Posts Tagged ‘psychiatric service dogs’

A person with a mental illness may struggle to accomplish daily life activities. When in need, some individuals depend on family, friends, or caretakers, while others rely on Psychiatric Service Dog. A Psychiatric Service Dog is a support for a person with a mental illness to help complete their everyday tasks.

Definition of a Psychiatric Service Dog

A Psychiatric Service Dog falls under the category of Service Animals. These are dogs or miniature horses that assist a person with a disability with tasks that directly relate to their disorder. Per Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), a disability is a physical, medical, or mental disorder that impairs their daily activities. Originally, Service Dogs were only used for individuals with physical disabilities. As the number of other disorders grew, The ADA service dog laws conformed to the increasing numbers of people in need and began to allow Service Dogs for individuals with mental disabilities, and calling them Psychiatric Service Dogs. 

Service Dog watching over his owner in the pool Mental Illnesses a Psychiatric Service Dog can help with

To qualify for a Psychiatric Service Dog, a person must have a diagnosis of mental illness from a medical professional. Several mental illnesses qualify as a psychiatric diagnosis. Among those are:

Generalized Anxiety Disorder Panic Attacks Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder Eating Disorders Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD)  Schizophrenia Agoraphobia 

If you are interested in registering your trained psychiatric service dog, the below image is a helpful guide for service dog registration. We recommend saving this or sending it a loved one who may benefit from having a service dog.

The best breeds for Psychiatric Service Dogs

To find a Psychiatric Service Dog that fits the individual’s situation, they must look at several factors, such as breed, temperament, and trainability. Dog breeds that excel in this type of work and tend to enjoy service work are:

Labrador Retrievers German Shepherds Border Collies Poodles Golden Retrievers

These breeds share similar traits, such as high levels of trainability, desire to please, intense focus, and generally good temperament. These characteristics go a long way in training and allow them not only to learn the tasks needed by their handler but to form a strong bond. It’s important to choose a dog that enjoys working on specific tasks—if a dog struggles to learn new skills, or appears to be in distress while training, they may not be a good fit for service work.

Dogs with desirable working traits enjoy their responsibilities as Psychiatric Service Dog and will serve their handlers best. 

Golden Retrievers make great Psychiatric Service Dogs Tasks a Psychiatric Service Dog provides

Once a handler identifies their ideal Psychiatric Service Dog, they need to think about what the dog can do to assist them. Each disability has different factors that impact an individual’s daily life. The goal with a PSD is to discover what they can do to help ease or even eliminate the handler’s undesirable symptoms. What a Psychiatric Service Dog needs to do depends on their handler’s demands, which again depends on their mental illness. Here are some examples based on different mental disorders:

Fetching medication for a person with depression who is unable to leave their bed Accompanying a person who has agoraphobia to go outside Detecting a panic attack and providing physical comfort until it subsides Fetching a phone for a person with anxiety so they can reach out for help Providing physical stimulation for a person with obsessive-compulsive disorder to distract them from their rituals  Waking up a person with post-traumatic stress disorder who is experiencing nightmares or night terrors A Psychiatric Service Dog to fit

Thousands of individuals nationwide benefit from the assistance of a PSD. As everyone’s needs are different, each Service Dog is trained to complete distinct tasks that benefit their handlers. Continuous, honest communication with the therapist can help to determine what symptoms need extra support. And that insight will dictate what their Psychiatric Service Dog can do to help live their lives independently, safely, and as fulfilling as possible.

A Psychiatric Service Dog (PSD) is a Service Animal specifically trained to support individuals diagnosed with a mental illness. A well trained PSD is able to ease symptoms caused by the mental disability and can comfort their handler in times of distress.

In this article, we’ll cover how to be approved for a PSD, what to look for when selecting a dog, and how to train a Psychiatric Service Dog to become a handler’s life-saver.

Is there a registry for Psychiatric Service Dogs?

The Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) does not require any registration for Service Dogs. Psychiatric Service Dogs can accompany their handlers unmarked and without any id or paperwork. However, some handlers find it reassuring to register their Service Dogs and to purchase a vest and id. It helps them to communicate that their dog is, in fact, a working Service dog and their rights should be respected.

1) Speak with a Health Care Professional about Psychiatric Service Dogs

A Psychiatric Service Dog can only be acquired if a health professional gives a diagnosis of mental illness. According to the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), a Service Dog must be able to assist their handler with tasks that directly relate to their disability. To be eligible for a Psychiatric Service Dog the diagnosis may include:

Generalized Anxiety Disorder Depression Panic Attacks Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD)  Schizophrenia Agoraphobia 

With this diagnosis, an individual is allowed to get a Psychiatric Service Dog and train it to complete tasks that help them with their symptoms. 

2) Obtain your Psychiatric Service Dog 

When starting to look for a Psychiatric Service Dog several considerations are necessary. Most dogs have the potential of being a Service Dog but not every dog can perform the tasks their handlers require to help reduce the impact of the mental disorder.

Where to find a dog

To select the perfect Psychiatric Service Dog the two most common ways are:

Purchase from an organization that specifically trains PSDs. Adopt from a local animal shelter.

Either way, it is crucial to find a dog that is best suited for the work ahead. Among these considerations are the dog’s characteristics, breed as well as its age and health.


When choosing a dog, the handler must be aware of certain behavioral traits. While there are no specific regulations that a handler must follow, it’s important that the dog displays the following qualities:

Eager to please Easily trainable Non-aggressive Accepting of strangers Disciplined  Strong work ethic

Dogs with these traits tend to succeed as Service Dogs, as they want to please their handlers and enjoy learning new tasks. It is crucial to adopt a dog that enjoys working on specific tasks. It’s important not to choose a dog for the wrong reasons; handlers may need to change the PSD if they seem to be in distress while training or cannot comprehend the tasks they should perform.

A handler needs to take special consideration finding a Psychiatric Service Dog to guarantee they are a perfect fit for the challenges ahead. 


With the right characteristics, any dog has the potential to become a Psychiatric Service Dog. The ADA does not restrict breeds that qualify to become a Service Animal and therefore facilities and landlords do not have the right to exclude a Service Dog based on breed. However, among the dog breeds that generally excel in this type of work are:

Labrador Retrievers German Shepherds Border Collies Poodles Golden Retrievers

These breeds share traits, such as high levels of trainability, desire to please, intense focus, and generally good temperament. Dogs with these characteristics usually do well in training and are able to form a strong bond with their handlers.

Health and age

For any Service Animal, it is essential that they are in top health condition. Any health issue, such as diabetes or arthritis, could hinder the Psychiatric Service Dog of performing the tasks in the time needed and therefore become an additional burden in times of distress.

To get the best out of the Psychiatric Service Dog these points need to be recognized:

An inaugural visit to the vet is absolutely needed, to make sure the dog is in top condition. Once the PSD is in service, taking well care of them and revisiting the vet for regular checkups is necessary. All Service Dogs should be neutered. This will make males less aggressive and females without distraction when in heat. The dog should be at least 6 months old and more importantly have outgrown the puppy phase.

If the handler understands and can accommodate these prerequisites, finding the perfect Psychiatric Service Dog is merely a matter of time. However, it’s still only halfway through the process as the next, big step of training the dog will begin.

3) Train your Psychiatric Service Dog

Each dog will respond differently to learning the tasks needed; some are naturally intuitive and already understand what their handler needs, others might require several training sessions to master the complexity of the task. Therefore, a Psychiatric Service Dog doesn’t need to attend any specific training program. The only requirement is that the PSD is trained to perform tasks that directly relate to their handler’s disability.

For example a person living with anxiety could train their Psychiatric Service Dog to detect panic attacks. The PSD would alert its owner of an upcoming panic attack, and then work to comfort and support their handler until the attack subsides.

Using a reputable PSD trainer

Handlers might want to get the help of a professional Psychiatric Service Dog trainer if they are not confident enough to do all of the training themselves.

The cost of having the PSD trained professionally will differ based on the dog’s ability to learn and the complexity of the tasks needed. Talk to several potential trainers beforehand and get an estimate of the time and effort involved. However, the benefits of having a fully dependable Psychiatric Service Dog at hand could be worth every penny spent.

When looking for a trainer, handlers should put some research into the trainers available in their region. Getting recommendations from other individuals with PSDs are a safe way to be connected with a reputable trainer.

Train yourself

If the tasks at hand are easy, or the dog and their handler already have a strong bond, training themselves could be an option. Training might start with basic commands and slowly building up the skills until the PSD knows how to behave in public and stressful situations.

It is important that the Psychiatric Service Dog has enough confidence in performing the special task even in conditions when the handler might not be able to give proper instructions. Following a strict regimen will help the PSD to learn what is needed and to perform the tasks with few to no errors. 

As long as the Psychiatric Service Dog is able to complete the tasks directly related to the handler’s mental disability, it does not matter who trains them.

4) Be aware of the stipulations surrounding Psychiatric Service Dog

Per the ADA, handlers are allowed to bring their Service Dogs into pubic establishments that normally wouldn’t allow pets, such as:

Apartment complexes Hotels Restaurants Movie theaters Retail stores and markets

Although the ADA doesn’t require Psychiatric Service Dogs to be registered, handlers can bring their PSD unmarked into these buildings. Nevertheless, some handlers do prefer to register their Service Dogs to ensure that their rights will be respected. Establishment owners are unable to legally ask if a dog is a Service Animal. They are, however, allowed to ask two questions:

Does the dog assist the handler with a task related to their disability? And if so, what tasks do they perform?

Handlers should be prepared to answer the two questions but also remain aware of the limitations of what can be asked. 

Patience and knowledge will lead to the perfect Psychiatric Service Dog

The path to finding and training a Psychiatric Service Dogs for the tasks needed may be long. Still, once the PSD is ready and can help their handler to overcome symptoms caused by the mental disability, the handler’s life will become safer and more fulfilling.  

When most people think of service dogs, they usually envision a handler with a physical disability such as vision impairment or limited mobility. Service dogs, however, are also hard at work helping people with invisible disabilities. These service dogs are known as Psychiatric Service Dogs.

What is a Psychiatric Service Dog?

Psychiatric service dogs (PSDs) are a type of service animal with the same legal rights as service dogs that help with physical disabilities. PSDs are specially trained to help people with mental illnesses and learning disabilities. 

Psychiatric service dogs are also different from emotional support animals (ESAs), even though people frequently think they’re the same. PSDs have the same broad public access rights as other types of service dogs. PSDs may also fly on planes free of charge under the U.S. Department of Transportation’s (DOT) new rules, which go into effect on January 11th, 2021. 

In this article, we’ll explain what psychiatric service dogs are, who qualifies for one, and the type of work they do. We will also go over the legal rights and protections that PSD owners have under U.S. federal laws. 

Table of Contents How to Qualify for a PSD PSD Tasks PSD Access Rights Verifying a PSD Training a PSD Different Types of PSD How to Register your PSD Qualifying for a Psychiatric Service Dog

To be eligible for a psychiatric service dog, you must have a mental disability that substantially limits one or more major life activities. The ADA defines a mental disability as “any mental or psychological disorder” such as “emotional or mental illness, and specific learning disabilities.”  

Disabilities that can qualify for a Psychiatric Service Dog include:

Clinical depression Anxiety disorders Phobias Post-traumatic stress disorder  Attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorders Bi-polar disorder Obsessive compulsive disorder Autism 

In addition to having a psychiatric, intellectual, or other mental disability, the PSD’s handler must have a need for a task-trained dog to assist with their condition. The key difference between a psychiatric service dog and a normal dog is that a PSD must be trained to perform work relating to their handler’s disability.

If the PSD does not perform a task relating to the owner’s disability but provides comfort through its companionship during difficult times, it is more likely an emotional support animal. A dog cannot be considered a service dog until it has been individually trained to perform tasks that help with its owner’s disability. In the next section, we will give some examples of the tasks that PSDs are entrusted to perform. 

To register your Psychiatric Service Dog in the Database, click here: order a PSD ID card and certificate.

If you want to know if you qualify for a Psychiatric Service Dog, apply for your PSD Letter. Through our partner, we can connect you with a licensed healthcare provider so they may assist you. Psychiatric Service Dog Tasks

Psychiatric service dogs are indispensable to their owners. They are trained to do work that allows people with psychiatric disabilities to function in everyday life. There are too many of these tasks to list in one article, but below is a sample of the important jobs that PSDs perform. The most common tasks performed by Psychiatric Service Dogs are:

Balance Assistance – For those that may need the added security when walking (eg. those that may have to take tranquilizers to stay calm). Find a person/place – People who suffer from severe anxiety may become disorientated in a large crowd, a PSD can be trained to locate a person and place. Ground and reorient – A PSD can help ground their handler back into a more present state of mind during an anxiety attack.  Interrupt and Redirect – A PSD can help limit obsessive compulsive and self-destructive behaviors by interrupting or redirecting. Navigation and buffering – A PSD can provide a buffer and help guide their handler through stressful environments.  React/Alert to specific sounds – A PSD can alert their handler to smoke or security alarms along with unusual noises. Retrieve Medications – A PSD may pick up medication from a table or ring a bell as a reminder. Room Search – A PSD can be trained to perform a room search to help those that suffer hyper-vigilance caused by PTSD. Stabilize routines – A PSD can help their handler maintain healthy routines by, for example, preventing them from oversleeping or reminding them to do daily tasks.  Tactile stimulation and pressure therapy – A PSD can use touch or gentle pressure to provide calm and comfort to a handler that is in distress. 

No matter what task your PSD is trained to perform, you have a right to privacy and dignity when it comes to your disability and need for a service animal. Under the ADA, staff members at an establishment are prohibited from asking you to have your PSD to demonstrate the tasks that it has been trained to perform. 

Overview of Psychiatric Service Dog Access Rights

Psychiatric service dogs have the same access rights as other types of service dogs. Under the ADA, state and local governments, businesses, and other organizations that serve the public have to let psychiatric service dogs accompany their owners in all areas where the public is allowed to go. 

PSD handlers also have the right to live with their dogs in most types of housing under the Fair Housing Act. Owners of PSDs do not have to pay fees or deposits to their landlord or housing association in order to have a PSD in their residence. 

In addition, under the DOT’s air travel rules, PSDs are also allowed to fly in the cabin with their owners, free of charge. In order to fly with a PSD beginning on January 11th, 2021, airlines are allowed to ask PSD owners to submit a signed certification form prior to departure. The form requires the owner to make various certifications, including that their psychiatric service dog has been trained to assist with a disability and is capable of behaving on a flight. 

Below are examples of places a psychiatric service dog has access to:

Housing and lodging – apartment buildings, condos, co-ops, rentals, hotels, college dorms, short term rentals (AirBNB) Transportation – airplanes, taxis, and trains Public spaces – restaurants, bars, university campuses, offices, libraries, beaches, stores, parks, markets

No matter where you take your PSD, it’s always important to keep in mind that if your PSD is misbehaving it can be asked to leave the premises. Service animals can be denied entry if they are acting aggressively, barking or growling repeatedly, or causing an unsanitary condition. A psychiatric service dog has to be under the handler’s control at all times when out in public. 

Verifying a Psychiatric Service Dog

If you’re out in public or in an establishment and a staff person wants to verify that your canine is a psychiatric service dog, they are allowed to ask two questions under the ADA:

Is the dog a psychiatric service dog required because of a disability? What work or task has the PSD been trained to perform?

You do not have to identify your disability or demonstrate the task your PSD has been trained to do.

If you’re flying with your psychiatric service dog, airlines starting on January 11th, 2021, can ask you to submit a certification form. The form requires the PSD owner to make various certifications on a federal form. This includes certifying that their PSD has been trained to perform tasks and behave in public settings. Airplane and airport staff can also ask the two questions above to verify a dog is a PSD.

In addition, the DOT has stated that airlines can observe the behavior of the dog to see whether it remains under the control of its handler. If the dog is disruptive or out of control, that may be evidence the dog has not yet been successfully trained to be in public. 

Lastly, the DOT also allows airlines to look at paraphernalia such as harnesses, vests, and tags to determine whether a dog is a PSD. Having these items can be helpful in indicating your dog is a PSD and is one indicator staff can determine whether they are dealing with a service animal. PSD owners find these accessories especially useful because they suffer from invisible disabilities. Having their PSD outfitted with appropriate paraphernalia helps to cut off unwanted approaches from strangers and broadcasts that their dog is on duty. Keep in mind however that accessories alone do not make a PSD – that comes from appropriate training and a disability-related need. 

Training a Psychiatric Service Dog 

To train a dog to become a psychiatric service dog, you need patience and dedication. Both the ADA and the DOT’s rules permit owners to self-train their psychiatric service dogs. If you’re not comfortable training your own dog, however, you can hire a professional trainer or reach out to an organization. Note however that there is no “official” training program for PSDs, although there are entities that issue guidelines and suggestions. 

In addition to being trained to perform the task related to a handler’s disability, a PSD must always be under the control of its owner. Under the ADA’s rules, a PSD must be harnessed, leashed, or tethered at all times, unless that would interfere with the PSD’s ability to work (in which case, the handler can use other means of control like voice commands or physical signals). For air travel, a PSD must always be harnessed, leashed, or tethered and not engage in disruptive behavior. 

Tracking Training Milestones

There are important milestones a PSD owner should track to determine whether their Psychiatric Service Dog is ready to be taken in public:

Can the PSD ignore distractions? Is the PSD obedient even in busy areas? Does the PSD run after or lunge at other people and animals? Is the PSD calm when around children and other animals? Is the PSD able to maintain its focus on the handler even with the presence of food and treats? Does the PSD growl or bark uncontrollably? Can the PSD remain on task in loud, crowded places? Is the PSD calm around moving vehicles and traffic?

These are just some of the tests you should make sure your PSD can pass with flying colors before going out in public. A PSD that is unruly can be asked to leave an establishment. Of greater concern, a poorly trained PSD may not be able to perform the critical duties it has been entrusted with if it is not accustomed to a particular environment. 

Different Types of Psychiatric Service Dogs

There are many types of psychiatric service dogs that serve individuals with a wide range of invisible disabilities. Below are just a few examples: 

Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) Psychiatric Service Dog

Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder may affect those that have gone through an extremely stressful or life-changing situation. Many people who suffer from PTSD use psychiatric service dogs to help treat their symptoms. Some of the tasks a PSD can perform for someone with PTSD include: 

Help block and buffer the handler in crowded areas Calm the handler using deep pressure therapy Retrieve medications Provide security enhancement tasks (such as room search) Interrupt destructive behaviors Depression Psychiatric Service Dog

People who suffer from severe depression oftentimes do not want to leave their homes and find it difficult to engage in life activities. They have constant negative thoughts and are sometimes suicidal. PSDs help chronically depressed people get back to living a normal life by:

Providing comfort with responsive touch Retrieving medications (and reminding the handler to take them) Providing tactile stimulation by licking the face when the handler is distressed Helping the handler establish a daily routine Preventing the handler from oversleeping or being too sedentary  Anxiety Psychiatric Service Dog

Anxiety can strike us at any time, but for those that have chronic anxiety, it can be debilitating. This condition can create excessive uneasiness and apprehension and may lead to compulsive behaviors or panic attacks. A PSD can be trained to help anxiety attacks by:

Keeping the person grounded by licking or pawing Applying deep pressure therapy (for example, by lying across the handler’s body) Recognizing the signs of an impending panic attack Retrieving medications Leading the handler out of a building Alerting a loved one Finding/bringing a telephone Blocking people from crowding the handler  How Do I Register My Psychiatric Service Dog?

If you have a psychiatric service dog, you may benefit from voluntarily registering your animal with and obtaining service animal paraphernalia. Under ADA rules, registering a service animal does not confer legal rights, but registrations and service animal accessories are routinely used by handlers for their personal convenience. 

As someone with an invisible disability, you may want a method for strangers or workers to understand immediately that your animal companion is not just a pet or an emotional support animal. Not only does this help set proper boundaries, PSD registration and accessories can also help protect your privacy by eliminating the need to answer unwelcome questions. Keep in mind this is completely optional and does not substitute for proper training and professional help in evaluating a psychiatric condition. 

Vests, tags, ID cards, harnesses, and other service animal gear are designed to help you enter public spaces with your PSD with confidence. These items also help ward off annoying and potentially unsafe approaches by strangers and children who may not realize your PSD is a working animal and not a pet. Service Dog Certifications can keep your psychiatric service dog’s information in its registration database and issue an identification ID card, certificate, or vest, depending on your needs. 

How to Register your Psychiatric Service Dog

Train your dog to provide a task to aid in your disability.

Your Psychiatric Service Dog can be trained to perform a number of different tasks and it is dependent on your individual needs.

Consider the benefits of Registering Your Psychiatric 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.

Enter your Psychiatric Service Dog’s information into the registration database and order the appropriate identification ID card, certificate, or vest.

Service Dog Certifications can provide you with the proper identification for your Psychiatric Service Dog like vests, ID badges, and a certificate stating your need for the service animal. These all come in handy when taking your PSD into public places, as you may be asked for proof of your PSD.