less than 6 months after training.
  • Service dogs are frequent victims of theft. That's why many handlers dye them fun colors to help them be more noticable and unique. Yes, I have had someone try to steal my service dog. Thankfully, I was able to intervene.
  • People will trap you in or out of your car making it hard to load your service dog. Especially since I don't have a handicap plate. – As a psychiatric service dog handler with no physical disability, I do not meet the requirements for a handicap plate or tag. To help, I had to put large service dog vehicle stickers on 3 sides of my vehicle and still have to wait for cars to move some days. Parking is hit or miss unless I park WAY at the back of the lot.
Service Dog On Board Stickers For Car- Etsy Affiliate Ad
10 Cons of a Psychiatric Service Dog That Cause High Anxiety 19
  • I have lost friends because I was now too much too handle. The service dog drew too much attention to us, they didn't want to ride with a dog in the car, etc. Can you handle the extra attention to a disability that no one can see? Cause with a service dog, they see it loud and clear.
  • Some family members have prohibited my service dog from entering their home during family events. Out of respect, I do not go to their home as ADA doesn't apply to private property, only public. You may get left out of parties, weddings, etc because of your service dog. Will being alienated make you worse? –You can't imagine how it feels to be asked to stay outside with your dog while a family birthday party goes on inside. Yes this happened to me.
  • There will be people who bring their untrained dogs or Emotional Support Animals into public spaces where they should not be. -Emotional Support Animals only have housing rights as their presence eases their handlers anxiety or depression. They do not have rights to go to public places. ESA's are untrained dogs that give their handler emotional support, hence the name. Basic or advanced obedience skills do not make an ESA a service dog. Service dogs that are trained to handle the stress, distractions, and pressures of an active environment as well as alert and respond to the handler as they were trained to do.

You will not go unscathed as a service dog handler. Are you prepared to advocate for yourself and your dog?

Do you want to continue to learn ADA policies, protections, and your rights on a regular basis?

As for cons of a psychiatric service dog, this one is the one that will cause you the most stress.

People Do Not Always Respect Psychiatric Service Dogs: 10 Cons Of A Psychiatric Service Dog That Cause High Anxiety
Not everyone respects the vest.

6- Not All Dogs Make Good Service Dogs

Dogs come in all shapes, sizes, colors, and personalities. Unfortunately, 70% or more of dogs do not have what it takes to be a service dog. And others fail out of the program during the first year of training.

Dogs fail the training program for:

  • Aggression of any kind
  • Fear
  • Inability to do the Tasks
  • Health Problems
  • Too Loud
  • Too Unruly
  • Too Excitable
  • Dog gets injured.
  • Dog hates the job.
  • Etc.

And about 70% of dogs fail out of the program after they start training.

Out of the dogs that I have trained for this job, only 25% of them have actually worked for my needs and could handle the job. Two of which went onto an early retirement due to issues as a working service dog.

Small dogs, while very travel friendly, tend to be seen as pets more often by the public. If you are non confrontational in nature, a small service dog is not for you.

Not All Dogs Make Good Service Dogs: 10 Cons Of Psychiatric Service Dogs That Cause High Anxiety
Chloe retired after an assault at a grocery store over her size. She continues her work at home. Mischa flunked out of the program during the public access phase. She was too stressed.

7- Planning Ahead Will Become A New Way of Life For You

There is no spontaneous trips in my life anymore. Doordash, Amazon, and other delivery services are my new best friend because I do not have to pack up to leave. There are NO quick trips when you have a service dog.

While I like to leave the house light (a cell phone, mini wallet, and of course my emergency medical alert card), I need gear and supplies for my service dog.

There is his vest, collar, leash, dog potty bags, a travel mat if he's laying for too long, and treats for rewarding my buddy. That's his quick trip supplies! –While a service dog is not required to have a vest or identification, it will make your life as a service dog handler MUCH EASIER!

Our trip to Busch Gardens was a challenge. Not only do I need to plan for the stay overnight, I plan for the pavement temperature, how many people will be there, what he can eat during the day while we are there, how much water to bring, etc.

There are even more challenges the longer we are traveling. From dog friendly stops to hotels with grass access; the challenges are never ending when you have a psychiatric service dog at your side.

Having A Service Dog Means Planning Ahead So You And The Dog Are Safe Working Together.  You Will Need To Plan For Everything In Advance, Making It Harder To Be Spontaneous. 10 Cons Of A Psychiatric Service Dog
Zeak my previous psychiatric service dog was a real pro! Here he is at Busch Gardens in Virginia. He sports his hot weather gear and carries his own poop bags, and my identification.

8- You May Have to Rehome a Dog You Love If He Fails Training

At some point, a dog is bound to fail training. If he is in a professional training program, the dog is adopted out to a family who wants a well trained pet just like a rescue dog would be.

And you have to start the process of matching and waiting for your next dog. That's right, you don't get to keep that program dog you feel in love with. It is adopted out to help fund the program.

But if you are training your own service dog, you will have to make some difficult choices.

Do you live in an apartment with a no pet policy? (*note: service dogs do not apply to these policies.) When your service dog in training flunks out of the program, they become a pet. Which is NOT protected under ADA law.

Are you unable to care for another dog other than your service dog?

Do you really want to leave that dog alone while you and your new dog go out training, running errands, and going places a pet is not allowed?

Many owners choose to rehome any flunked dogs as they will do well in a family setting with the training they have received thus far.

I was very lucky to have the opportunity to be a stay at home mom with the funds to be able to properly care for multiple dogs, and was able to keep Mischa after she flunked out of the program. She and retired service dog, Chloe, absolutely love each other and keep each other company, often sleeping and eating together.

Service Dog In Training, Mischa, Flunked Out Of The Program At The Public Access Stage.  She Didn'T Like Performing In Public.  It Was Too Much For Her: 10 Cons Of A Psychiatric Service Dog
While very well mannered and eager to learn, Mischa is now a spoiled house pup after flunking out.

9- Grooming Is Either Time Consuming or Will Cost You Money

Grooming is non negotiable with a service dog. A psychiatric service dog, just like other service dogs, needs to be well maintained.

  • Nails need to be clipped and should not clack on the floor so the dog has a comfortable stride.
  • Dog should be brushed so loose fur is removed prior to going out on errands. –I am constantly brushing Koda so he's stray hair free, and he has a shirt he wears in the winter when he decides to shed more.-
  • The psychiatric service dog should be regularly bathed and smell pleasant at all times. –Yup, I have bath products and deodorizing spray for Koda.-
  • The psychiatric service dog's coat should look well managed. –I spend extra time on Koda's nether regions to keep them clean and tidy.-
  • And if you don't want to groom your psychiatric service dog yourself, you'll pay for it often.

Koda is a husky/ German shepherd mix. Which means some part of his body is probably shedding. He is brushed before every outing to remove loose fur that may end up on floors. Nobody wants little fur balls on the grocery store floor. And when he's static clingy, I put a dog shirt on him so his fluff stays put.

You will have to get your service dog groomed more often than a pet, depending on your lifestyle.

I own multiple dog brushes, dog shampoos, and dog wipes so I can do quick or deep cleans on my current service dog. I also hand file nails to reduce marks from freshly clipped nails. I trim up excessively long booty hairs. I routinely groom my pup to be pleasing to others as well as sanitary. As well as keep dog wipes on my person at all times when Koda is with me.

Grooming Your Service Dog Is A Must.  You Will Either Do It Yourself So Your Service Dog Can Be With You, Or Spend Many Days Without A Service Dog While He'S At The Groomers, Costing You Time And Money. :10 Cons Of A Psychiatric Service Dog That Cause Anxiety
I groom Koda daily to keep the fluffs at bay.

10: The Typical Service Dog Career Is Short

If you get your dog as a puppy and start training right away, you are starting your dog's career at about 2-3 years of age depending on your training speed.

Zeak started out as an an emotional support dog to help ease my anxiety at home. Then progressed to psychiatric service dog training after my therapist suggested we add him to my treatment plan. He was 5 when he graduated from training.

While Zeak had an abnormally long career of 12 years (he was 17 years old when he retired), most dogs retire somewhere between 7-10 years of age. That is about 5-7 years working. And you should be working on acquiring and training a new service dog about 2-3 years prior to your dog's retirement.

A dog may retire earlier if they lose interest in the work, lose their mobility, or their health becomes an issue. And in extreme cases, the dog's death cuts the dog's career tragically short.

The Actual Working Time Of A Psychiatric Service Dog Is Short.  Most Dogs Graduate At 2-3 Years Old And Retire At 8-10 Years Old So They Can Help Train The Next Service Dog. : 10 Cons Of A Psychiatric Service Dog That Cause High Anxiety
Zeak expanding his socialization skills by wearing Halloween hats.

Bonus Con: The Death of Your Psychiatric Service Dog (Retired or Active) Will Affect You Deeply

Just a few months after Zeak retired, he tragically passed from a very hard to diagnose tumor that ruptured. He had a clean bill of health two months earlier. It was just that fast growing!

He was happy and active that morning, started tiring in the afternoon, and at dinner I knew something was wrong when he snubbed his food. And would not come snuggle with me. He couldn't get up to do it.

We ultimately let him go to the Rainbow Bridge as dog's with his prognosis only live 4-6 months IF they have surgery. They pass within the week if they do not. It is always terminal and he lived a good life. I didn't want him to spend his last months in pain.

His death absolutely DESTROYED me. Not only did I lose my best friend, I lost a part of my journey and a part of myself.

I kept his collar, seen below, around my wrist for weeks. Yes, weeks. Seeing little bits of his fur, his favorite bed, and his favorite toys kept me in tears for weeks. I have suffered the loss of many dogs before him, but when you lose a pet you loose a companion. When you lose a service dog, it feels like your have lost your life line.

Zeak's death was in April 2021. There are no words to describe the deep level of grief you have for losing a psychiatric service dog.

Your body, mind, and soul hide from the pain. You are trying so desperately to cope without your support system. He was the dog that first took my pain away and gave me my life back when no one and nothing else had before. And he was gone.

It sent me into darkness. A place I hadn't lived since 2007 when we had first became a team. I felt like there was no light and no happiness in the world. I wasn't suicidal. But I couldn't think. I felt I had died with him. I was just a husk of my normally pleasant bubbly self.

When your service dog dies, you feel unanchored with the world. All that anxiety and depression floods to the surface. For the first time in years, you have to do it all on your own. And it is debilitating.

Your mental health can quickly deteriorate, and your may have to increase your treatment plan or spend time in a mental health institute to get back to a happy place again.

If you do not have a plan in place to heal after the death of your psychiatric service dog, my suggestion is not to have one. Because your mental health will take a great hit losing your lifeline.

The Death Of Your Psychiatric Service Dog (Retired Or Active) Will Effect You Deeply: 10 Cons Of A Psychiatric Service Dog
Zeak's memorial photo hangs over his urn. Ever watching over me as always.

Are you ready to tackle these psychiatric service dog challenges?

These psychiatric service dog challenges will make an impact on your mental health and daily life. Weigh them carefully when you talk to your family and mental health team about adding a psychiatric service dog to your life.

For more information about the PROS of a psychiatric service dog, read this article and subscribe! I always answer questions from my subscribers through email for free!

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10 Cons Of Service Dogs +Bonus Con No One Talks About
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Krystian Howe
Krystian Howehttps://withloveandfluffs.com
Hi! I'm Krystian. The Creator of With Love, Me. I created this blog for others like myself: people living with anxiety disorder on a daily basis. I have been living with anxiety since my teens. This blog is to give you a how to guide for living with anxiety, because I sure didn't have one. I want to save you the pain and misery I had of figuring it out all on my own. Join me and my service dog Koda on the journey to help you manage your anxiety. See you on the blog and our socials!
Krystian Howe
Hi! I'm Krystian. The Creator of With Love, Me. I created this blog for others like myself: people living with anxiety disorder on a daily basis. I have been living with anxiety since my teens. This blog is to give you a how to guide for living with anxiety, because I sure didn't have one. I want to save you the pain and misery I had of figuring it out all on my own. Join me and my service dog Koda on the journey to help you manage your anxiety. See you on the blog and our socials!
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  1. Hi Krystian, I appreciate you sharing your experiences with psychiatric service dogs. Your insights into the less talked about aspects are eye-opening. I didn’t know about the challenges and occasional frustrations service dog handlers encounter in public. Your article highlights the importance of respecting their boundaries. Having a service dog seems rewarding yet demanding, and your candid description is enlightening. Keep up the great work in educating people about this important topic!

  2. Thank you for writing this article; it provided me an idea of what’s it like to have a service dog and overall information. I’d like to see the concept of a service dog adopted by my country one day.

  3. Koda is a beautiful dog! I absolutely hate when people don’t respect that a service dog is working. I always tell my daughter “That dog is busy doing its job, please do not distract it” when she gets excited to see a dog in public.

  4. This is a very real look at life with a service dog. I don’t have one or personally know anyone who does, but this article is extremely helpful into understanding the challenges and obstacles that come with having a service dog. Thank you so much for sharing. 🙂

  5. First, let me start by saying that I’m so sorry for your loss and happy to hear that you now have Koda by your side. Great article! There’s a lot to consider when thinking whether or not to get a Service Dog. Thanks for sharing.

  6. I have worked with my now two-year-old retriever on how to be of service to me for mobility issues. He can pick up and bring me what I ask him for, help with opening and closing doors, but he is a long way from being called al service animal–to excitable in public. He does give me courage to face my day in some situations, but my work environment in not pet friendly; he would need to be a true service animal to bring him with me on a daily basis. Your article is very informative on the journey and the cons of having a service dog for a hidden disability. Thank you for your insights.

  7. as a therapist, I try really hard to help people understand if an emotional support animal is something they will truly benefit from. This really is a helpful article.

  8. I knew service dogs underwent a lot of training, but I didn’t realize it was in the 300 hour range! Thanks for sharing all of this helpful information, it’s a great reminder to a lot of us that we always need to let service dogs work <3

    • It is extensive! I put in over 300 hours with mine to essentially make them “bomb proof”. My whole first year is extensive socialization and learning basic obedience and manners at home. It is definitely not a task to take on if you are not 100% committed.

  9. What a unique perspective- I never thought about some of this, especially the need to be truly alone for your mental health and having your service dog 24/7.

  10. I never thought that having a service dog was so complicated. I admire you more now because not only you have to deal with PTSD. but with your service dog. Thank you for sharing such an informative post. And thank you for your service!

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