FAQs of Psychiatric Service Dog – Requirements and Training

May 18,2022

Unlike other service dogs (or assistance, guide dogs) that are trained to perform major everyday tasks for people with physical disabilities, Psychiatric Service Dogs (PSDs) are specially trained dogs that help people with psychiatric or mental health problems. Let’s take a closer look at these amazing companions.

What conditions could be assisted by a Psychiatric Service Dog?

Usually, a Psychiatric Service Dog can help the owner manage anxiety and panic attacks helping to relieve the symptoms. PSDs help with psychiatric conditions such as:

 • Post-traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD)

 • Bipolar Disorder

 • Anxiety

 • Severe Depression

 • Panic Attacks

 • Phobias

 • Obsessive-Compulsive Disorders (OCD)

 • Epilepsy or other seizure-related disorders

psychiatric service dog

Psychiatric Service Dog Training and Tasks

Each Psychiatric Service Dog is specifically trained to their handlers' personal needs based on their medical condition and may or may not include the tasks described below. Normally, a Psychiatric Service Dog is trained to provide:

Assistance in a medical crisis

- The dog is trained to retrieve a bag with medication from a specific location that he is taught to go to on command.

- The dog is trained to locate a purse with medication at home, in the office, or on a dresser, desk, or chair in the hotel room on command.

- The dog is trained to bring the handler a mobile phone.

- The dog is trained to go and get help in an emergency and to escort the emergency personnel to the handler’s location.

Treatment-Related assistance

- The dog is trained to wake up his/her handler or human partner

- The dog can be trained to remind the handler of the medication at a specific time of day

Assistance coping with emotional overload

- The dog is trained to soothe feelings of loneliness and sadness by licking the handler’s face

- The dog is trained to calm racing thoughts and irritability

- The dog is trained to provide deep pressure therapy during a panic attack.

- The dog is trained to repeatedly circle the handler to help create a comfortable distance.

Security enhancement tasks 

- The dog is trained to turn on the bedroom or hall lights or other lights if needed.

- The dog can be trained to open a locked door from the inside on command.

Can you train your own dog to be a Psychiatric Service Dog?

Most of the tasks listed above seem to be challenging. But they are possible. Some Psychiatric Service Dogs are trained by the handler - usually with the help of a professional trainer through assistance or service dog programs or courses.

The advanced training for Service Dogs refines the skills learned in the intensive service dog training. For example, the training of the Psychiatric Service Dog to retrieve beverages or medication is based on the Service Dog Retrieve training.

If you’re interested in training your own dog to be a PSD dog, talk to your doctor about your disability first and discuss which tasks and jobs your dog can specifically do to assist you on a daily basis.

Public Access Rights of Psychiatric Service Dogs

Psychiatric Service Dogs may be of any breed or size, and can go anywhere their handler goes.

Under federal law, PSDs can:

 • Accompany their owners into businesses that pets normally cannot enter

 • Live with their owners in traditional "no pet" housing

 • Fly in the cabin of an airplane with no additional

What's the difference between Psychiatric Service Dogs and Emotional Support Dogs (ESAs)?

The main difference between PSDs and ESAs is that Psychiatric Service Dogs are actually trained to perform specific tasks that are directly related to an individual’s psychiatric disability. Providing emotional support is only part of their jobs. They help the handler perform important tasks that they would otherwise not be able to perform independently. Besides, a Psychiatric Service Dog must be trained to recognize and respond to the handler’s need for help.

In contrast, an Emotional Support Dog is more likely to be a pet that is not trained to perform specific acts directly related to an individual’s psychiatric disability. 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.


While a dog’s companionship may offer emotional support, comfort, or a sense of security to people with mental illnesses or psychiatric disabilities, trained Psychiatric Service Dogs can be a wonderful source of mitigating the handler’s disabilities.

psychiatric service dog training