Psychiatric Service Dogs
Dog helping with PTSD, Anxiety & Depression
Let's first clarify the difference between a therapy dog, an emotional support dog and a psychiatric service dog (PSD).
A Therapy Dog is someone's pet that has been tested for its social temperament, trained to be well behaved and registered with a therapy dog organization. A therapy dog provides comfort to people in nursing homes, hospitals, schools or other institutions. Most therapy dog owners are volunteers. Therapy dogs are NOT Service Dogs and do not have public access rights.
Emotional Support Animals (ESA) provide comfort to their owners simply by being present. They have not been specifically trained for any particular task. Although they are grouped with service dogs when it comes to housing and aircraft laws, emotional support dogs do NOT have public access rights.
According to ADA laws, to be a Service Dog, their handler must have a disability and the dog must be specifically trained to alleviate such disability. Having a mental illness is an impairment, but being unable to function on a minimal level because of mental illness is a disability. Psychiatric service dogs are trained to do something to help with the person's disability. In other words, the dog allows the handler to overcome or improve his/her ability to function. A PSD might for instance counterbalance a handler because he/she is dizzy because of medication, interrupt panic attacks or OCD behaviors, turn lights on, etc.
According to ADA, to qualify as a Service Dog, the dog 1) must be specifically trained to perform certain tasks; natural dog behaviors do not qualify; 2) must mitigate the person's disability; 3) must be needed by that specific handler.
What conditions can be helped by a Psychiatric Service Dog?
Social phobias & agoraphobia
Obsessive Compulsive Disorders (OCD)
Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD
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
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.
Help and companionship
Psychiatric service dogs provide a reason for a person to get out of bed and can encourage a person to be more active and get out for a walk and be more social. They can also help the handler maintain a routine. In addition to helping with clinical symptoms, studies have shown that a PSD can also soothe feelings of loneliness and sadness, calm racing thoughts and irritability, and reduce aggression and agitation.
In addition to their skills in helping with psychiatric conditions, our dogs are taught all the behaviors required to pass the Public Access Test and meet or exceed the minimum standards of training established by the International Association of Assistance Dogs Partners (IAADP). You'll be able to safely and reliably take your service dog to work, to school, to the mall, restaurant, etc.