Everything You Need To Know About Service Dogs for Anxiety

Written by: Lindsay Giguiere



Time to read 5 min

Living with anxiety poses numerous challenges, but luckily, a remarkable solution can provide you with invaluable support and companionship: service dogs. In this comprehensive guide, we will closely examine the world of service dogs specifically trained to assist individuals with anxiety disorders.

From understanding their role to exploring the benefits they offer, we will cover everything you need to know about service dogs for anxiety.

So, whether you are considering obtaining a service dog or simply curious about their remarkable abilities, this article will provide essential insights and valuable information to help you navigate this specialized field.

A Service Dog for Anxiety: Your Invaluable Companion

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Service dogs for anxiety are highly trained companions that support individuals with anxiety disorders. These specially trained dogs provide comfort, emotional grounding, and assistance during distressing situations. Their extensive training equips them with the necessary skills to help manage anxiety symptoms, promoting a greater sense of well-being and independence for their handlers.

What are Psychiatric Service Dogs?

Service dogs, defined by the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), are dogs of any breed or size that are trained to perform tasks directly related to their owner's disability and the challenges that accompany it. This umbrella term covers various types of dogs, including service dogs for anxiety and guide dogs for individuals with limited sight.

The tasks performed by psychiatric service dogs are diverse and depend on the specific needs of their owners. For example, they can retrieve objects for individuals with mobility limitations, remind someone to take medication or ensure the safety of someone with epilepsy by detecting and responding to seizures.

One of the most critical benefits of service dogs is that they have the right to accompany their owners almost anywhere, even in places where regular pets are not allowed. This means service dogs can enter restaurants, stores, schools, hotels, hospitals, and even apartments or housing units that typically don't allow pets, such as university dorms and government housing programs.

How do Psychiatric Service Dogs Support Mental Health?

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A Psychiatric Service Dog (PSD) is specifically trained to aid individuals with mental health conditions. For example, a service dog for anxiety can perform deep pressure therapy by lying on top of the owner's body during a panic attack. They can also be trained to fetch medication for someone with depression or prevent their owner from engaging in self-harming behaviors.

Benefits of Service Dogs for Anxiety

Psychiatric service dogs offer numerous benefits to individuals with anxiety and other mental health challenges. They provide unwavering support and promote a sense of calm. Simply being around dogs regularly can also provide additional advantages. They encourage regular exercise and time spent outdoors, reduce feelings of loneliness, and effectively combat stress.

Tasks Performed by Psychiatric Service Dogs for Those with Anxiety

Training a psychiatric service dog for anxiety may include a variety of functions tailored to the individual's needs. For example, these tasks could include:

  • Detecting the early warning signs of anxiety attacks

  • Retrieving medication or water

  • Finding someone to help their owner when they're in distress

  • Preventing strangers from getting too close when the owner is in distress

  • Calming their human during an anxiety attack by licking their face or offering a paw

  • Performing deep pressure therapy by lying on their human

  • Retrieving the phone for someone experiencing an anxiety attack or even using a special phone to call for help

  • Reminding someone to take their medication regularly

  • Performing safety checks or turning lights on for veterans and others with PTSD

  • Waking someone up when they have a nightmare or night terror

Getting a Service Dog for Anxiety

Before getting a service dog for anxiety, it is crucial to ask yourself some critical questions, including:

  1. Do I have a diagnosed anxiety or mental health condition, such as Generalized Anxiety Disorder or Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder?

  2. Will this dog perform a task related to my condition that I couldn't otherwise perform myself?

  3. Do I have the time and resources to train this dog?

  4. Can I afford to purchase a dog that has already been trained?

You probably qualify for a psychiatric service dog if you answer "yes" to these questions.

Training Requirements for Service Dogs for Anxiety

Training is crucial in distinguishing service dogs, including psychiatric service dogs, from emotional support animals (ESAs) and regular pets. A service dog for anxiety must be trained to perform at least one task to help its owner manage their symptoms. They should be capable of performing this task in various environments without getting distracted or missing important cues.

Online Psychiatric Service Dog Training

One of the most common and convenient ways to train your psychiatric service dog is through online training programs. Many organizations, such as Felicitails, offer online courses connecting you with master trainers who guide you throughout the training process. These cost-effective programs allow you to participate from the comfort of your home, which is especially beneficial for individuals with anxiety. For more information on our Free My Paws Training Program for Psychiatric Services Animals, please click HERE.

In-Person Training for Psychiatric Service Dogs

If you prefer working with a face-to-face trainer you can search for dog trainers in your area who specialize in training psychiatric service dogs. These trainers may come to your home to work with your dog or ask you to bring your dog to their training facility. However, this type of expert training does not come cheap, and the training can take months or even years.

Can I Buy a Ready-Trained Psychiatric Service Dog?

Yes, you can buy a ready-trained psychiatric service dog if you don't have the time to train one to perform specific tasks. Some breeders specialize in raising and training dogs to be service dogs from a young age. They consider important factors such as the temperament and overall health of the parents to provide the best match for individuals in need of service dogs.

Qualifications for a Service Dog for Anxiety

Psychiatric service dogs have no specific size or breed restrictions for anxiety or other conditions. However, the dog needs to be well-behaved in public places. If the dog causes problems in public, such as damaging property or scaring others, you and your dog may be asked to leave.

ESAs vs. PSDs

It is essential to differentiate between Emotional Support Animals (ESAs) and Psychiatric Service Animals (PSAs) which you will see many also use the term Psychiatric Service Dogs (PSDs), since the bulk of service animals are dogs. While an ESA can be any animal, including cats, rabbits, etc., that offers comfort and companionship through their presence, PSAs are trained to perform specific tasks and are held to a higher standard, which almost always is provided by a dog.

Additionally, PSDs have greater legal protections and access to more places than ESAs.


In conclusion, psychiatric service dogs can be life-changing companions for individuals with anxiety disorders. Their extensive training and remarkable abilities provide invaluable support and promote a greater sense of well-being and independence.

Whether you train a service dog yourself or opt for a pre-trained dog, the decision to welcome a service dog into your life can be transformative.

Remember to consider your specific needs, consult with professionals, and explore training options to ensure a successful partnership between you and your service dog.

Need a psychiatric service dog to help cope with anxiety? Visit our Free My Paws Psychiatric Service Animal Certification Program today to learn more and enjoy living live to the fullest with your trusted furry companion.