How to Stop Panic Attacks Using Dogs2022-04-22
People love dogs for their calm and loving nature, and many of us find these pets soothing to be around all the time. The empathy we feel from these companions is more than just a myth. Dogs are proven to be emotionally attuned to people in need. With a bit of training, this extends to all kinds of emotions, even ones that feel too complicated for some humans to understand, like panic.
For those moments when your anxiety feels out of your control, you may need outside help. Anxiety is hard to deal with, especially by yourself. Having a dog by your side can improve your anxiety before and after panic attacks.
To find out more about the therapeutic properties of these furry friends, read on!
Using Dogs to Stop Panic Attacks
When you have a panic attack, it's almost impossible to pull yourself out of it. Your heart is pumping; you're dizzy; you can't seem to think straight. Chances are, you may not even see it coming before it's too late.
Anxiety attacks are complicated, and it's often not easy to know how to make things better. Having a dog nearby, you can rest assured that comfort is just a moment away. Take your pet and cuddle up on the couch, and before you know it—you're feeling much better again.
But why? It's not like animals can talk you through any issue related to anxiety. While dogs have an innate bond that allows them to understand how someone feels, they can't understand the exact reason for your distress.
So, how do we know that they work? Well, there are a few things to know about the specific benefits they offer related to not only their training but also the special bond between humans and canines.
Benefits of Anxiety Service Dogs
Dogs Are Not People
Okay, that sounds a little mean, but the truth is that many people don't understand anxiety well, especially when someone has a panic attack. Everyone has different methods for addressing panic attacks, but most people prefer a calm and patient response.
Outside people tend to react to anxiety with solution-based approaches or trying to "talk it out." While well-meaning, these proactive approaches tend to have the opposite effect.
Instead, being quiet and compassionate can often help even the worst panic attacks simmer. Dogs' caring nature and inability to speak make them the perfect anxiety companion.
Dogs and People Have an Innate Bond
Human and dog—it's more than just an expression. Dogs and humans have existed alongside each other since ancient times. This unique relationship has formed, in part, because dogs have a sense of how you are feeling that extends beyond other animals. But how?
After thousands of years of coexisting by each other's sides, there are a few ways we can understand how dogs see us, which even extends into their biology.
You may have noticed that dogs are always looking at our faces, and there's a reason for this. We all know that dogs smell better than us. Recent analysis proves that dogs can detect emotions based on different chemical, behavioral, and facial cues. It means that dogs can not only understand when something is wrong, but they may also be able to see a panic attack coming before you do!
Dogs Are Great Company
Dogs love to cuddle! It is rare that a dog won't be ready to jump up on your lap and give instant company. A source of constant, ready affection is a valuable resource for anyone suffering from anxiety. Having a compassionate animal to give instant affection can help you during even the worst panic attack—and may even prevent them before they occur.
Much psychological research proves the calming effect of animal interaction, which can help lower your stress and anxiety response. And it's not just the animal's presence, either. Researchers are finding that physical touch is so effective in calming the nerves.
However, the benefit is already clear; we don't need science to tell us that cuddling up with a dog we love makes us feel loved and special! Dogs are also a great distraction, which can help when anxiety begins rumbling, even at the earliest stages.
How to Get a Service Dog
When applying for your service dog, there are a few things you will need to keep in mind.
1. Choose Your Support Animal
The first is what kind of needs you need to serve. There are differences between Service Animals, Emotional Support Animals (ESA's), and Psychiatric Service Dogs (PSDs).
With anxiety, any of these animal classes can be a good fit, but it might be a good idea to check with your mental health provider about which animal is the best for you. Here, we'll detail the process for getting a service dog for panic attacks.
2. Obtain Written Documentation
You will need to contact your health provider to get written documentation explaining that you are receiving an emotional or psychiatric disorder treatment. This letter explains the need for your service dog and will get you on toward the next step to taking your dog home with you.
Written documentation will also help you register your dog and might come in useful when taking your animal with you on a plane or another area where you need to prove your dog is a service dog.
3. Train It Yourself?
Some people choose to receive their dogs directly from accredited government services. Experience dog owners may prefer to train their dogs themselves!
There are a lot of benefits of making this decision and many behavioral factors that can help prove your dog is ready to be accredited as a licensed service dog.
Some of these factors include:
- Calmness: Your dog is relaxed even in unfamiliar settings.
- Aggression Management: Your dog does not display any aggressive behavior.
- Reliability: Your dog stays close to you and pays attention to your emotions.
4. Pick Your Breed!
Whether you choose to pick up your service animal or train it yourself, you will need to decide what breed you want. Dog breeds can make a big difference in your animal's temperament, patience, and calmness, and many factors can lead you to a choice.
For a service dog for emotional support, many people find Poodles to suit their needs the most! Their high emotional instincts and loving nature make them a good fit. Other breeds include Labradors and Havanese, but countless breeds will work perfectly with proper training and care.
Coping With Panic Attacks
- Understand the signs: Shortness of breath, racing thoughts, uncontrollable thinking, and fast heart rate are clear signals that you are in the midst of a heightened anxiety response.
- Breathe: Slow, measured breaths can help bring oxygen to your brain and produce helpful endorphins that calm you.
- Don't try to think your way through it: One of the most native responses to a panic attack is to try and combat it with logic or reason. While this can help anxiety and stress in milder forms amid a panic attack, this will often not be helpful when in a state of derealisation and high anxiety.
- Focus: Rember that the panic attack will end. You are most likely not in grave danger, so remind yourself of this to put your mind to calming or relaxing thoughts.
- Grab your dog!: This is the perfect time to cuddle up with your dog on the sofa and let them help you drift into a calm and quiet state.
People Also Ask
Can a dog stop a panic attack?
Dogs help the sufferer to feel calm and loved. No dog can stop a panic attack outright, but they can help the person suffering from it feel calm and loved, reducing and ending panic attacks early.
How do service dogs stop panic attacks?
They provide much-needed company and calm emphatic contact. Dogs will notice your panic attack and respond to your behavior when it starts and sometimes beforehand. When they observe these signals, they will approach and cuddle up with you in a patient, calming manner.
Does my dog know when I have a panic attack?
Yes! Service Dogs are very aware of their owner's behavior. The highly empathetic reaction dogs have with humans comes from a mixture of chemical, behavioral and emotional responses. Proper training can build on these instincts and refine them.
How did my dog know I was having a panic attack?
Dogs and humans have close emotional bonds built upon over time. Your dog will recognize chemical and facial cues as well as your behavior to determine what a panic attack looks like for you. They may have even seen it coming before you did.
Register Your Dog
Service dogs trained to help with panic attacks perform a vital service—and as the handler, you want to do everything you can to protect your rights as much as theirs. Registration helps smooth the way for any questions people might have regarding your service dog's status.
For more information for registering your canine companion, we got you covered! Service Dog Registration of America proudly provides resources and materials to register your service dog in a way that best serves both your needs.
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