Dog Training

Psychiatric Service Dogs – All Your Questions Answered

Service dogs are specially trained to aid people with different disabilities and impairments, such as hearing impairments, visual disabilities, physical conditions, and other invisible illnesses. Usually, a service dog is trained to help with one physical condition, but a psychiatric service dog can help with a wide range of mental health alignments, disorders, and impairments.

What is a psychiatric service dog?

psychiatric service dog (PSD) is a service dog that has the same legal rights as a traditional service dog, except they help patients with mental conditions, not physical disabilities. 

Although they provide a similar service to emotional support animals (ESA), a PSD can fly for free on a plane and are allowed in public spaces where ESAs otherwise wouldn’t be afforded access. 

best psychiatric service dogs

What specific rights do psychiatric service dogs have?

Psychiatric service dogs have the same access rights as service dogs. PSDs are allowed in businesses, state and local government buildings, and other organizations that are open to the public. However, your PSD must wear a vest, or the handler must provide ID to prove that their dog is a service animal. Otherwise, the handler won’t be able to enter the establishment.

Under the Fair Housing Act, PSDs and their handlers have the right to live in most types of housing, regardless if the landlord has put a “no pet” disclaimer in place. Handlers with a PSD do not have to pay a fee or deposit to have their service animal in their residence.

PSDs can fly in the airplane cabin with their owners without an extra fee. Handlers must provide documentation and certification that proves their PSD has been trained to assist with a disability and can stay calm during a flight. On taxis, trains, and buses, the handler won’t be asked to provide certification, but a vest will ensure that the handler won’t be denied transportation.

Who qualifies for a psychiatric service dog?

To be eligible for a psychiatric service dog, you must have a mental disorder, condition, or disability that limits your ability to be independent. The Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) states that “emotional or mental illness, and specific learning disabilities” qualify someone for a psychiatric service dog. More specifically, you’ll be eligible for a PSD if you are diagnosed with:

  • General Anxiety Disorder
  • Clinical or Manic Depression
  • Phobias
  • Attention-Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD/ADD)
  • Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD)
  • Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder (OCD)
  • Bi-Polar Disorder
  • Autism

Even if you’re diagnosed with one or more of the conditions listed in this article, that doesn’t automatically qualify you for a PSD. You must go through the process of finding a medical professional that can qualify you before you can train and register your PSD.

adhd and emotional support animals

How do I get qualified and register my psychiatric service dog?

A medical professional will assess each patient to determine if their psychiatric, mental, or intellectual disability requires a task-trained dog to assist them. If the patient only requires companionship, they’ll likely need an emotional support animal.

A service dog cannot be considered a service animal until they are individually trained to help with their owner’s disability.

To register your psychiatric service dog, follow these 2 steps:

  1. Train your dog to provide a task that helps with your disability. For example, if you have PTSD, your dog could be trained to calm you using deep pressure therapy. Handlers can train their own dog, house them in an organization, or purchase one.
  2. Register your dog with a service dog registration organization. Once your dog is trained, you can register them with an organization. Although it’s not legally necessary to do so, you’ll signal to the public that your PSD has the same rights as a service dog.

What is the required training for a psychiatric service dog?

There are multiple ways to determine whether your dog can perform their duties in public after training. To ensure your dog passes their training test, train them to:

  • Ignore distractions and stay calm around traffic, moving vehicles, and other areas.
  • Stay obedient in a busy area and not growl, bark, or lunge at other children or adults.
  • Stay by their handlers’ side and not pull on their leash or start to wander.

If your PSD can’t perform their tasks without becoming unruly, you may be asked to leave the establishment. Businesses have the right to remove service dogs if they become disruptive.

What tasks can a psychiatric service dog perform?

Psychiatric service dogs are indispensable to their owners as they are trained to help people with psychiatric disabilities function in their daily lives. The number of tasks a PDS can perform are endless and may be breed-specific, but they are commonly seen doing the following:

  • Relocation/Finding a Person or Place
  • Balance Assistance
  • Reorientation or Grounding
  • Navigation and Buffering Crowds
  • Medication Retrieval 
  • Alerting and Reacting to Sounds
  • Interrupting and Redirecting
  • Searching Rooms for Emotional Triggers
  • Routine Stabilization
  • Pressure Therapy and Tactile Stimulation

dog providing comfort to owner

A psychiatric service dog will perform different tasks depending on the patient’s mental illness, disorder, or alignment. For example, a PSD who works with someone suffering from PTSD will retrieve medications, interrupt destructive behaviors, and calm the handler. On the other hand, a depression PSD will provide comfort, tactile stimulation, and routine stabilization.

What types of psychiatric service dogs are available?

Any mental illness, disorder, or disability that qualifies a person for a PSD can find a psychiatric service dog that is trained for their alignment.

Let’s take a look at a notable example:

Attention-Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD/ADD) PSD

ADHD/ADD is one of the most researched disorders and yet is one of the most misunderstood by the public. ADHD and ADD don’t simply go away and can’t be solved by discipline alone. 

Although their symptoms may decrease in adulthood through socialization, the chemical imbalance in their brain caused by a lack of serotonin will always make sitting still, focusing, sleeping, remembering, organization, risk management, and mood regulation difficult. 

However, a PSD can help people with ADHD/ADD with medication retrieval, routine stabilization, exercise, and companionship. While some ADHD/ADD patients can live a relatively normal life with medication, others may need a PSD for extra support.

Bottom line

Dog are great companions, and when properly trained, can provide excellent support to people who have, through no fault of their own, encountered challenging life circumstances. 

No matter how gloomy life may be, there is support out there to help you or your loved ones through hard times.

We hope this article has provided you with insight and information about some of the support available through the use of adequately trained psychiatric service dogs.



Johni Barresto

Johni Barresto Is a father and animal lover. With a range of expertise in animal health, he decided to start Animal Heed. His passion is to share his knowledge to help animal owners worldwide. When not in front of his computer, he's out with his kids, teaching them the importance of animal care.

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