Fact checked

How a Service Dog Can Help With Schizophrenia

A service dog for those diagnosed with schizophrenia is a specially trained companion that assists individuals by providing support and performing tasks that help mitigate the effects of the disorder. These animals can offer emotional support, aid in crisis intervention, and help individuals with daily activities to promote independence and stability in their lives.

April Brightman
February 27, 2024
May 4, 2023
5 minute read
Updated By
Grant Fiddes
February 27, 2024
Expert Reviewed By:
Marvy BeckmanMarvy Beckman
Sunstar Clinical
May 4, 2023
August 18, 2021
5 minute read
February 27, 2024
Psychiatric Service Dogs can provide benefits for people with Schizophrenia. Find out if a psychiatric service dog is right for you and how to qualify.

Service dogs provide companionship, comfort, and a stronger sense of independence for individuals living with disabilities. For many, a psychiatric service dog is a means to a better quality of life.

A psychiatric service dog (PSD) is a service animal trained specifically to support a person with psychiatric conditions. The list of conditions a PSD can help with includes anxiety, depression, bipolar disorder, post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), panic attacks, autism, and schizophrenia to name a few.

 Service Dog for Schizophrenia 

Service dogs can be trained to help people diagnosed with schizophrenia in various ways. , Service dogs can provide emotional support, detect hallucinations, and interrupt negative behaviors. These dogs can significantly improve the quality of life for people living with schizophrenia and enhance their ability to function independently.

What is Schizophrenia?

Schizophrenia is a mental health condition in which individuals experience an altered perception of reality. This can take the form of delusions, hallucinations, dysregulated thoughts, disorganized speech, and sometimes reactive behavior.

When schizophrenia is active, those who have the condition may also experience difficulty in functioning. They often struggle with attention, concentration, and memory. Performing everyday, routine tasks can become a challenge when the symptoms of schizophrenia take over. 

What is a Service Dog?

The Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) defines service animals as those trained specifically to work or perform tasks that will directly assist with a person’s disability. Service animals can be any breed and any size of dog, so long as they complete the requirements to be certified service animals.

Benefits of a Service Dog for Schizophrenia

The symptoms of schizophrenia we mentioned earlier can be overwhelming, even debilitating at times for the individuals experiencing the condition. A service dog for schizophrenia plays a vital role in refocusing their handler and helping them to stay grounded.

Service dogs are trained to be perceptive to their owner’s changes in behavior and emotional state. Their primary job is to assist their owner in regrouping and guide them to safety in emergencies. 

Psychiatric Service Dog for Schizophrenia Tasks

Particularly important in unfamiliar settings, service dogs for schizophrenia provide their handlers with emotional support, a grounding presence, and even assistance completing tasks or keeping them safe. Some of these tasks can be:

  1. Medication Reminders
  2. Reality testing for hallucinations
  3. Assist With Social Interactions
  4. Room Searches
  5. Find Help In An Emergency

How to Get a Service Dog for Schizophrenia

To get a service dog for any psychiatric condition, you’ll need documentation in the form of a psychiatric service letter. A licensed medical professional can evaluate your needs and determine how a service animal can benefit your condition. You will also need to complete self-training or hire a professional to train your dog to perform a task to mitigate your symptoms.

Pettable's online psychiatric service dog training plan can help you train your dog as a PSD.

What Kind of Training Does a Service Dog for Schizophrenia Need?

When training psychiatric service dogs for schizophrenia, basic obedience training is key. Your dog needs to be well-behaved in public settings and not become a distraction. For example, PSDs must learn to bark only when they’re providing cues to their handler.

Online Psychiatric Service Dog Training

Online training courses are easy and affordable ways to complete psychiatric service dog training courses at home, at your own pace. The convenience of training at home is much more comfortable and often much more affordable than in-person service animal training.

Pettable offers online PSD training courses to train your dog at home that you can access anytime. Our expert certified trainers have put together lessons designed for you and your service dog to complete training and course certification together.

In-Person PSD Training

In-person training for psychiatric service dogs can be more of an expense than online training, but if working with a trainer face-to-face works best for you and your dog then it’s well worth the investment.

You can check with local nonprofit organizations that may offer lower-cost service animal training to people with disabilities. 

Purchasing a Psychiatric Service Dog

Buying a psychiatric service dog can be a bit of a process. The cost can range anywhere from $20,000 to $30,000 and depends on factors like breed, training needed, and the needs of the handler based on their disability.

In addition to the cost of the dog and the training, owning a service animal also requires paying for food, veterinary services, and any equipment that might be necessary for your dog to assist you best.

Who Qualifies for a Psychiatric Service Dog?

Under the Americans with Disabilities Act, those who qualify for a psychiatric service animal must have a physical or mental impairment that adversely affects “major life activities.”

Getting a psychiatric service dog requires an evaluation by a medical professional who will provide you with a psychiatric service letter. This letter will state that you have a condition that would benefit from the presence of a psychiatric service animal.

Psychiatric Service Dog vs. Emotional Support Animals

There are a couple of differences between psychiatric service dogs (PDSs) and emotional support animals (ESAs). The main difference is that PSDs are specially trained to perform tasks that support their owner’s disability directly. ESAs provide emotional support with their presence but don’t necessarily have training specific to support tasks.

Psychiatric Service Dog Training with Pettable

Pettable’s psychiatric service dog training programs are 100% online and created by professional trainers. Our online courses are flexible and easy to follow, and our 100% satisfaction guarantee is our promise that you’ll love our programs. Take our 3-minute survey to help determine your PSD needs and get started with online service dog training.

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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