How to Get a Psychiatric Service Dog (PSD)

Susana Bradford
September 27, 2023
10 minutes
Updated By
Expert Reviewed By:
Susana Bradford
10 minutes
Updated By
Expert Reviewed By:
With Pettable’s help, finding the best psychiatric service dog for your needs is made easier.

Psychiatric service dogs (PSDs) can perform various tasks for their owners. From being able to sense the signs of a panic or anxiety attack to retrieving medications or providing comfort, psychiatric service dogs help their owners live a full quality of life. However, there can be numerous questions about how to obtain a psychiatric service dog and the steps to ensure a psychiatric service dog is a correct fit. Let’s learn more about how to get your own PSD.

How Do I Get a Psychiatric Service Dog?

To get a psychiatric service dog you must meet certain criteria. Start by consulting with a licensed mental health professional (LMHP) to assess your eligibility and determine if a psychiatric service dog is appropriate. Familiarize yourself with the legal requirements and guidelines for service dogs in your jurisdiction. Focus on obedience training, socialization, and task-specific training tailored to your needs. Consistency, positive reinforcement, and patience are key throughout the training process. Consider enlisting the guidance of a professional dog trainer experienced in psychiatric service dog training for expert support and advice.

The Bottom Line

  • What is a Psychiatric Service Dog? — A psychiatric service dog is a domesticated canine that is trained to provide specific assistance to individuals living with mental health disorders.
  • Do You Need a Medical Diagnosis to Get a Psychiatric Service Dog? — For some mental or emotional health problems, a psychiatric service dog can be beneficial, however, a medical diagnosis is typically needed to qualify for a PSD.
  • Can Any Dog Be a Psychiatric Service Dog? — Any dog specifically trained to perform tasks for an individual can be a psychiatric service dog.
  • How to Get a PSD Letter — Take the Pettable online quiz to get your PSD letter today, excluding California residents.‍
  • How to Train Your PSD — You can train your psychiatric service dog with the help of our online PSD training program, which is a far more affordable and convenient option than having a professional trainer train your dog.
  • Get Your PSD Letter Today — Getting your psychiatric service dog letter within 24 hours is easy, thanks to Pettable's online service.

What Is A Psychiatric Service Dog, And Who Can They Help?

Psychiatric service dogs are trained to perform specific tasks for individuals that have symptoms and a diagnosis of a mental illness. Psychiatric service dogs can be trained to retrieve medication and water, can sense when their owner is in distress and provide deep pressure therapy (DPT), or even contact emergency services in case of a fall or seizure.

Emotional support animals (ESAs) are not the same as psychiatric service dogs. Emotional support animals help their owners feel better by providing general comfort and support. While ESAs are very similar to therapy dogs and psychiatric service dogs, they do not have the same legal rights as psychiatric service dogs. With a psychiatric service dog, owners can take their dogs anywhere in public, even in places that may not be pet friendly and can have pets in housing developments that may have a "no pets" policy.

Emotional support animals usually make individuals feel better with their sheer presence and affection. A therapy dog is often used in places or situations where there is a lot of stress, like hospitals, nursing homes, and schools. What separates these two from psychiatric service dogs is that PSDs are specifically trained to aid their individual with specific tasks and jobs that align with the individual’s mental illness.

Do You Need A Medical Diagnosis To Get A Psychiatric Service Dog?

To qualify for a psychiatric service dog, individuals must be legally disabled under the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) and be able to provide proper medical documentation. This states that a service dog will help the individual with tasks that can aid them in having a better quality of life. The person must also be able to handle the psychiatric service dog on their own and be able to give the dog commands on their own. Extra training sessions may be required for service dogs, meaning the individual must be able to accompany the dogs to the training sessions.

According to the ADA, being legally diagnosed with a disability means having a physical or mental impairment that limits one or more “major life activities," or someone who has or has had an impairment that does so.

Mental health disorders that may qualify for service animals or emotional support animals include:

Once a psychiatrist or mental health professional provides a letter or specifies a need for a PSD, an individual can go about getting a PSD to begin helping them in their day-to-day lives.

How Do Psychiatric Service Dogs Help?

There are various tasks for which service dogs and emotional support dogs can be trained to help an individual with a mental illness. PSDs trained to do these tasks are usually taught to spot warning signs in their owners. They are individually trained to do jobs including:

  • Applying deep pressure therapy (laying across the owner’s lap or body)
  • Using grounding techniques (such as licking or pawing) for post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) or other anxiety disorders
  • Retrieving medications
  • Leading the owner out of a high-stress situation
  • Help the owner establish a daily routine.
  • Prevent the owner from being too stationary for long periods
  • Provide protection and security to the owner

PSDs can be individually trained for specific tasks, such as retrieving medication during a particular time of day or being prepared to wake up their owner at an exact time or when an alarm beeps. PSDs can also be trained to retrieve ringing phones and alert the individual to doorbells or someone knocking at the door.

Where Can I Get A Psychiatric Service Dog?

Once you and a medical professional have determined that a PSD is right for you, it’s time to acquire or train your new animal assistant. For this step, you have a few options:

  • Buy or Adopt a Trained PSD: One of the quickest and easiest ways to get a PSD is to acquire a dog that has already been trained to suit your needs. However, this is often the most expensive path.
  • Enroll Your Current Dog in a Training Program: If you already have a canine companion you want to convert into a working dog, you can enroll in an in-person PSD training program. This can benefit some dogs with attention issues but is less convenient.
  • Self-Training Your Dog: Another option is to self-train your dog with the assistance of an online PSD training program, such as the one offered by Pettable. This is a flexible option that you can take at the perfect pace for you and your dog.

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

Can Any Dog Be A Psychiatric Service Dog?

Yes, any breed can be trained to be a PSD. There are some qualifying markers to look for before beginning training. These include the dog being housebroken, the dog not exhibiting aggressive behavior, and the dog being calm in public. The dog must be trained to recognize and respond to the signs of the owner’s disability. If the dog cannot be trained after a specific period of time, it is called “washing out.” If this happens, the dog may need to be adopted into a new home. If that cannot happen, for whatever reason, then the process begins again, with a different dog or a different breed altogether.

That said, some specific breeds may be better suited to being trained to work as psychiatric service dogs.

Which Breeds Make The Best PSDs?

There is no right or wrong breed for a PSD as long as the dog is trainable and able to learn new commands and follow them accordingly. However, some may be better suited, depending on the situation and the person’s needs. Some popular dog breeds for PSDs include:

Australian Shepherds

Australian Shepherds are naturally loyal and loving and have plenty of traits that make them great for being trained as a PSD. They have a natural herding ability, which can help when leading an individual out of a high-pressure or extremely crowded room, especially if they have agoraphobia (fear of open or crowded spaces) or anxiety that makes public places challenging to be in. They are also a great choice for people who can't see because they have a natural sense of how to herd.

Border Collies

Border Collies are one of the most intelligent breeds of dogs. They can learn new commands and follow through with them. They pay a lot of attention to body language and hand signals, which makes them great for people with seizure disorders, OCD, and PTSD. They are also very affectionate and caring, which can help an owner feel needed and loved.

Golden Retrievers

Golden Retrievers are one of the most well-known service dog breeds. Retrievers are very good at taking care of their owners' needs and wants because they are loyal, loving, gentle, and smart. Golden retrievers have a temper that is easier to train to control than other dogs, and they can be trained to retrieve things such as medications or water and guide their owner through high-stress situations.

Can My Dog Get Certified To Be A Psychiatric Service Dog?

If you have a canine companion that you love and care for, you may be able to get it certified as a PSD. This will require enrolling your dog into a PSD training program or training it with professional assistance. When you work with Pettable, we can provide you with a PSD letter once your dog has completed its training. With this official letter, you can take advantage of all the perks that come with having a PSD, including bringing them along while you’re eating at a restaurant or shopping at the mall, having them in your apartment or condo, and bringing them along during air travel.

How To Get A PSD Letter?

Using Pettable's website, you can obtain a legitimate PSD letter that certifies your individual need for in a few simple steps. After meeting with a licensed medical professional, you should receive your letter within 24 hours. It is legally valid and gives the dog the right to be in public places or places that may not otherwise allow pets.

Complete Our Assessment

The first step to obtaining a letter for your emotional support animal or service animal is completing a quick assessment on Pettable’s website. This helps Pettable specialists evaluate your situation and emotional support needs. Users will also be asked to choose whether they need a letter for housing, travel, or both.

Consult With a Therapist

After completing the assessment, users will fill out consent and privacy forms that authorize the clinicians to work with them. A match will be made between the user and a licensed mental health professional, which will lead to a link being sent to the user’s email to book a live consultation with them. To find out if the user is eligible for an ESA letter, a mental health evaluation will be done. This live consultation is done virtually.

Get a Psychiatric Service Dog Letter

If the licensed mental health professional determines an ESA is essential for the user, a legally recognized letter will be written that ensures the individual may have an ESA or PSD. The letter will allow users to accompany their PSD to public places, including those that may not allow animals. The option is that users may receive the letter within 24 hours of the consultation time, excluding California residents.

Your satisfaction is important to us. In the unlikely event that your ESA letter does not work for you, we will provide a 100% refund.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ) About Psychiatric Service Dogs

PSDs raise a lot of questions, such as about insurance, costs, and how to get one. It can be a confusing and lengthy process. However, having a new companion that helps you live life to the fullest can be a rewarding and beneficial ending.

Can Psychiatric Service Dogs Go Anywhere?

Yes, as long as psychiatric service dog is trained to assist someone with their disability, they can go into public places like restaurants, stores, shops, etc. They can also stay in housing with a "no pets" policy.

Does Insurance Cover Psychiatric Service Dogs?

Health insurance does not cover the cost of a service dog. However, funding programs are available to help an individual obtain one by helping either reduce the price or help pay for it.

How Much Do Psychiatric Service Dogs Cost?

The price ranges from $20,000 to $30,000 for an already-trained dog. Depending on the trainer and the situation, the cost of training a dog you already own can range from $150 to $250 per hour of training.

Are Psychiatric Service Dogs Allowed on Planes?

Yes, PSDs are allowed in cabins on planes at no extra fee. You are required to submit some documentation; however, it is not legal for the airline to ask what your disability is or to ask for proof of your disability.

What Forms Do I Need to Fly with a Psychiatric Service Dog?

Most airlines require a Department of Transportation form to be completed before traveling the friendly skies. These airlines should make the form available through their websites, as well. An official PSD letter from Pettable can help you make this process stress-free.

Do I Need a Psychiatric Service Dog?

If you believe a PSD will help you in your day-to-day life, it is something to consider talking about with your mental health care provider or therapist.

Are Service Dogs Allowed in Psychiatric Hospitals?

If documentation states that a patient or visitor needs a PSD, then service dogs are allowed in psychiatric hospitals. However, if the dog is simply an emotional support animal, it is not necessarily allowed.

Can You Get a Service Dog for Anxiety?

Yes, service dogs are allowed for those who have anxiety disorders. A letter may be needed from a doctor or healthcare provider, as service dogs specifically for anxiety can be argued to be an emotional support animal rather than a PSD.

How Can Someone Verify My Service Dog is Legitimate?

They are allowed to ask you two questions:

  1. Is the dog a service animal required because of a disability?
  2. What work or task has the dog been trained to perform?

They may not ask you to disclose your disability. Having a PSD letter issued to you by a LMHP can help in the case of anyone questioning your service dogs legitimacy.

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.