dogs are specially trained to assist individuals
with psychiatric disabilities; these dogs are most
often placed with people struggling with
depression. In order to qualify for a psychiatric
service dog, the individual’s condition must reach
the clinical level, meaning the diagnosis must
meet the criteria specified in the theDiagnostic
and Statistical Manual (DSM-IV).
Depression can be
the result of one of many or a confluence of
sources; whether it is yoked to the difficulties
associated with living with autism or is a
distinct issue, a service dog can help. Service
dogs offer many therapeutic benefits for those
struggling with depression from alleviating
symptoms associated with anxiety and concerns
about going outside or other social
interactions. Because of their versatility and
wide range of benefits for those struggling with
psychiatric disorders, service dogs are frequently
trained for this purpose; there are almost 10,000
trained Psychiatric Service Dogs in the United
States (sometimes called Mental Health Service
dogs and their services are covered by the
Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), as well as
Minnesota state statutes. These dogs are not pets
but are working dogs with rights to be taken
anywhere that the general public is allowed to go.
This includes all forms of public transportation
(including riding with their partner in the
passenger compartment of airplanes), churches,
restaurants, stores, and hospitals.
Psychiatric service dogs are specifically trained
to help individuals deal with the symptoms of
their disabilities. Individuals with one of the
following psychiatric conditions (although this is
not an exhaustive list) can respond well to the
benefits associated with psychiatric service dogs:
- Bipolar Disorder
- Severe Depression or Anxiety
- Panic Attacks
- Agorahobia, Social Phobias
- Extreme Separation Anxiety
- Emotional Behavioral Disorders (EBD)
- Obsessive Compulsive Disorders (OCD)
- Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder
- Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD)
Note - for PTSD, we have aseparate
page with more info
show that a Psychiatric Service Dog can:
- Lessen perception of physical
Therapies in Clinical Practice, Braun, C.,
Stangler, T., Narveson, J., &
Pettingell, S. (2009). 15(2), 105-109.
of Holistic Nursing: Official Journal of the
American Holistic Nurses' Association Sobo,
E. J., Eng, B., & Kassity-Krich, N.
(2006). , 24(1), 51-57.
- Decrease agitation and
Journal of Nursing Research, McCabe, B.
W., Baun, M. M., Speich, D., &
Agrawal, S. (2002). 24(6), 684-696.
- Increase social interaction and
ability to manage daily living.
Psychogeriatrics/IPA. Filan, S. L., &
Llewellyn-Jones, R. H. (2006). 18(4),
- Lower blood pressure and heart
Medicine, Allen, K., Blascovich, J., &
Mendes, W. B. (2002). 64(5), 727-739.
- Decrease loneliness.
Journals of Gerontology, Series A,
Biological Sciences and Medical Sciences.
Banks, M. R., & Banks, W. A. (2002).
- Ease anxiety or depression.
Journal of Critical Care: An Official
Publication, American Association of
Critical-Care Nurses. Cole, K. M.,
Gawlinski, A., Steers, N., & Kotlerman,
J. (2007). 16(6), 575-585; quiz 586;
A Psychiatric Service Dog can help:
- Remind the handler to take his or her
organization by reminding the handler to perform
her or his daily routines.
- Wake the handler to prevent him or her from
sleeping too much (hypersomnia).
- Provide tactile stimulation
- Reassure handler, both at home and in public
- Facilitate social interactions and reduce fear
associated with meeting new people
- Assist handler in creating a safe personal
- Assist handler when dealing with mood swings
- Serve as a buffer to calm handler and reduce
feelings of emotional distress in crowded places
- Helping handler to calm down when agitated
- Reorienting and "grounding" handlers to
current place and time when struggling with PTSD
dogs can also help in ways that are not particular
to a specific diagnosis. During a manic episode,
psychiatric service dogs assist the handler by
providing tactile stimulation. This can calm
racing thoughts, sooth irritability, and alleviate
hyper-focus and hyper-locomotion.
In addition to aiding
handlers with clinical symptoms, psychiatric
service dogs can help with more general symptoms,
such as sadness and loneliness, by initiating
walks outside the home, and showing the handler
affection. The dogs can:
- Assist the handler when he or she tries to to
relax (self-soothe) in order to complete
- Provide companionship while in stores and
other environments can reduce stress associated
with daily activities.
- Alert when the handler is starting to
experience anxiety problems reminding the
handler to take his or her medication.
- Encourage handler to be more social by getting
him or her out of the house for walks. Walks
also increase the amount of exercise the handler
gets and improves his or her ability to
self-sooth if they are struggling with insomnia,
or having anxiety issues.
- Help handler keep a constant schedule and will
be a reason to get out of bed in the morning
(walks, relieve themselves).