Fact checked

How a Deep Pressure Therapy (DPT) Dog Can Help

3 minutes
Deep pressure therapy (DPT) is an effective manner of offseting many symptoms brought on by several mental health conditions, such as anxiety, depression and PTSD. Service dogs that are trained to perform DPT can successfully help an owner fend off panic attacks, confusion, anger and more. Find out more with Pettable.
Expert reviewed by:  
Written by:
Susana Bradford
Published on:  
March 13, 2023

Service dogs have greatly helped millions of people suffering from mental illness and physical disabilities. This may be through the simple comfort of their presence as an emotional support animal or the potentially life-saving jobs psychiatric service dogs perform for their owners. 

One such specialized job is called deep pressure therapy (DPT). Read on to learn how deep pressure therapy dogs and psychiatric service dogs can benefit people suffering from a number of mental health disabilities, such as anxiety, post-traumatic stress disorder and other conditions.

What Is a Deep Pressure Therapy Dog?

Have you ever experienced the comfort of a weighted blanket? There’s something reassuring and calming about the pressure and warmth.

As you might imagine, this feeling is heightened considerably when the pressure and warmth comes from cuddling with a loving pup.

A deep pressure therapy dog is designed to deliver this comfort at a moment’s notice. These pets, often trained as psychiatric service dogs, recognize symptoms of anxiety and other issues and react by applying the comfort of their body’s weight and warmth to their owner. This in turn helps counteract the mounting symptoms of a disorder, such as panic attacks or feelings of unease.

Who Can Benefit From a Deep Pressure Therapy Dog?

People with various types of mental illnesses or sensory issues can benefit from this type of therapy. This includes:

  • Anxiety
  • Autism
  • PTSD 
  • Depression
  • Alzheimer's

DPT Dog Requirements

The dog’s personality and size are big factors when choosing dogs for deep pressure therapy. Larger dogs are more effective than toy breeds for many, as their weight can act as a more effective pressure for those who can withstand it. However, smaller dogs may also be effective for deep pressure therapy if their owner is of a smaller frame or stature. Ultimately, dogs who are both natural cuddlers and are intelligent enough to pick up and react to their owner’s cues are the best choice for a deep pressure therapy dog.

Some of the best breeds include:

  • Golden Retrievers
  • Labrador Retrievers
  • Collies
  • Labradoodles
  • Samoyeds
  • Bernese Mountain Dogs

What Is a Psychiatric Service Dog?

A psychiatric service dog (PSD) is one that is trained to help its owner cope with a specific mental health illness. A PSD may bring their owner water and medication, wake them from a bad dream, cuddle with them during an anxiety attack and provide several other forms of basic care

Psychiatric service dogs are different from emotional support animals, which provide comfort with their presence but are not specially trained to help a handler cope with mental health symptoms. 

Psychiatric Service Dog Training

You have a few options when it comes to getting a psychiatric service dog. You could buy an already-trained dog, which is quite expensive. The other option is to train your dog yourself with the help of professionals. You can do this in two ways.

Online PSD Training

Online PSD training offers guidance when training your service animal for anxiety or any other issue. It offers flexibility as the training can be performed on your schedule. Plus, online training is typically the most cost-effective method. Plus, since you’re doing all the training yourself, it offers a beautiful opportunity for you and your faithful pet to bond.

Pettable offers an online psychiatric service dog training program designed to empower you to train your pet to become a certified psychiatric service dog. Led by professional PSD trainer Lisa Gallegos, Pettable’s PSD program features skills-based and basic obedience training through 15 video modules, ensuring your dog has all the skills it needs to accompany and assist you wherever you go.

In-Person PSD Training

If you or your pet is struggling with the online program, in-person PSD training is also an option. This is a more expensive option but still cheaper than purchasing a psychiatric service dog. While you will not be responsible for your dog’s training, your pet may struggle with the pace of in-person lessons and may struggle to memorize commands outside of the training environment when not performed by its trainer.

Meet the author:
Susana Bradford

Susana is an avid animal lover and has been around animals her entire life, and has volunteered at several different animal shelters in Southern California. She has a loving family at home that consists of her husband, son, two dogs, and one cat. She enjoys trying new Italian recipes, playing piano, making pottery, and outdoor hiking with her family and dogs in her spare time.