Originally Posted by moonkissedchi
I suffer from panic disorder/agoraphobia myself. I looked into SD myself in the past & from what I found that it seems impossible to get a dog for panic disorder as they don't perform a task and only provide comfort/safety. They would only fall under emotional support.
Dogs are great for that though. Having my dog makes it so much easier to get out and live! I do wish I could bring her everywhere with me just for that reason. Sent from Petguide.com Free App
It's not impossible to get an SD for panic disorder or agoraphobia, or at least, no more difficult than it is for any mental disability. It's hard to get any psychdog from a program unless you're a veteran with PTSD or a child with autism, but if you're willing to owner-train or find an independent trainer, an SD isn't off-limits provided it is
legally an SD. The dog must be individually trained to perform a learned task that mitigates the person's disability. If the person is legally disabled, and if the dog is trained to perform a task that compensates for the disability, it can be (but is not necessarily, or by default) a service dog.
So providing emotional comfort, since it is not a task, does not qualify. And the argument "but I taught
him to comfort me as a task!" does not hold up in court, as several lawsuits have proven. Body-blocking in a crowd, leading the handler out of a crowd if they have lost their bearing, interrupting repetitive or harmful behaviors (for example, I compulsively claw my arms when panicking), leading the handler to water so the handler can take medication, etc, would all qualify as trained tasks that would mitigate a panic disorder or agoraphobia.
A friend suggested a good litmus test for a trained task when I was looking into an SD and trying to decide if the benefits outweighed the risks (because, yaaay, my socially-triggered anxiety means that explaining an SD to others might actually cause
the panic attacks that the SD was meant to help manage). She said, "Ask yourself, 'Could someone engineer a robot to do that?' If not, it's not a trained task." A robot could wheel around my body while I panicked to give me space, and it would help. A robot could lead me away from other humans if I was "trapped" because my panic disoriented me, and it would help. A robot could stop me from clawing my arms, and it would help.
The bigger question is whether an individual's panic disorder or agoraphobia are significant enough to qualify as legally disabled. Having panic disorder and having enough panic disorder to qualify as disabled are not the same thing. In the case of OP, it sounds like a yes if they are literally housebound.
In the beginning, I stressed that a dog who meets those criteria CAN be, but isn't automatically, an SD. For example, my intermittent psychiatric issues are significant enough to merit a service dog and my dog is task-trained to perform behaviors that mitigate my disability. My dog will already circle my body on cue (which would give me space in a crowd), will stand between me and a person who is causing me to panic (in a subtle, not-guarding way, but it helps me regain my composure before I am fully panicking) and it would be relatively easy to teach him to interrupt my hand-clawing by teaching my hand-clawing gesture as a cue for him to do something that stops the clawing (like putting his paw on my hand, because usually once I'm aware that I'm clawing I can stop). He knows how to find water fountains, so it would be fairly simple to teach him to lead me to them.
But he's also goofy, playful and extremely social with strangers, which are all traits that make public access work much more difficult. While he's mentally and physically capable of being my SD, and my intermittent psychiatric issues are sufficient to qualify me as disabled when they flare up, I had to wash him out of service dog training because his temperament isn't steady enough. I love him to pieces. He's trained better than most dogs I know. And I'd really love to say that I'd trust my life to him. But if push comes to shove, I will never be 100% certain that he'd do his job to the best of his abilities even if a stranger was desperately trying to pet him. And that's the standard that a service dog has to meet.