Psychiatric Service Dog
A Psychiatric Service Dog is like any other service dog. It is specially trained to do very specific tasks for the person with a mental illness.
It’s important to note that the Psychiatric Service Dog may also be called an Emotional Service Dog, but they are not the same as an Emotional Support Animal. Psychiatric service dogs are there to perform tasks that enable its handler to function in a normal ordinary fashion.
In this post, we will cover what you need to know about the Psychiatric Service Dog, the most common conditions these dogs can help with and how they can assist their handler.
Overview of Psychiatric Service Dogs & Access Rights
To be eligible for a Psychiatric Service Dog you must have a mental disability as defined by the Americans With Disabilities Act. The ADA defines a mental disability as;
“Any mental or psychological disorder, such as mental retardation, organic brain syndrome, emotional or mental illness, and specific learning disabilities.”
Once you have been accepted and have obtained your PSD, you are not required to disclose your disability to anyone OR provide proof. This is different from the ESA where you may be asked for proof under Federal Law.
Service Dogs for Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD)
Post Traumatic Stress Disorder is classified as an anxiety disorder. It may affect those that have gone through an extremely stressful or life-threatening situation. PTSD has been successfully treated with the aid of a Psychiatric Service Dog. Some of the tasks these specially trained canines can do are;
- Help block person in crowded areas
- Calm the handler using deep pressure therapy
- Retrieve medications
- Provide security enhancement tasks (such as room search)
- Interrupting destructive behaviors
Service Dogs for Depression
People who suffer from severe depression often times do not want to leave their home. They have constant negative thoughts and are sometimes suicidal. A PSD can help the depressed person get back to living a normal life by;
- Providing comfort and support
- Retrieving medications
- Providing tactic stimulation by licking the face
- Recognize the signs of a panic attack
- Gives the person a sense of purpose (dog must be fed, walked, etc.)
Service Dogs for Anxiety
Anxiety can strike us at any time, but for those that have chronic anxiety, life can be difficult. This condition can create excessive uneasiness and apprehension and will typically lead to compulsive behavior or panic attacks. A PSD can be trained to help this condition by;
- Keeping the person grounded by licking or pawing
- Applying deep pressure therapy (dog lies across the handler’s body)
- Recognizing the signs of a panic attack
- Retrieving medications
- Leading person out of a building
- Alerting a loved one
- Finding/bringing a telephone
- Blocking people from crowding you
How Do I Register My Psychiatric Service Dog?
Step #1 – Train your dog to provide a psychiatric service dog task
Your PSD can be trained to perform a number of different tasks (we touched on some of these earlier) and it is dependant on your individual needs. The most common tasks the Psychiatric Service Dog performs are;
- Guide the handler – this may be required if the person suffers from a dissociative disorder.
- Find a person/place – people who suffer from severe anxiety may become disorientated in a large crowd, The PSD is trained to locate a people and places.
- Room Search – the PSD can be trained to perform a room search to help those that suffer hypervigilance caused by PTSD.
- React/Alert to specific sounds – alert the person to smoke or security alarms.
- Interrupt and Redirect – obsessive compulsive destructive behaviors
- Balance Assistance – for those that may need the added security when walking (eg. those that may have to take tranquilizers to stay calm).
- Retrieve Medications
Register Your Service Dog
Once your dog is trained you may want to register it with a service dog registration organization. Although it is not legally necessary to register your PSD, there are benefits to doing so. These organizations can provide you with the proper identification for your Psychiatric Service Dog like vests, ID badges and a certificate of registration. These all come in handy when taking your service dog into public places as you may be asked for proof of your service dog certification. In addition, be sure to only register your service dog with a reputable organization to ensure your service dog certification is legitimate.
Get Back to Living
Having a trained service dog means you can get back to living. You can travel with confidence knowing your canine companion will be there to help you through any situation you may find yourself in.
PSD or ESA?
If you suffer from a mental or emotional disability and don’t have the resources to train a canine for service, you may be eligible for an emotional support dog/animal. The ESA is there to provide you with comfort and unconditional love, but will not be trained to do any specific task. Ask your mental health professional if an ESA may be right for you and your treatment plan.
Psychiatric Service Dogs Work
Don’t live another day with a severe mental or emotional disability when Psychiatric Service Dogs work! They are so much more than “just a pet.” The PSD is there to calm you down, retrieve your medications and allow you the freedom you need to live a normal life.