|Little Angels strongly believes in assisting those with psychiatric disabilities. While
this is a disability that is often overlooked, it is a condition which can be even more
detrimental than some challenges which are strictly physical.
Recently the public has received education regarding psychiatric service dogs with
respect for our soldiers who are returning from war with PTSD. The trainers and
volunteers of Little Angels work diligently to place dogs with our soldiers, as well as
civilians who suffer from similar forms of PTSD, and other psychiatric conditions
such as severe anxiety and depressive disorders.
Just as a dog can be trained to alert to seizures and other medical conditions, a dog can also be trained
to sense the changes in a person's body when they are beginning to have a panic attack, flash back,
anxiety attack, or other psychiatric condition. The dog is able to paw at the leg of their disabled recipient
and interrupt what would otherwise be a debilitating and destructive behavior for the individual. This
helps the handler to refocus on their dog and work through the problem.
Deep Pressure Therapy
Just as medical wraps are used to alleviate anxiety in persons with psychiatric conditions, dogs can be
trained to put the pressure of their body weight on their handler's lap and abdomen to physically, and
then mentally relieve anxiety and induce a sense of calm.
When the individual suffers from anxiety due to the close proximity of others, or due to claustrophobia in
a crowded room, the dog can be trained to stand in between their handler and others to gain more
personal space. The dog is not being protective, but is simply following a simple cue from their handler to
move their body into the space surrounding their handler.
A frequent problem for those suffering from PTSD is to negotiate corners without the fear of what is
waiting on the other side. Our dogs can be trained to go around corners in front of their handler and
then alert their handler if there is someone waiting on the other side. Over time this form of therapy can
assist the disabled recipient when becoming more comfortable with going into public.
There are many situations when a recipient will need to excuse themselves from a classroom or meeting
due to personal psychiatric concerns. With a discrete signal to the dog the handler can command his
dog to paw at the leg, making it look like the dog is seeking attention. The handler is then able to
comfortably leave the situation with the excuse that his dog needs to relieve itself.
It goes without saying that any service dog's greatest assistance is the emotional support they can offer
their handler. Most disabilities present trials than can be relieved on a mental level simply by the dog's
presence. A well behaved dog can help to lower blood pressure and give a sense of ease to anyone who
What We Don't Do
We do not create unnecessary tasks for dogs to complete simply because we are looking for a way for
dogs to 'assist with a specific disability'. Public Access laws state that a dog cannot be granted public
access simply for emotional support, and that the dog must be trained in specific tasks to assist their
disabled partner. Because of this many are 'looking' for tasks to train to their dogs. We will not train a
dog to remind you to take medication - a cell phone with an alarm can do that. We will not train a dog to
protect you - it is not safe. We WILL train a dog to assist you with actual tasks for actual needs.
Is a Little Angels Psychiatric Service Dog right for me?
You must ...
1)Have a life-inhibiting psychiatric condition, with documentation from your doctor to support
2)Have strong communication skills and the ability to be consistent with a dog regarding
3)Have a love for dogs.
4)Have patience to work through problems. (Even a trained dog is still a dog.)
5)Have finances to provide your dog with veterinary care and maintenance for the next 10-12
6)Be willing to travel to San Diego, California for handler training, preferably with a friend or
family member for support.
There are many important factors that will determine if a service dog can help someone with a
psychiatric condition. In some cases having a service dog can exacerbate the struggles of the
individual. Applications are reviewed on a case-by-case basis to insure a service dog is right
for each individual.
Hander Training is where the disabled party learns how to work with the dog as a team. This
generally takes 14 days, with training every day. This is when the dog learns to respond to the
commands of the handler, and when the handler learns how to reinforce the training that the dog
has already received. We cover practical, day-to-day life experiences so you will feel confident
taking the dog into your care. We work in real-life situations such as outings to shopping malls,
restaurants, and parks so you will feel comfortable taking the dog with you into the public setting.
After the completion of Handler Training we work together on a series of field tests, which are
administered by the trainer. After graduation, you and your dog will be certified as a working
team. A certification card will be provided to the handler, as well as a service vest and
identification tag for your dog, which labels him or her as a service animal.
We have a lifetime commitment to each
recipient and each dog that we place.
Once you and your dog have graduated we maintain contact to insure that your dog's training
and assistance remains in tact,
that the dog remains healthy and happy,
and that the dog is improving your quality of life.
What are the steps involved for receiving a Psychiatric Service Dog?
Step 1: Request an application through our 'Apply for a Dog' page.
Step 2: Return the application for review.
Your application is received via email, and you will receive
a response within 10 business days.
Step 3: If accepted we will contact you to schedule a phone consultation.
The consultation is an average of 60 minutes where we discuss realistic expectations of how a service
dog can assist you, and to make sure you are a good fit for one of our dogs.
Step 4: Agreement.
If we believe one of our service dogs can assist you we will write out a customized agreement and ask
you to review your final decision with friends and family.
Step 5: Return your agreement with your $500.00 deposit, to be added to
our waiting list.
The deposit is your sign to us that you are committed to the program. Once this is received we begin
fundraising for the costs associated with your dog. Some recipients also choose to be added to our
website under the 'Donations' page - this is a personal decision and is not a requirement.
Step 6: Fundraising.
Organizations nationwide spend an average of $30,000.00-$40,000.00 on each assistance dog trained.
The average service dog graduates with over 600 hours of training, and with that expense also comes
veterinary care, boarding, grooming and training supplies. Because of the commitment of all our
wonderful volunteers Little Angels spends a fraction of that, at $24,000.00 per dog. This is an expense
covered through fundraising. If possible, we ask each recipient to be involved in the fundraising process
when they can, but it is never a requirement.
Step 7: Dog Selection and Specialized Training.
Once the funds are met, regardless of how the funds were raised, we move you to the second part of our
waiting list where you are a priority for dog placement. This is when we choose a dog from our training
program that has the natural propensities to assist in the ways needed for your disability, and we
continue any additional specialized training needed specifically for your needs.
Step 8: Handler Training.
During handler training we work with you, one-on-one, and show you how to reinforce the training your
dog has already had. Once you and your dog graduate our program we stay in daily contact for the first
month, followed by monthly, and bi-yearly consultations for reports on your dog's ability to continuously
provide assistance to you. Handler training takes place in San Diego, California. Travel and hotel costs
are usually covered by additional fundraising so that our recipients do not have out of pocket expenses
for their dog.
We have partnered with
The Anxiety Research Center and Curtis Hsia, Ph.D.
Dr. Hsia specializes in treating anxiety through cognitive behavioral
therapy, and is an advocate in therapy through the use of Service
Dogs through Little Angels.
Dr. Hsia is available for consultations by phone for those who reside
outside of California.
For treatment or further information please contact
Anxiety Research Center
26800 Crown Valley Parkway Suite 455
Mission Viejo, CA 92691
California license #23359