Hank is a 2-year old, male Rottweiler mix. After 4.5-months of intensive training he is now also a highly proficient psychiatric service dog.
Hank services a teenage recipient in Tennessee, who suffers from severe schizophrenia that includes visual and auditory hallucinations. Hank mitigates the limitations and effects of her psychiatric disability by performing specialized behaviors that reduce the frequency, severity, duration, and impact of her hallucinations. When Hank perceives a forthcoming hallucination, he automatically performs a tactile behavior that often interrupts the onset of the hallucination. In addition, to maximize his utility as a psychiatric service dog, Hank is trained to perform multiple tactile, grounding, and buffering behaviors upon the command of the recipient, so that his behavior can be flexibly applied dependent upon the temporal nature of the recipient’s immediate psychological needs. Moreover, he has wonderful on and off-leash obedience skills and terrific household manners and social skills.
The teenage recipient’s parents asked CPT to evaluate Hank in October 2015. At the time, we also compiled a detailed report that custom designed a psychiatric service dog program for their disabled daughter.
The CPT Service Dog Program
Customization is a major advantage of the CPT service dog program. We first compile a detailed medical report for each client program. We then design customized specifications for the candidate dog’s training program, construct specifications for the ideal dog for the program, and evaluate a dog if the client arrives with a candidate. If a client does not have a candidate animal, we will assist the client in locating, evaluating, and selecting an optimal candidate. After we complete the specifications, the client has signed a CPT Service Dog Contract, and CPT has successfully evaluated a candidate, we commence the training portion of the program.
Our recipients run the gamut from children as young as 3 years of age to senior citizens, although in the case of very young children the dog will usually be handled by an adult caretaker. Disabled recipients who have benefited from a CPT Service Dog Program include persons with physical/mobility disorders (paralysis, CNS diseases, TBI, stroke, vertigo, sympathetic dystrophy, amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, et al.), hearing impairment (full deafness, cochlear implants, et al.), cognitive and sensory processing disorders (autism, mitochondrial disease, developmental disorders, et al.), narcolepsy, severe migraines, seizure and quasi-seizure disorders (general seizures, focal seizures, neurocardiogenic syncope), and psychiatric disorders (schizophrenia, major depressive disorder, general anxiety, state anxiety, post-traumatic stress disorder, rape trauma syndrome, obsessive-compulsive disorder, et al.). Please note that if the recipient is not of the age of majority and not considered “mentally competent,” then we require that an adult “agent” become the primary client for the purpose of signing the contract and providing payment.
The training portion of the program may be either a Board Training Program or a Hands-On Program. With the Board Training Program, the candidate dog will reside at the home of a CPT Trainer, who will educate the dog in basic obedience, household manners, socialization skills, assistance behaviors specified in the customized lesson plan, and public access behaviors. After the dog’s training is completed, we then educate the recipient and/or caretakers how to handle and manage the dog. With the Hands-On Program, we teach the recipient or agents how to train the dog. The Hands-On Program requires that the individuals reside proximal to CPT and have sufficient time, diligence, aptitude, and interest to conduct the complex and time-consuming service dog training process.
Hank’s Psychiatric Service Dog Accomplishments
In the case of Hank, he made great and even unexpected strides during his Board Training Program. Hank was evaluated as a borderline candidate. He initially exhibited nonreactive impulse control issues, independence, and restlessness that prevented us from rating him as an ideal candidate. However, the talents and diligent efforts of CPT Trainer Lisa Carroll evolved Hank into an outstanding psychiatric service dog, who remains calm, composed, cooperative, and focused on task, regardless of the environment. Moreover, post his board-train, Lisa did a terrific job of coaching the recipient and her family how to properly handle and manage Hank at home and while out in public.
We knew we did a great job when the recipient’s family sent us photos of Hank accompanying their daughter on stage during her high school graduation. Without Hank the recipient was hesitant to participate in her graduation ceremony. With Hank she confidently participated and experienced a memory that she and her family will cherish.