Working Dogs As Psychiatric Service Dogs

psychiatric service dog

Working dogs serve many, many purposes. Considering working dogs as psychiatric service dogs can be extremely helpful for people who suffer from psychiatric disorders.

People with psychiatric disorders often find that their symptoms are less severe when they have a service dog. This is likely because service dogs provide a sense of stability and support that is often missing from the person’s life. In addition, service dogs can help promote socialization and encourage increased activity levels.

Overall, service dogs can be a great asset for people who suffer from psychiatric disorders. They can provide much-needed support and stability, which can lead to a better quality of life.

What Are Psychiatric Service Dogs Trained To Do?

Service dogs are usually trained to do a variety of tasks, depending on the person’s needs. For example, many service dogs are trained to help reduce anxiety and provide support during panic attacks. Additionally, service dogs can be trained to interrupt self-harming behaviors or provide assistance during episodes of dissociation.

There are a number of ways in which service dogs can help people with psychiatric disorders. For example, a service dog can be trained to comfort the person during times of heightened anxiety or panic, such as while taking public transportation. In addition, many psychiatric service dogs learn to wake their owner if he or she has a nightmare or if the person is experiencing a dissociative episode.

People with selective mutism or post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) can also benefit from psychiatric service dogs because these dogs are trained to interrupt self-harming behavior. In addition, many people with PTSD find that their symptoms lessen when they have a pet dog.

Assistance With Mental Health Conditions

A psychiatric service dog is specifically trained to help people with mental health conditions. Some of the conditions a psychiatric service dog may be able to assist with include:

  • agoraphobia
  • anxiety disorders
  • attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorders
  • autism
  • bipolar disorders
  • claustrophobia
  • depression
  • obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD)
  • panic disorders
  • post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD)
  • schizophrenia
  • social phobias

The dogs can also help with more general mental health conditions such as severe grief or sadness, anger issues, and problems functioning.

Psychiatric Service Dogs Tasks

Some common tasks that psychiatric service dogs may perform to keep their handler calm and safe include:

  • Providing pressure therapy through deep pressure touch, which has been found to be calming and helpful for those with anxiety or PTSD
  • Alerting handlers to the onset of an anxiety attack, dissociation, or flashback so that they can get help as soon as possible
  • Keeping the handler from entering into situations which may cause them further anxiety or panic, such as a crowded public place
  • Reminding handlers to take medication
  • Helping handlers to stay grounded by touching the person’s feet to the ground during times of anxiety or dissociation. This helps keep them in touch with their surroundings and prevents disorientation
  • Waking the handler during nightmares or night terrors
  • Interrupting self-harming behaviors before the person harms themselves
  • Holding or guiding a nonverbal handler who is experiencing panic, anxiety, flashbacks, or dissociation
  • Retrieving items for handlers to help them manage sensory overload

What Working Dog Breeds Make The Best Psychiatric Service Dogs?

The most common working dog breeds for PDS work are Poodles, Labradors, German Shepherds, Golden Retrievers, Dobermans, Boxers, Border Collies, and mixes of these breeds. The dog must be fully trained, healthy, and physically capable of performing the tasks required.

The ADA does not limit the breed of dog a person with a psychiatric disability may choose as a service animal, therefore people can train their own service dogs. But the dog must still be able to perform the tasks associated with the person’s disability even if that means a regular dog can do it instead of a medically-prescribed service animal. Dogs whose sole function is to provide comfort or emotional support (“therapy animals”) are not protected under federal law.

Training Requirements For A Psychiatric Service Dog:

Psychiatric service dogs may be of any breed or size suitable for public work. Some examples of a psychiatric service dog include:

  • A dog that is individually trained to perform tasks to mitigate the symptoms of their handler’s disability, including, but not limited to, providing minimal protection or rescue work, pulling a wheelchair, or fetching dropped items.
  • A dog that is individually trained to be an assistance dog for a person with a disability as defined in Department of Justice regulations.

Details can be found here:

For more information on service animals and the requirements that emotional support animals and psychiatric service dogs must meet in order to be a legally recognized as a service animal under the Americans with Disabilities Act (click here for more information).

Service Animal Rights For People With Disabilities

In most states, people with disabilities who use psychiatric service dogs or emotional support animals are afforded the same rights and protections afforded to those with other types of service animals. However, there are a few states which do not recognize psychiatric service dogs as a type of service animal.

A Psychiatric service dog is allowed access with a person who has a documented disability. They are permitted to accompany the handler to any place in the building where people are normally allowed to go.

The individual cannot be asked to remove his service animal, unless the animal is out of control and the handler does not take effective action to control it or if the dog is not housebroken. In that case, the individual with a disability must be granted a reasonable accommodation such as access to an alternate accessible location for care.

The person cannot be asked to provide documentation of their disability, show identification cards or training documentation for the service animal, or demonstrate the service animal’s ability to perform the tasks associated with their disability. The person may be asked whether it is a service animal, and what tasks it performs.

For more information and Frequently Asked Questions about service animals and the ADA, please see: and ADA Requirments For Service Animals

“How Do I Get A Psychiatric Service Dog?”

In order to qualify for a psychiatric service dog, you must have a documented disability that affects your daily living activities. This disability must be recognized by the American with Disabilities Act (ADA). This means that having a psychiatric service dog will be determined on an individual basis.

The psychiatric service dog must be individually trained to perform tasks that mitigate the symptoms of your disability. The tasks performed by the dog can vary depending on the needs of the individual.

There are many programs that place dogs with individuals who have post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), generalized anxiety disorder (GAD), and other mental disabilities.

Working dogs as Psychiatric Service Dogs offer a number of traits that are beneficial to people with all sorts of disabilities. Subscribe to our newsletter to receive more information on working dogs and the breeds that make ALL of our lives easier!