Service Dogs and Invisible Disabilities | Sarah Meikle | TEDxDeerfield

Service Dogs and Invisible Disabilities | Sarah Meikle | TEDxDeerfield

Psychiatric service dogs are misunderstood; very few people produce them and there is a desperate need for more people to do so. There are even more people that could benefit from these animals that do not realize that exist–and that they represent a treatment that can often meet needs that no other option can.

There is also a desperate need for more members of the public to be well informed regarding how to interact with people with service dogs. Did you know that it is common for people to bark (yes, that’s right, people barking!) at service dogs? If people understood more about how these dogs “work,” they can be more respectful and appropriate these outstanding animals. Sarah runs Diggity Dogs, a non-profit organization that produces medical alert and psychiatric service dogs for conditions that most people don’t realize dogs can address. This talk was given at a TEDx event using the TED conference format but independently organized by a local community. Learn more at


  1. Even though I’m a 12 year old, I know that these dogs aren’t just used for the blind. They are also used for people with disabilities other than blindness, such as: depression, anxiety and more. My cousin is required one and I know for a fact she isn’t blind- so..

  2. Omg this makes me so happy. I have seizures and my boy alerts me before they happen and helps me stay steady through them. ❤️

  3. I know many self trained dogs that are just as good as program dogs. Also many other dogs either self trained or from other programs that interrupt self destructive actions.

  4. i have severe agoraphobia that causes me to have full blown panic attacks when im out in public due to previous trauma and a history of other anxiety issues. i’ve considered a service dog (like jason and harper), but i can’t afford to buy a trained one, and i don’t know if i could mentally handle owner training.

  5. I’m crying I am so happy right now. I got a service dog only a week ago and I feel like my life has changed. I can actually do the things I enjoy again without fear. PTSD can take a toll on someone.

  6. I remember watching this in my psychology class and I remember how people were staring at me, silently judging me because I have a service dog

  7. I have a great respect for service dogs and what they do . What I have a problem with is people abusing this super great program . I know a friend that is epileptic, and you would never know. She has a service dog maggie . Which I only pet when she says its ok . But once she puts on her vest to go outside I never touch or communicate with maggie she is working. But my friend says she hates people that claim to have service dogs yet you can tell these dogs are not trained. Or as my friend said these animals are not trained as service animals.

  8. I’m thinking bout a service dog, I have M.S. but symptoms are not visible(dizzyness, emotional at times, etc.) I really want a little service do because I’m little 4’11. An I’m allergic to dogs so I would have to get a poodle but do they come as small service dogs??

  9. This Ted Talk changed my life, and I didn’t even get my service dog yet. Thank you for letting me know that there’s another treatment option for me, I now have a goal to work towards.

    I hope to finance my own SD soon, and will be dedicating my hard earned money towards this goal. Being a Massachusetts resident helps make this vision more of a reality in my head. As my condition shifts, I’d like to get ahead of any foreseeable issues through owning a service dog.

    For years I’ve looked to different human solutions and none have the effect that a dog has. I have a dream and vision for my personal success and I think a SD will help me reach that goal. Being able to afford and own a service dog is my
    Imperative goal for this year.

    I am a young entrepreneur who is at his wits end trying to deal with my evolving brain at the onset of my disorder. I never thought of it before, but it seems like a SD is the key to unlocking the life I deserve. i hope to hear more from this

  10. I wish that I could get a service dog to help me with my hyper vigilance caused by my anxiety, my depression and depersonalisation disorder, but it’s next to impossible to register a service dog in Southeast Asia

  11. This chick sounds drunk. But aside from her terrible ability to present facts in an interesting way, her words are true and accurate.

  12. owner trained dogs do work – if you have the correct temperament and a willingness to work. I am currently training a puppy for stress relief. She is very sensitive to emotions and loves to apply pressure. When I met her, the first thing I noticed was her loyalty to stay by my side or within sight. At 7 months now, she is always within 5′ of me. If you chose to self train, please test your puppy – Volhard’s Puppy Aptitude Testing. If your dog shows little interest in your training, it probably won’t make a service dog. Training is a skill needed for life skills for the dog. If they don’t train well or show low energy in learning – you will have a dog with little energy to perform his task. Not all dog, regardless of breed, are meant to be a service dog. You service dog needs his heart in the job.

  13. Please help me I was run over by a truck two years ago and I can barely walk and talk please bring me out of my shell and give my son his dad back it’s hurts my heart that he said to me daddy you don’t play with me anymore did I do something wrong with tears in my eyes I told him he didn’t do anything wrong it broke my heart

  14. Excellent information! As a service dog handler with an invisible disability (PTSD) I genuinely thank you!

  15. Only thing I’m annoyed at is she kept saying “alert alert alert” some things you CAN train alert to but others – no. You cannot alert to a seiure. Only 10% of the dog population can.

    ALL of these were *responses* not alerts

  16. Judgment Proof that’s just unrealistic to expect a business to get to know their disabled customers with Service Dogs. I have a Service Dog in Training, I don’t want to be limited to a few businesses nor do I want to necessarily “get to know” every business owner/manager. That’s too much invasion of my privacy. Would you want to supply personal information to every business you deal with? That’s also a violation of both the American Disabilities Act and the medical privacy laws HIPPA.

  17. I’m so happy with how she said this. I have a medical alert/ response and psychiatric service dog. And he has given me my independence that a person needs

  18. I was made to get rid of my dog because at the apartment where I live were scared of her because she is big. I am disabled. Also in fear for my life because of reasons I can not put on here. I have her at my friends and tried to find a place to live but the recommendation from where I live now (for 6 yrs) said aggressive dog complaints. Any one have any ideas on what I can do to get my dog back home with me. I already have a letter from my Dr. that didn’t help. The management said I would be evicted.

  19. I strongly agree with you. There are people who are passing off fake service dogs as real, which really makes it bad for the rest who actually do need real service dogs. If you ever wonder why many times businesses discriminate, now you know why, so I hear you! What needs to happen is businesses should get to know each and everyone of their visitors so they know who’s really disabled and who’s really not. The rough part though is if you must start using a new service at the beginning of your disability or if your disability gets to a point where you must start using a new service. Getting businesses used to this can be a challenge when you’re just getting started using a new service you never otherwise needed before

  20. Im reading the comments and i just am surprised people are saying it’s unreasonable for store owners to be familiar with the laws this should be normal practice for store owners and managers to understand the ADA laws and the 2 questions they may ask and nothing else. Not just for the personal aspect and issues I’ve had but because it’s a federal law… I went to a salon with my SDiT who behaved wonderfully and one of the employees was like “I thought service dogs were only for deaf, blind, and people who can’t move” and I’m like first of all OFFENSIVE second no. It’s unfortunately a reality that people deal with when having an SD and also having an invisible disability. My dog is a psychiatric SD and when i get asked questions about her I say “she is a service dog and she’s trained in response tasks”

  21. my dog taught himself dpt + interruption tasks (for my ocd, depression, and numerous anxiety disorders), if i public access train him with a doctor and parent’s permission can he become a service dog?

  22. I’m a puppy raiser college studentwho is thinking about becoming a trainer and am proud to contribute to improving the lives of members of the disabled community. It has definitely had a huge impact on my life. My guide dog school is able to provide their dogs free of charge to handlers. I understand why this isn’t the case for most places, but I wish training facilities could provide dogs for free or reduced costs. (unfortunately there is no way to avoid the fact it may take up to $50,000 dollars to train a dog) My organization can, in part due to it’s size, but they mostly cater to the blind (and secondarily to those with PTSD). I have found this to be a common trend, you can get a guide dog for free at these large organizations but for a majority of other types of service dogs you must go to a smaller organization that has much bigger price tags. I don’t think that there is any type of foul play, that’s just the way it is right now. Unfortunately, owner training or large price tags are not options for many people, especially those who arguably need a dog the most. I hope that bigger schools form around other disabilities to increase affordable access to service dogs.

  23. My daughter is 15 & has anxiety & panic attacks. She now has her Emotional Support Dog "Rocket". He’s amazing! It’s like he gave her back her confidence.

  24. Dogs have a bigger heart and are smarter then most / all people
    I can say that beings I’ve lost everyone /everything after my injury’s except my dog

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