Psychiatric Service Dog

Psychiatric service dogs are a category of service animals trained to perform specific tasks for people with disabilities due who suffer from a mental health illness. Psychiatric service dogs should not be mistaken for emotional support dogs, as they fulfill a service rather than provide overall comfort. Emotional Support Animals can be various domesticated species like cats, dogs, birds, miniature horses, and goats.

How does a Psychiatric Service Dog work?

These dogs are often used to help people overcome post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), anxiety and panic disorders, depression, bipolar disorder, and a few other conditions. The Psychiatric Service Dog is trained to recognize cues like a particular body movement, hand movement, facial expressions, and tone of voice. The Psychiatric Service Dogs can use pawing to move their user’s focus to them, pull on their clothes to dissuade repetitive behavior, give kisses and bark to ground their handler, as well as press their entire body to a person and hug them which is a technique called Deep Pressure Stimulation. This technique is based on firm but gentle squeezing, hugs, or holding that relaxes the nervous system. This pressure can be applied with the hands, paws, special massage tools, or products that provide pressure. This type of therapy is known to triggers a chain reaction in the nervous system that releases an overall sense of calm and peace.

What can I expect?

This type of service dog is often seen with army veterans and is maybe the second most popular type of service dog along with guide dogs and hearing aid dogs that most of us know about. Psychiatric service dogs are amazing at detecting depression, anxiety, panic attacks, and symptoms of PTSD and grounding their user. This type of service dog can help a person enjoy significantly reduced depression episodes and obsessive disorder symptoms. Caring for a Psychiatric Service Dog has been observed to build confidence, self-esteem and improve social connections.

How to choose a service dog candidate for training?

There are no particular breed, weight, and sex restrictions when we talk about Psychiatric Service Dogs, however, you should choose a friendly and obedient animal that will suit your lifestyle. Some dogs are not suited to a less active lifestyles and small homes, please keep that in mind. Animal-assisted therapy is considered to be a viable tool in helping people with psychiatric disorders as mentioned in the paper titled “Animal-Assisted Therapy with Farm Animals for Persons with Psychiatric Disorders: Effects on Anxiety and Depression, a Randomized Controlled Trial” from 2011.

We have a great course for dog owners who may consider training and using a Psychiatric Service Dog in their life here: