Psychiatric Service Dogs or PSDs – The Easiest Guide to Understanding
When most people think of service dogs, they usually envision a handler with a physical disability such as vision impairment or limited mobility. However, service dogs that perform certain tasks or work to help individuals with unseen or unnoticed disabilities are known as Psychiatric Service Dogs or PSDs.
This guide covers the basic elements of what psychiatric service dogs are, who qualifies for one, and what type of work PSDs perform. PSDs have legal rights and protections under federal and local laws.
What Is a Psychiatric Service Dog or PSD?
A psychiatric service dog (PSD) is a type of service animal that is trained to perform a specific task with the same legal rights as service dogs that help with physical and psychiatric disabilities. PSDs are specially trained to help people with diagnosed psychological disabilities and learning disabilities.
What Are the Types of Service Dogs?
There are three types of service dogs: 1. Psychiatric Service Dogs (PSDs), 2. Medical Alert and Response Service Dogs, and 3. Mobile/Physical Assistance Service Dogs. Each type of service dogs is trained to provide a specific task, response, or job to assistance the individual.
The chart below outlines these three types of service dogs and their corresponding support to individuals with diagnosed disabilities:
|Psychiatric Service||Medical Alert & Response||Mobile & Physical Service|
| Anxiety Disorder|
Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD)
Fear & Phobias Autism
| High Blood Pressure|
Diabetes Type II & I High Cholesterol Panic Attacks Neurological Distress Night Terrors
| Wheelchair Bound |
Blind or Seeing Impaired Deaf or Hearing Impaired Arthritis
Multiple Sclerosis MS Amputation
Mobile and physical service dogs are easily identified since physical disabilities are commonly observable. Yet, psychiatric service dogs support individuals with unseen or unnoticeable disabilities that are psychological or emotional in nature.
For example, an individual that has experienced a traumatic event like abuse may be diagnosed with post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). This individual may experience significant disruptions in their daily life. Panic attacks, night terrors, and a significant increase in anxiety are common for individuals with PTSD. Yet, a psychiatric service dog (PSD) may help individuals overcome or better cope with these disruptions. PSDs are beneficial to those individuals who appropriately require one.
Click the button below to see if you qualify for a PSD in a quick 3-minute assessment:
Is a Psychiatric Service Dog (PSDs) and an Emotional Support Animal (ESA) the Same Thing?
PSDs are different from emotional support animals (ESAs). PSDs have the same public access rights just as the other types of service dogs, while ESAs have limits to public access. PSDs are able to fly on planes free of charge on all major airlines in the United States and Canada.
Service dogs, like PSDs, have specific rights that differ from ESAs and Therapy Dogs. While they can be a great source of support, dealing with the logistics of having psychiatric service dog can be tricky at times. There is a lot of confusion about the difference between emotional support animals and service dogs, as well as which places emotional support animals get access to legally. This chart provides a brief overview of these rights:
How Do I Qualify for a Psychiatric Service Dog or PSD?
To be eligible for a psychiatric service dog, you must have a mental disability that substantially limits one or more major life activities. A psychological or mental disability is any mental or psychological diagnosis such as emotional or mental disorder, and specific learning disabilities.
The only way to determine if Psychiatric Service Dog (PSD) is right for you is to complete a free assessment and/or speak with your healthcare provider. If you have any of the above conditions, then you may benefit by registering your dog as. PSD today. All you need to qualify for a PSD is to receive a diagnosis from your doctor or mental health professional of a disability. We can also help with this diagnosis.
If you want to know if you qualify for a Psychiatric Service Dog, see if you qualify and register your dog as a PSD.
What are the Required Psychiatric Service Dog Tasks?
Psychiatric service dogs (PSDs) are indispensable to their owners since they are trained to do work that allows individuals with psychiatric disabilities to function in everyday life. There are too many of these tasks to list in one area, but below is a sample of the important jobs that PSDs perform. The most common tasks performed by Psychiatric Service Dogs are:
- Balance Assistance – For those that may need the added security when walking (eg. those that may have to take tranquilizers to stay calm).
- Find a Person/Place – People who suffer from severe anxiety may become disorientated in a large crowd, a PSD can be trained to locate a person and place.
- Ground and Reorient – A PSD can help ground their handler back into a more present state of mind during an anxiety attack.
- Interrupt and Redirect – A PSD can help limit obsessive compulsive and self-destructive behaviors by interrupting or redirecting.
- Navigation and Buffering – A PSD can provide a buffer and help guide their handler through stressful environments.
- React/Alert to Specific Sounds – A PSD can alert their handler to smoke or security alarms along with unusual noises.
- Retrieve Medications – A PSD may pick up medication from a table or ring a bell as a reminder.
- Room Search – A PSD can be trained to perform a room search to help those that suffer hyper-vigilance caused by PTSD.
- Stabilize Routines – A PSD can help their handler maintain healthy routines by, for example, preventing them from oversleeping or reminding them to do daily tasks.
- Tactile Stimulation and Pressure Therapy – A PSD can use touch or gentle pressure to provide calm and comfort to a handler that is in distress.
No matter what task your PSD is trained to perform, you have a right to privacy and dignity when it comes to your disability and need for a service animal. Employees at an establishment like a restaurant or airport are prohibited from asking you to have your PSD to demonstrate the tasks that it has been trained to perform.
What are the Different Kinds of Psychiatric Service Dogs or PSDs?
There are many types of psychiatric service dogs that serve individuals with a wide range of invisible disabilities. Below are just a few examples:
Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) Psychiatric Service Dog
Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder may affect those that have gone through an extremely stressful or life-changing situation. Many people who suffer from PTSD use psychiatric service dogs to help treat their symptoms. Some of the tasks a PSD can perform for someone with PTSD include:
- Help block and buffer the handler in crowded areas
- Calm the handler using deep pressure therapy
- Retrieve medications
- Provide security enhancement tasks (such as room search)
- Interrupt destructive behaviors
Depression Psychiatric Service Dog
People who suffer from severe depression oftentimes do not want to leave their homes and find it difficult to engage in life activities. They have constant negative thoughts and are sometimes suicidal. PSDs help chronically depressed people get back to living a normal life by:
- Providing comfort with responsive touch
- Retrieving medications (and reminding the handler to take them)
- Providing tactile stimulation by licking the face when the handler is distressed
- Helping the handler establish a daily routine
- Preventing the handler from oversleeping or being too sedentary
Anxiety Psychiatric Service Dog
Anxiety can strike us at any time, but for those that have chronic anxiety, it can be debilitating. This condition can create excessive uneasiness and apprehension and may lead to compulsive behaviors or panic attacks. A PSD can be trained to help anxiety attacks by:
- Keeping the person grounded by licking or pawing
- Applying deep pressure therapy (for example, by lying across the handler’s body)
- Recognizing the signs of an impending panic attack
- Retrieving medications
- Leading the handler out of a building
- Alerting a loved one
- Finding/bringing a telephone
- Blocking people from crowding the handler
How Do You Verify a Psychiatric Service Dog?
Verification of a psychiatric service dog is critical to ensuring someone is not bother or harassed. Registration cards, certificates of PSD, service dog harness/vest, and medical documentation are a great way to help identify and verify your dog as a PSD. We offer these items to qualified clients, which helps to keep your dog identified and verified especially when in public and traveling on an airplane.
To further verify a psychiatric service dog, employees or someone in public is allowed to ask two specific questions without it being considered harassment or a violation of the law:
- Is the dog a psychiatric service dog required because of a disability?
- What work or task has the PSD been trained to perform?
You do not have to identify your disability or demonstrate the task your PSD has been trained to do.
How Do I Train My Dog as a Psychiatric Service Dog or PSD?
To train a dog to become a psychiatric service dog, you need patience and dedication. The law permits individuals to self-train their psychiatric service dogs or PSD. Our services offer validation of this training based on the individual’s attestation of the proper training. Professional dog trainers and training organizations offer a multitude of trainings which may be effective (but also expensive). Note however that there is no “official” training program for PSDs, although there are entities that issue guidelines and suggestions.
In addition to being trained to perform the task related to a handler’s disability, a PSD must always be under the control of its owner. A PSD must be harnessed, leashed, or tethered at all times, unless that would interfere with the PSD’s ability to work (in which case, the handler can use other means of control like voice commands or physical signals). For air travel, a PSD must always be harnessed, leashed, or tethered and not engage in disruptive behavior.
Many service dog organizations do provide training or the availability of an already trained psychiatric service dog (PSD) for a typical cost ranging from $20,000 to $40,000. Professional dog trainers are a great option when you need help specifying the task that your dog must perform. Additionally, simply internet searches on YouTube offer free at-home tutorials to ensure the success of your PSD.
What are the Essentials for Self-Training a Psychiatric Service Dog or PSD?
There are two main benchmarks to help you identify your dog as fully compliant as a psychiatric service dog or PSD.
- The American Kennel Club’s Canine Good Citizen Test: The PSD follows simple commands when in public.
- PSD Conducts Specialized Task: The PSD completes a task that an individual self-trains their dog to perform to best address a need of a disability.
There are important milestones a individuals should track to determine whether their Psychiatric Service Dog (PSD) is ready to be taken in public:
- Can the PSD ignore distractions?
- Is the PSD obedient even in busy areas?
- Does the PSD run after or lunge at other people and animals?
- Is the PSD calm when around children and other animals?
- Is the PSD able to maintain its focus on the handler even with the presence of food and treats?
- Does the PSD growl or bark uncontrollably?
- Can the PSD remain on task in loud, crowded places?
- Is the PSD calm around moving vehicles and traffic?
How Do I Register My Psychiatric Service Dog or PSD?
If you have a psychiatric service dog, you may benefit from voluntarily registering your animal with us and obtaining service animal documentation. Registering a service animal does not confer legal rights, but registrations and service animal accessories are routinely used by handlers for their personal convenience. Our process is seamless, confidential, and easy. Here are the three simple steps to register your PSD:
As someone with an invisible disability, you may want a method for strangers or workers to understand immediately that your animal companion is not just a pet or an emotional support animal. Not only does this help set proper boundaries, PSD registration and accessories can also help protect your privacy by eliminating the need to answer unwelcome questions. Keep in mind this is completely optional and does not substitute for proper training and professional help in evaluating a psychiatric condition.
Vests, tags, ID cards, harnesses, and other service animal gear are designed to help you enter public spaces with your PSD with confidence. These items also help ward off annoying and potentially unsafe approaches by strangers and children who may not realize your PSD is a working animal and not a pet. Service Dog Certifications can keep your psychiatric service dog’s information in its registration database and issue an identification ID card, certificate, or vest, depending on your needs.
How Much Does It Cost to Register a Psychiatric Service Dog or PSD?
We have partnered with Affirm to bring you affordable monthly packages so you may have more money in your budget. Checkout each package and see the estimated monthly cost.
How Do I Fly on Airplane with My Psychiatric Service Dog or PSD?
Flying with your dog as a psychiatric service dog or PSD is exciting. The essential elements for self-training are critical for an individual to self-attest to training their dog as a psychiatric service dog. We provide the documentation that assures that the individual’s dog qualifies as a registered psychiatric service dog or PSD.
If you’re flying with your psychiatric service dog, airlines starting in 2021 in both the United States and Canada, will ask you to submit a certification form sometimes called the DOT Form or Department of Transportation Service Animal Training Form. The DOT Form is required for travel within the United States, but the same form or similar content is required by all major Canadian airlines. Overall, the proper documentation is required for the individual to travel with their psychiatric service dog or PSD.
All major airlines have policies that highly recommend the appropriate training documentation, like the ID card, PSD certificate of training, and a service dog harness/vest, to be present during the time of travel. the PSD owner to make various certifications on a federal form. This includes certifying that their PSD has been trained to perform tasks and behave in public settings. Airplane and airport staff can also ask the two questions above to verify a dog is a PSD.
All airlines can observe the behavior of the dog to see whether it remains under the control of its handler. If the dog is disruptive or out of control, that may be evidence the dog has not yet been successfully trained to be in public.
Airlines are asked to at identifying paraphernalia or harnesses, vests, and tags to determine whether a dog is a PSD. Having these items can be helpful in indicating your dog is a PSD and is one indicator staff can determine whether they are dealing with a service animal. PSD owners find these accessories especially useful because they suffer from invisible disabilities. Having their PSD outfitted with appropriate paraphernalia helps to cut off unwanted approaches from strangers and broadcasts that their dog is on duty. Keep in mind however that accessories alone do not make a PSD – that comes from appropriate training and a disability-related need.
How Do I Choose the Best Online Company and Avoid Frauds?
→ THE COMPANY IS BASED IN YOUR COUNTRY OF RESIDENCE AND IS REGISTERED “NOT FOR PROFIT” – Nearly all online companies are for profit and do not support local shelters or animals in need of homes.
→ THE COMPANY IS AN ACCREDITED HEALTHCARE PROVIDER QUALIFIED TO REGISTER SERVICE ANIMALS AND PROVIDE LETTERS/FORMS. – Most online companies collect your private information and use it for their marketing schemes.
→ THE COMPANY HAS A FULL REFUND POLICY AND NOT A PARTIAL REFUND POLICY, WHICH SHOULD BE VERY EVIDENT & TRANSPARENT. – Just about all online companies do not provide a full refund or resource support when clients experience an issue. Here is our Refund Policy.
→ THE COMPANY HAS VERIFIED REVIEWS FROM GOOGLE OR SOME OTHER INDEPENDENT REVIEW COMPANY.
We are proud to be THE ONLY COMPANY that exceeds these industry standards – especially with protecting your information!
Our Mission is the Best for You and Your Dog
We are a 501(c)(3) nonprofit, accredited mental healthcare provider and part of the International Service/Support Animal Directory network to provide mental health services and support individuals with Psychiatric Service Dogs (PSDs) for everyday living and traveling with peace of mind by providing instant documentation and PSD registration. We proudly serve both the United States and Canada.
Our Success & Community Contribution
- Dedicated to providing clinical letters and saving pets from no-kill shelters
- Guaranteed satisfaction to all donors and clients for their generous support
- Only compliant mental healthcare network to meet all federally required cyber-securities for therapy dogs, service / emotional support animals
- Largest advocacy and resource network to give back to the dog community by promoting no-kill shelters through sponsorship and support