Archive for the ‘Psychiatric Service Dog’ Category

Research into the human-dog bond confirms how humans benefit from the relationship. Service dogs used to help with mental health conditions are also known as psychiatric service dogs (PSD) and utilize this human-dog bond. PSDs help fulfill tasks that individuals with severe anxiety would generally feel too overwhelmed to perform or can provide actions to prevent or reduce symptoms of anxiety as they occur.

Service Dogs for Anxiety 

Anxiety is the most common mental health condition in the U.S., with approximately 40 million adults experiencing the disorder. Anxiety can become overwhelming and prevent a person from performing major life tasks. In cases where a person with anxiety is unable to function at work, school, or in social situations, a service dog can help them overcome their anxiety.

A service dog is a highly trained dog that can perform specified tasks or services that the individual with a disability may not be able to accomplish on their own. Service dogs are also legally allowed to follow their owners into establishments that are not usually open to animals.  

Physiological and Psychological Response to Anxiety

Anxiety stems from a physiological response. The brain gauges situations as dangerous, even when they aren’t or if the danger has long gone. The brain then starts the stress reaction (a so-called “fight or flight” response) and releases hormones into the body. These hormones initiate the physical effects: hyper-awareness, rise in blood pressure, sweating, increase in heart rate, and quick breathing.

The physiological response from anxiety can be detrimental to the body if experienced for lengthened periods. This response can also result in a state of panic that prevents a person from executing necessary activities. Anxiety can also cause insomnia, depression, and anger management issues. 

Research has shown that trained psychiatric service dogs can help humans overcome anxiety in several ways:

Lower blood pressure and heart rate Provide a calming influence Function as a protective factor against suicide and self-harm  Provide a sense of security Fetch any medication or devices that may help reduce the symptoms

It is important however to recognize that in order to qualify as a service dog, there must be a need for the dog to perform a job or task relating to a person’s disability. If the dog is merely providing comfort for anxiety that qualifies as a disability, it is likely an emotional support animal and not a psychiatric service dog.

Anxiety as a Disability 

According to the Americans with Disability Act (ADA), a person with a disability meets one or more of the following criteria:

A physical or mental impairment that severely impacts the ability to perform one or more major life functions A past impairment that meets the previous description Is regarded by others as having an impairment that meets this description

Many disabilities are not visible to others, meaning that the disability may not be readily apparent, like a physical impairment or injury. Many disabilities are neurological or psychological and can’t immediately be deducted.

Anxiety can be an example of one of these “invisible disabilities.” If anxiety causes impairment in a major life function such as work, school, or personal relationships, then may meet the definition of a disability.

Some forms of anxiety can be very debilitating. Phobias and obsessive-compulsive disorders are a form of anxiety. Phobias often prevent people from completing necessary life tasks such as traveling, being in public areas, or having social interactions. In these cases, because it impacts major life activities, anxiety may meet ADA’s definition of a disability. 

A healthcare provider can help someone determine if their anxiety rises to the level of a disability. In addition, it’s worth repeating that even if a person has an anxiety disorder that qualifies as a disability, a psychiatric service dog is only appropriate if they need a job or task performed to assist with that disability. If task-trained dog is not required, it is more appropriate to seek qualification for an emotional support animal.

Wonder if you qualify for a Psychiatric Service Dog?Get an assessment from a licensed medical health professional. If you qualify, they can issue a PSD Letter so that you can confidently train and own a PSD. How can a service dog be obtained for anxiety?

Only dogs can legally be considered service animals and meet ADA requirements to enter areas with their owners. 

The following are two qualifications to establish before getting a service dog:

The level of anxiety must qualify as a disability: A service dog can be obtained for anxiety if the condition is an impairment that substantially limits one or more major life activities.   Establishing a need for a service dog: A service dog must also be able to provide a task that the person with anxiety is unable to do. The dog must be able to perform a task that directly relates to the stated disability. 

A licensed mental health professional or medical doctor can provide an assessment regarding whether a person’s anxiety is a disability. If deemed a disability, a PSD letter can be issued. Even though the PSD letter is not required to get a service dog for anxiety, many individuals with anxiety find it reassuring to have a letter from a licensed therapist that confirms their need for a psychiatric service dog.

Getting a service dog for anxiety can be a long process. There are PSDs that are already trained to be service dogs, but there may be a waitlist for such dogs. And even after receiving the service dog, further training alongside the handler may be necessary in order to make the dog sensitive to their specific handler’s needs.

Handlers can also select an untrained dog and conduct all the necessary training themselves. The ADA allows for self-training of service animals. Either way, it will take time and patience until the psychiatric service dog is fully trained and ready for duty.

Keeping a training log will help with analyzing the progress of your service dog’s training. Download this free sample Service Dog Training Log, provided by Service Dog Certifications.

Service Dog Owner Responsibilities

Being a service dog handler comes with many responsibilities. Because service dogs can accompany their handler in public places where pets are not allowed to go, the handler must be comfortable and confident that their dog will behave at all times. The service dog must be able to focus on their tasks at all times, even in unfamiliar and busy places. If the handler loses control of their service dog, or the dog appears like a danger to other members of the public, it may lead to the removal of the dog. Service dog owners must ensure that their animals are safe, clean and well provided for at all times.


Obtaining a psychiatric service dog for anxiety is possible, though it may take time and patience until a suitable dog is fully ready for their job. But for all the benefits and possibly life-changing qualities a service dog for anxiety provides, it can be well worth the effort! If you think a service dog is appropriate for your psychiatric condition, speak to a licensed healthcare professional to see if you have a qualifying disability as a first step.

See if your mental or emotional disability qualifies for a psychiatric assistance dog. Get a PSD Letter assessment from a licensed medical professional.

Older adults have always made vital contributions to society, family, and history, yet they struggle increasingly with loneliness, depression, and other mental or neurological disorders. According to the World Health Organization (WHO), roughly 20% of older adults aged 60 or over have a mental health disorder. To ensure the safety and health of this population, it’s essential to identify ways to address their mental health concerns. One way to help older adults is with psychiatric service dogs. 

What is a Service Dog? 

Emotional support dogs (ESA), therapy dogs, and service dogs help people with mental or emotional disabilities or disorders. Of these three, only handlers of service dogs maintain the rights under three federal laws: 

The Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) Air Carrier Access Act (ACA) The Fair Housing Act (FHA) 

These federal laws protect the right of people with disabilities to have their service dogs with them at all times. Whether it’s in a public park (ADA), on an airplane (ACA), or in a “no pets allowed” apartment (FHA), service dogs are able to remain with their handler. Unlike other animals, service dogs can enter and stay in public areas where pets are not allowed. 

According to the ADA, a service dog must: 

have specific service dog training that completes an essential task for a particular disability.  assist with accomplishing a vital daily activity for a person with a qualifying disability. be essential to their handler. 

A few examples of service dogs are:

Mobility assistance dogs Guide dogs for people who are vision impaired Diabetic alert dogs Autism support dogs Psychiatric service dogs

Although older adults may benefit from any of the service dogs listed above, psychiatric service dogs are ideal for helping those with mental health conditions. 

What is a Psychiatric Service Dog? 

Psychiatric service dogs (PSD) are specially trained to help people with psychiatric or neurological disabilities. A PSD may receive training to help older adults in the following ways: 

Obtain medication during psychiatric emergencies or severe depression. Alert their handler to medication administration times.  Serve as a physical barrier between their handler and a distressing situation or object.  Enter a room before their handler to ensure safety.  Guide their handler to the designated exits during an emergency.  Awaken their handler when their handler is groggy from medication.  Wake their handler from nightmares. Prompt their handler to eat or bathe.  Prompt their handler to exercise or perform a healthcare task.  “Ground” – reducing anxiety through tactile stimulation – their handler when their handler becomes overwhelmed or distressed.  Lead their handler to safer areas.  Obtain assistance when their handler falls into an emergency situation.

The list above only offers a brief snapshot of tasks a psychiatric service dog can perform for older adults. Which job a PSD is ultimately trained for depends on the needs of their handler. 

Older Adults and Mental Health 

It’s just as essential for older adults to get help for their mental health as it is for younger adults. For example, according to the Centers for Disease Control (CDC), older adults have a higher risk for depression than the general population. 

Roughly 80% of adults over 60 have at least one or more chronic illnesses, and adults with a chronic disease are at a higher risk for depression.  About 1% to 5% of older adults have major depression.  The rate of major depression is higher in older adults who require home healthcare (13.5%). 

Adults over the age of 60 are also more prone to developing Alzheimer’s disease, a progressive disease resulting in memory loss. The CDC states that the number of older people with Alzheimer’s disease doubles every 5 years after age 65. People with Alzheimer’s may forget to take medication, get lost from home, or become irritable or depressed. 

In the United States, loneliness among older adults is becoming a problem. One in three older adults struggles with loneliness. Although social isolation may contribute to loneliness, being alone is not always a factor. Some older adults who live surrounded by family and friends may still feel lonely. According to the World Health Organization, loneliness can lead to depression, negatively impact the quality of life, and shorten a person’s life span. 

Psychiatric service dogs can help seniors that suffer from severe mental health issues due to loneliness and depression. How Can Psychiatric Dogs Help Geriatric Mental Health? 

People seeking solutions for mental health problems in the elderly may find that psychiatric service dogs are excellent alternatives. They are great companions, and PSDs serve as a valid assistive option for older people with mental health disabilities. By offering both company and physical assistance, a psychiatric service dog can significantly alleviate psychiatric and neurological symptoms. 

Can Psychiatric Service Dogs Help with Dementia? 

PSDs help adults with Alzheimer’s disease or dementia safe in several ways. They can be trained to assist in routine activities like eating, dressing, or taking medications. A psychiatric service dog can also prompt people with dementia to perform their regular daily routines, which can help improve an older person’s quality of life. A psychiatric service dog can prevent an older adult from wandering or getting lost, either by guiding them home or alerting others. Additionally, a GPS locator can be attached to a PSD’s vest or collar, helping to alert loved ones if their older relative wanders away. 

Do Psychiatric Service Dogs Reduce Symptoms of Depression or Anxiety? 

Pet owners are typically less lonely than non-pet owners. However, psychiatric service dogs are more than pets. Although they do provide a close presence, they also perform tasks that can assist an older person in times of need. Normal pets can sometimes overwhelm older adults with mental illness because pets aren’t trained to work with their diagnosis. PSDs, on the other hand, are trained for the specific purpose of working with individuals who have a psychiatric or neurological health conditions. The dog will know when to jump into action and help their handler, making them an indispensable part of the handler’s life and safety.

Psychiatric Service Animals and Mental Health Services

A 2019 study published in the journal Frontiers of Veterinary Science found that 46% of psychiatric service dog owners saw their need for mental health services decrease. These PSDs typically performed more than one task for their owner, from grounding (94%) to blocking other people (42%). For older adults, a PSD can be a life-changing experience while also reducing the need for health services.

Improving Geriatric Mental Health with a PSD 

Caring for the elderly shouldn’t only consist of doctor’s visits, medications, and hospital beds. Sometimes, including treatments that are outside the box — like utilizing a psychiatric service dog — can reduce the need for medical care and keep older adults safe. A psychiatric service dog can not only help geriatric mental health, but it can boost their physical health and overall satisfaction with life.

See if your mental disability qualifies for a psychiatric assistance dog. Get an PSD Letter assessment from a licensed medical professional.


Humans have used dogs throughout history to help them with all kinds of life’s hardships. Whether it’s helping to gather sheep, pull sleds through thick snow, or protect the home, dogs have been at humanity’s side throughout the millennia.

Dogs are a human’s best friend, but it takes a special kind of dog to become a service dog. Service dogs are exceptionally well-trained dogs that perform tasks for a person with a physical or mental disability. For example, a service dog can help guide people with vision problems or detect impending seizures in someone with epilepsy. Becoming a service dog requires an intelligent, well-behaved, and attentive temperament. 

As remarkable as service dogs are, a psychiatric service dog (PSD) is exceptional. Psychiatric service dogs, which are trained to assist people with mental illnesses, are in a league of their own. For these dogs to perform their tasks well, their temperament and focus must be exceptional.

Psychiatric service dogs help to keep children with behavioral concerns from running away or wandering into danger. For people who struggle with self-injurious behaviors, psychiatric service dogs can assist in preventing them from hurting themselves. In the case of psychiatric service dogs, these canines not only have to be attentive, but they must also have the ability to act on a task without taking direction. This level of independence calls for the most intelligent — and perceptive — dogs.

Top 8 Psychiatric Service Dog Breeds

Although any dog can receive training as a service dog, it’s important to choose a dog with the right temperament, intelligence, and reliability. The following list is the nine best dog breeds for psychiatric dogs. 

1. Labrador Retriever 

Labradors are notoriously friendly, and they bond quickly with their owners. Their temperament is calm, confident, and friendly. Labrador Retrievers are known for being attentive and quick to respond. These dogs are classic service dogs, well-known for their high level of intelligence and alertness. Though hardworking, Labrador Retrievers are also easy-going and patient, qualities essential in psychiatric service dogs. 

2. Doberman Pinscher

Dobermans have a reputation for being guard dogs because of their stature and strength. However, Dobermans also make effective psychiatric service dogs. They’re eager to please and alert to their environment, enabling them to spot and halt impending mental health crises. Because they’re protective by nature, they bond very tightly with their owners and can intervene gently in cases of self-injury. 

3. American Boxer

American Boxers are sturdy and robust dogs built with compact muscle. They may appear more fitting as guard dogs, but these dogs also have a soft side. Their size allows them to intervene gently in mental health crises without hurting their owner. Protective, attuned to human behaviors, and loyal, American Boxers make ideal psychiatric service dogs. 

4. Poodle

Much more than a pretty face, Poodles are intelligent and highly trainable. Most Poodles have a peaceful temperament and aren’t prone to developing anxious traits. They’re also eager to please and highly perceptive, enabling them to notice psychological triggers and intervene. 

5. Labradoodle

Labradoodles are known for being attentive to their owner and eager to please. Very attuned to their owner’s emotions, they can respond and react to prevent unsafe situations. Labradoodles have high levels of intelligence and can adapt quickly to different environments. Laidback and calm, Labradoodles make an excellent choice as a psychiatric service dogs. 

Are you training your dog to become your Psychiatric Service Dog?Organize your training sessions by using this free sample Service Dog Training Log, provided by Service Dog Certifications.

6. Golden Retriever

Golden Retrievers add sunshine to anyone’s day. These dogs are sharp and quick to respond. Although Golden Retrievers seem more fun-loving than hard-working, they’re very task-oriented and want to please. Golden Retrievers are also quick to learn and respond well to positive reinforcement. With their intelligence and obedience, Golden Retrievers are great psychiatric service dog candidates. 

7. German Shepherd

German Shepherds, known for being courageous and sharp, are often utilized as police or military canines. These qualities make them ideal for law enforcement and useful as psychiatric service dogs. Their willingness to assist, observe nature, and obey can help in any mental health situation. It’s their loyalty, stable temperament, and gentle soul, however, that make German Shepherds superior psychiatric service dogs

8. Border Collie 

Border Collies are a herding breed, and their desire to look after their “flock” make them watchful and focused psychiatric service dogs. They are quick to intervene without becoming anxious and are naturally intuitive. Collies also function well in family environments because of their collaborative and affectionate nature. During downtime, Border Collies are also silly and love to snuggle, perfect for psychiatric disorders who require a little boost in mood. 

A Psychiatric Service Dog Is More than a Pet

Although pets, in general, may benefit the mental health of those they live with and emotional support animals (ESA) also provide comfort and companionship to people with mental health or emotional disorders, psychiatric service dogs go the extra mile to provide a task for their owners that, at a given time, might even save their life.

Whether it’s keeping an autistic child from straying or reminding a person with depression to take their medication, psychiatric service dogs enable people with psychiatric disorders to experience a better life. Like dogs have always done for humans, psychiatric service dogs help humans overcome life’s hardships.  

See if your mental or emotional disability qualifies for a psychiatric assistance dog. Get an PSD Letter assessment from a licensed medical professional.