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Top 5 Autism Service Dog Tasks to Know

An autism service dog is trained to provide support and assistance to individuals with autism spectrum disorder (ASD). Tasks may include alerting to repetitive behaviors, offering comfort during sensory overload, and facilitating social interactions by serving as a calming presence.

April Brightman
January 19, 2024
May 4, 2023
7 minutes
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May 4, 2023
August 18, 2021
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Psychiatric Service Dogs can be trained on a variety of tasks to assist people with Autism. Learn more about what tasks you can teach a PSD with Pettable.

Having pets is a health benefit to everyone. Psychiatric service dogs serve as constant companions for individuals with autism, assisting with everything from communication and social interactions to regulating emotions.

Autism Service Dog Tasks

Autism service dogs can perform a variety of tasks to help individuals on the autism spectrum. These tasks can include providing comfort during times of stress, interrupting self-harming behaviors, and assisting with navigation in public spaces. These specially trained dogs can also offer a sense of security and companionship to their handlers.

Having an autism service dog can be hugely beneficial to those with autism as well as their families. These specially trained service dogs can provide therapy, help increase communication skills, and serve as de-stressors in times of overwhelm.

Top 5 Autism Service Dog Tasks

Autism service dogs play a vital role in the lives of individuals on the autism spectrum, providing not only companionship but also invaluable assistance. These highly trained canines are capable of performing a range of tasks that help individuals with autism navigate their daily lives more independently and confidently. In this list, we explore the top five tasks that autism service dogs can perform, highlighting their remarkable abilities and the positive impact they have on the lives of their human partners.

1. Deep Pressure Therapy (DPT)

Deep pressure stimulation, often called deep pressure therapy, is a strategy that provides a sense of calm to people experiencing overwhelm. Think of it as being similar to a weighted blanket. 

Autism service dogs are trained to sense distress in their owners and use their body weight to apply deep pressure to their humans. This can help ease or even prevent meltdowns and be helpful in grounding individuals with autism.

2. Interruption Tasks

People with autism can sometimes display what’s called ‘stim’ behavior. It usually takes the form of repetitive movements or noises. Stim behaviors can be caused by stress or overwhelm, or even a need for stimulation, and can be difficult for the person experiencing it to stop the behavior.

Interruption tasks are a way that autism service dogs can help refocus their humans with simple nudges or a gentle lick, or a number of other small tasks that will ‘interrupt’ the stimming behavior and refocus the individual. 

Did You Know?

Psychiatric Service Dogs (PSDs) are protected by the Americans with Disabilities Act and are legally granted access to places where pets are prohibited, such as airplane cabins, storefronts and restaurants. Find out more

3. Movement Tasks

Autism service dogs can be trained to perform a number of movement tasks designed to help keep their humans safe. One such task is called tethering. Though controversial, tethering is sometimes used as a strategy for children with autism, where the dog and the child both wear a harness that keeps them physically connected. This is usually used for individuals who bolt or run away.

Another movement task autism service dogs may be trained to do is blocking. This is also used for those who bolt or run away and consists of the dog physically blocking a doorway or gate, preventing the person from taking off in order to keep them safe.

4. Assist With Overstimulation

Especially in children with autism, overstimulation or an inability to process stimuli can result in meltdowns or other intense responses. It can also happen when individuals are struggling to communicate.

An autism service dog can help with these responses to overwhelm by being a grounding presence for their human. This can take place in the form of tactile stimulation grounding, like ear scratching or petting, or dog-initiated contact like licking or gentle prodding.

5. Routine Setting

Routines and familiar practices can provide a strong sense of comfort and predictability for individuals with autism. Managing routines, however, can sometimes be a challenge.

Autism service dogs create a necessary routine simply by existing. They need to be fed, walked, and let out to use the bathroom on a daily basis, and the presence of a dog provides a familiar companion for each day.

How To Get A Psychiatric Service Dog

To get a psychiatric service dog, first, you must obtain a letter that verifies your need for an emotional support animal. To get a certified PSD letter, you’ll need to meet with a licensed mental health professional who will help determine your individual needs.

How To Train A Psychiatric Service Dog

Training any dog can be a time-consuming process, and training a psychiatric service dog takes extra time and patience. The importance of their training is even greater than that of a family pet.

Training your dog on your own is an option, but it’s recommended to seek professional training or utilize a training program designed and administered by professionals.

Online Psychiatric Service Dog Training

Online training for psychiatric service dogs can be done at home with programs designed by certified trainers. Complete the necessary steps to have your dog certified in obedience training, public access training, and any training necessary to be sure your dog supports your particular needs for a better, fuller life.

In-Person PSD Training

Depending on where you live, finding in-person psychiatric service dog training may be more of a challenge. You can check with local organizations that help match individuals who qualify with service dogs or provide low-cost service dog training for individuals with disabilities. 

Who Qualifies for a Psychiatric Service Dog?

In order for an individual to qualify for a psychiatric service dog, they must be legally disabled under the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA). Proper medical documentation is required in order to be considered for a service animal, which includes statements by a medical professional that a person will be able to care for a service animal, will benefit from having one, and will enjoy a better quality of life. 

Psychiatric Service Dog vs. Emotional Support Animal

The main difference between a psychiatric service dog and an emotional support dog is their training. PSDs are trained to perform certain tasks — like those described above — that help their owners with a physical or mental impairment.

Emotional support animals (ESAs) provide support to owners with mental health conditions. ESAs are typically not afforded all of the same rights as PSDs, though the criteria to qualify for either designation is virtually the same. 

Psychiatric Service Dog Training with Pettable

Pettable offers self-paced, online psychiatric service dog training from a certified trainer. Access your training sessions anytime and move through the professionally designed lessons at your own pace. Pettable also offers a 100% satisfaction guarantee on training your service dog to meet your specific needs. 

In just a few steps, you can complete our assessment to qualify for a psychiatric service animal or emotional support animal and meet with a licensed therapist to obtain your psychiatric service letter. Live consultations can be done virtually, and you’ll be on your way to certified training for you and your service pal.

Meet the author:
April Brightman

April Brightman is a freelance writer and outdoor enthusiast with a passion for traveling and hiking with her rescue pup, Marley. She's written for pet-centered sites like Outward Hound, as well as outdoorsy adventure brands like BearVault, Hipcamp, and Explorer Chick.

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