Psychiatric assistance dog

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A psychiatric assistance dog or psychiatric service dog is a sub-category of assistance dog trained to assist their handler with a psychiatric disability or a mental disability, such as obsessive-compulsive disorder, post-traumatic stress disorder, schizophrenia, depression, anxiety, and bipolar disorder.[1][2]

A psychiatric assistance dog can assist their handler by providing a safe presence that grounds them; the dog may perhaps lean on the person to provide a calming pressure.[3]


Psychiatric Service Dog In Training
A psychiatric service dog in training
Service dog being trained to run over and lie in handler's lap to ground handler on command.

Like all assistance dogs, a psychiatric assistance dog is individually trained to do work or perform tasks that mitigate their handler's disability.[4] Training to mitigate a psychiatric disability may include providing environmental assessment (in such cases as paranoia or hallucinations), signaling behaviors (such as interrupting repetitive or injurious behaviors), reminding the handler to take medication, retrieving objects, guiding the handler from stressful situations, or acting as a brace if the handler becomes dizzy. Moreover, the dog can be an extremely useful companion in any controlled training concerning cognitive functions, such as walking the dog.[5][4]

Many psychiatric assistance dogs are trained by the person who will become the handler—usually with the help of a professional trainer. Others are trained by assistance or service dog programs. Assistance dog organizations are increasingly recognizing the need for dogs to help individuals with psychiatric disabilities, and there are even organizations dedicated specifically to supporting psychiatric assistance dog handlers.


In the US, the Air Carrier Access Act has permitted psychiatric service dogs animals to travel in the cabin with their handler. Due to negative incidents with services dogs and emotional support animals, from 2018 through 2020 there has been a push to limit or restrict dogs on US flights.[6][7] During this time the act treated psychiatric service dogs and emotional support animals the same and required the handler to provide paperwork for their dog. In December 2020, a revision of the act meant that the two were no longer treated the same, and psychiatric service dogs were treated the same as other types of service dogs.

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Esnayra J (July 2007). "Help from man's best friend. Psychiatric service dogs are helping consumers deal with the symptoms of mental illness". Behav Healthc. 27 (7): 30–2. PMID 18027616.
  2. ^ Service Dog Central - Psychiatric Service Dogs Retrieved on August 17, 2007.
  3. ^ Esnayra, Joan (July 2007). "Help from man's best friend: psychiatric service dogs are helping consumers deal with the symptoms of mental illness". Behavioral Healthcare – via Northeast State Database.
  4. ^ a b Service Dog Central - Psychiatric Service Dog Tasks
  5. ^ International Association of Assistance Dog Partners - Service Dog Tasks for Psychiatric Disabilities Retrieved on January 31, 2007.
  6. ^ "US will redefine 'service animals' flying with their owners on flights". CNBC. January 22, 2020.
  7. ^ "Service Animals (Including Emotional Support Animals) | US Department of Transportation".

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