Psychiatric Service Dogs

Dog helping with PTSD, Anxiety & Depression

Understanding the Differences: Therapy Dogs, Emotional Support Animals, and Psychiatric Service Dogs

It’s important to distinguish the unique roles and benefits of therapy dogs, emotional support animals (ESA), and psychiatric service dogs (PSD) to better understand their respective contributions.

Therapy Dogs are beloved pets that have undergone temperament testing, behavioral training, and registration with a therapy dog organization. They bring comfort and companionship to individuals in settings like nursing homes, hospitals, and schools. Typically, therapy dog owners volunteer their time to share the positive impact of their furry companions. It’s essential to note that therapy dogs are not classified as service dogs and do not possess public access rights.

Emotional Support Animals (ESAs) provide comfort and support to their owners by simply being present. They do not receive specific training for particular tasks. While ESAs are recognized within housing laws, they do not possess public access rights.

Service Dogs, according to the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), are trained to assist individuals with disabilities. For psychiatric service dogs (PSD), these highly trained canines help individuals with mental illnesses function more effectively. PSDs are specifically trained to perform tasks that mitigate their handler’s disability. For example, a PSD may alert before a panic attack and provide deep pressure therapy assistance to a handler experiencing anxiety or OCD behaviors, or even assist in getting help. ADA guidelines emphasize that service dogs must undergo specific training to perform tasks directly related to their handler’s disability, and they must be individually needed by their handler.

By understanding the distinctions among therapy dogs, emotional support animals, and psychiatric service dogs, individuals can make informed decisions regarding the type of support that best aligns with their needs.

What conditions could be helped by a Psychiatric Service Dog?

  • Anxiety
  • Depression
  • Bipolar disorders
  • Panic attacks
  • Social phobias & agoraphobia
  • Obsessive Compulsive Disorders (OCD)
  • Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD)

“The ADA defines a person with a disability as a person who has a physical or mental impairment that substantially limits one or more major life activity.” To qualify for a service dog, you must be diagnosed with a disability. Depression, stress, or anxiety are only considered a disability if they limit what you can do. For instance, some people cannot go to the store on their own. Others can’t leave their homes, can’t work, or go to public places when it’s crowded. If you have depression or anxiety but are still able to go through your day without limitations, you do not qualify for a service dog under the ADA.

The dog must allow you to go places and face situations that you would not be able to without a service dog.

What are Psychiatric Service Dogs trained to do?

Trained tasks for psychiatric service dogs


  • Wake up his/her person
  • Provide tactile stimulation
  • Facilitate social interactions and reduce fears associated with being around people
  • Serve as a buffer to help the person cope with being in a crowd
  • Help the person calm down when agitated
  • Wake up a person having nightmares
  • Grounding a person dealing with fears and anxiety and helping him/her get back to the here & now
  • Help create a safe personal space
  • Get medication and water when the person cannot
  • Get help 
  • Provide balance assistance
  • Remind a person to take medication and nag until it’s done
  • Disrupt emotional overload.

What does science say?


A 2009 survey of the effectiveness of Psychiatric Service Dogs in the treatment of PTSD in veterans by Dr. Gillett and R. Weldrick, BA, at McMaster University revealed that 82% of those partnered with a service dog reported a reduction in their symptoms and 40% took less medication.

Enhancing Lives: The Benefits of Psychiatric Service Dogs

Psychiatric service dogs (PSD) offer a multitude of benefits to individuals seeking assistance with mental health conditions. These remarkable canines not only provide invaluable support but also promote personal growth and improved well-being.

One of the significant advantages of having a PSD is the encouragement they provide. These dogs offer a reason to start the day, motivating individuals to be more active, go for walks, and engage in social interactions. By assisting in maintaining a routine, PSDs contribute to a sense of structure and purpose in daily life.

Beyond addressing clinical symptoms, studies have shown that PSDs have a profound impact on emotional well-being. For individuals with conditions like post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) or anxiety disorders, a PSD can help alleviate feelings of loneliness, sadness, and isolation. They have the remarkable ability to calm racing thoughts and irritability, while also reducing aggression and agitation.

Our PSDs undergo comprehensive training, including the mastery of behaviors required to pass the Public Access Test and surpass the minimum standards set by the International Association of Assistance Dogs Partners (IAADP). This means that you can confidently and reliably bring your service dog to various settings, such as work, school, malls, and restaurants, knowing they have the necessary skills to navigate public spaces safely.

With their invaluable assistance and unwavering companionship, PSDs can significantly enhance the lives of individuals facing mental health challenges. Experience the transformative benefits of a psychiatric service dog and embrace a brighter, more fulfilling journey towards improved emotional well-being.