Our Top 10 Best Psychiatric Service Dog Breeds

Written by: Lindsay Giguiere



Time to read 14 min

Are you familiar with the amazing world of psychiatric service dog breeds? These extraordinary canines are trained to support and regulate their handler's emotional well-being.

Within the realm of working dogs exist a few genuinely exceptional furry friends whose sole purpose is to assist those in need. Therapy dogs bring joy to individuals who are unwell or elderly, Service Dogs aid those with physical disabilities, and Emotional Support dogs offer solace in settings such as funeral homes or during times of crisis.

However, our hero in this lineup is known as the Psychiatric Service Dog or PSD. These remarkable dogs are trained to offer personalized assistance to individuals facing challenges such as autism, schizophrenia, PTSD, depression, and other psychiatric conditions. These incredible dogs can sense their handlers' emotional state, enabling them to identify signs of profound depression and even operate a particular K9 rescue phone, which can dial a pre-programmed 911 suicide hotline.

The primary role of a Psychiatric Service Dog is to uphold its handler's emotional equilibrium and carry out tasks or work that the individual is unable to perform independently. For instance, a psychiatric service dog may be trained to interrupt the repetitive behaviors associated with obsessive-compulsive disorder, conduct an environmental assessment, or even remind their handler to take medication.

Having a highly trained dog by their side can significantly assist individuals with mental health issues in leading independent lives and often helps them manage their conditions more effectively. Naturally, not all dogs can provide service to individuals with psychiatric disabilities, as these tasks are intricate and demanding. This service requires a special dog well-suited for the unique training.

What are the prerequisites for a canine to become a psychiatric service companion? Size is not a crucial factor, but temperament certainly is. These dogs must exhibit a strong desire to please, work harmoniously with a partner, remain reliable, resist distractions, and possess high intelligence due to the extensive training involved. Yes, these dogs undergo rigorous training before assuming the role of a service dog. After all, they must learn to execute specific tasks that significantly enhance their owners' quality of life. It's a challenging role for any dog to fulfill.

While any dog can become a service dog if they possess the necessary qualities and undergo an extensive training program, some breeds naturally have instincts that make them particularly well-suited for psychiatric service work. Curious to know which breeds make the grade? Keep reading!

List of the finest psychiatric service dog breeds

1. Labradoodle

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The Labradoodle is the beautiful result obtained by crossing the Labrador Retriever and the Poodle. The outcome? A highly intelligent, affectionate, and trainable companion. These dogs are known for their friendly and outgoing nature. They are sociable dogs that get along well with children, other pets, and strangers. Their eagerness to please and gentle demeanor make them excellent family pets.

Labradoodles are exceptionally intelligent dogs. They quickly grasp commands and are highly trainable. Their intelligence also enables them to excel in various roles, including service and therapy work. One of the key advantages of Labradoodles is their low-shedding and hypoallergenic coats. This makes them a great choice for individuals with allergies, as they produce less dander compared to many other breeds.

Labradoodles are moderately active dogs that enjoy regular exercise and playtime. Daily walks and mental stimulation are essential to keep them happy and healthy. They are increasingly being recognized as legitimate service dog breeds, and many are now trained and certified to provide assistance to individuals with disabilities, including psychiatric conditions.

The Labradoodle's combination of intelligence, loving nature, and low-shedding coat make them an excellent choice as a psychiatric service dog, providing valuable support and companionship to those in need.

2. Labrador Retriever

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Perhaps the most loved and recognizable service dog breeds, the fabulous Labrador Retriever is an exceptional choice for psychiatric service work. With their remarkable intelligence and gentle nature, these trainable companions are perfect candidates for the role of psychiatric service dogs. Their innate intelligence and adaptability are so impressive that they can excel at almost any task!

As their name suggests, this breed was initially bred for a specific purpose: retrieving. Labradors were developed to retrieve hunted waterfowl and transport them reliably, even across challenging terrain, to their handlers. This background translates well into other environments and situations.

Labrador retrievers showcase remarkable intelligence, obedience, and a deep desire to please their owners. These traits make them ideal candidates for working with individuals needing assistance. Labrador Retrievers possess a versatile nature and exhibit a stable, well-balanced personality. They become loyal companions, and their calm demeanor is grounding, comforting children with ADD or autism. When seeking a psychiatric service dog for a child, Labradors are truly unrivaled.

For individuals grappling with conditions such as schizophrenia or depression, the easygoing nature of Labradors promotes a sense of security and redirects their focus away from their condition, allowing them to engage with the world around them with greater ease and confidence.

3. Havanese

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Meet the pint-sized wonder, the Havanese! This beloved family companion is adored for their affectionate nature and highly trainable personality. Their friendly and outgoing disposition makes them a favorite among everyone they meet, and they are often the breed of choice for individuals battling depression.

Havanese dogs overflow with love and thrive on cuddles and snuggles with their human companions. Rest assured, having one of these fluffy bundles of joy by your side will brighten your day! They have an innate ability to sense your moods and know precisely when to unleash their furry awesomeness to uplift your spirits. It's a natural gift of this breed that can be honed and perfected through training.

Moreover, these canine cuties are considered quite intelligent, making training them surprisingly effortless. Havanese dogs can quickly learn various tricks, such as fetching medication for their owner or interrupting repetitive or harmful behaviors. They are remarkably adaptable to the specific needs of different individuals facing challenges.

Havanese dogs love playing the role of loyal and loving lap dogs or energetic childhood companions. This makes them particularly ideal for children with autism, as their presence helps bridge the gap between two worlds and provides a sense of security. They become a focal point for these children, offering comfort and companionship.

The Havanese is an exceptional breed well-suited for the critical task of being a psychiatric care animal.

4. Miniature Schnauzer

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Introducing the loving and cheerful miniature schnauzer! This small but mighty breed thrives on being an integral part of the family. You'll often find them joyfully frolicking with kids, bringing a burst of energy wherever they go. Their spirited personality and adorable pint-size frame make them the perfect constant companion for adults and children.

The miniature schnauzer is a fantastic choice if you're seeking a fun-loving canine that captures your attention and brings laughter to your life.

Schnauzers are a breeze to train and obedient to commands, making them genuine people pleasers. Even owners without experience training dogs will find miniature schnauzers responsive and cooperative. They have a natural inclination for the service dog role.

Although small, miniature schnauzers require regular exercise and a nutritious diet to maintain a healthy weight. Engaging in activities and exercise with your miniature schnauzer can be a delightful way to spend time together, bringing immense joy and amusement. It's yet another reason why these little canines can excel as psychiatric service dogs. Their presence alone is simply wonderful and uplifting in every way.

5. Cavalier King Charles Spaniel

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Introducing the Cavalier King Charles Spaniel, a lapdog fit for royalty! Though they may come in a mini package, their personalities and hearts are truly immense. Beyond their captivating looks, these silky companions are treasured for their charming and loving nature.

Finding a Cavalier King Charles Spaniel that doesn't relish cuddling and snuggling would be quite a challenge, as it happens to be their absolute favorite pastime. Their strong bond with their owner and their "velcro dog" tendencies make them an excellent choice as psychiatric service dogs for individuals with depression or PTSD. Simply petting their silky coat while they snuggle with you on the couch has a calming and tranquilizing effect.

Unlike some small breeds, Cavaliers are typically not prone to being nippy or reacting aggressively towards strangers in public places. Of course, proper training is necessary, but these intelligent pups have no trouble learning new tricks.

This friendly, gentle, and peaceful breed is highly intelligent and easily trainable, making them talented and intuitive service dogs. As Psychiatric Service Dogs are intended to be by their owner's side 24/7, the smaller size of Cavaliers makes them a perfect fit for housebound people or those living in smaller spaces. They have the remarkable ability to fill any small space with their big hearts and loving personalities.

6. German Shepherd

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Unsurprisingly, these remarkable doggos are destined to be service dogs. Just envisioning the canine police force without the German Shepherd is nearly impossible. And there's a good reason this breed is highly sought after for the job - they are incredibly intelligent, well-disciplined, and have an unwavering desire to please their handlers.

This winning combination ensures exceptional performance in any task they undertake. These loving and remarkable traits extend to areas where dogs are needed, including assisting individuals with mental health issues. German Shepherds calmly and compassionately care for anyone, regardless of their mental health challenges.

An even-tempered German Shepherd is an excellent choice for people dealing with anxiety and OCD. With proper training, these dogs can learn to detect flare-ups, such as panic attacks, and intervene. They may interrupt unwanted behaviors by gently "pawing" at you, diverting your attention from the distressing action and providing you with something fluffy and lovable to focus on.

This breed's obedience, gentleness, and unwavering loyalty mean it's a  a natural fit for our list of psychiatric service dog breeds. German Shepherds are known for their dependability, calm demeanor, and ease of training.

They are often regarded as having human-like intelligence, an invaluable trait for owners facing psychiatric challenges. Additionally, their affinity for children makes them an ideal choice for families living with autism.

7. Lhasa Apso

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Originating from Tibet, where they were bred to alert Buddhist monks to potential intruders, this alert and personable little pooch may be cautious around strangers but highly loyal to those closest to them.

Despite their small and fluffy appearance, don't underestimate the suitability of Lhasa Apso dogs as service dogs. Their intuition and support for their owners can be truly remarkable.

Once trained as psychiatric service dogs, Lhasa Apsos become invaluable companions for individuals with PTSD, depression, or bipolar disorder. Their cheerful demeanor can brighten your day when you need it most, and they can also learn to recognize different emotional states and respond accordingly. In certain triggering situations, they may gently "nudge" you back on the right course of action.

Being highly tactile, Lhasa Apsos provide entertainment and comic relief, making them excellent and expressive companions. They are easily trainable and known to uplift individuals who seek comforting companionship during challenging times. These furry friends have a unique talent for making their beloved human smile.

8. Doberman Pinscher

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Don't be fooled by their imposing appearance! Dobermans are far from the tough exterior they may project. Unfairly labeled as aggressive and dangerous by some, these dogs are incredibly loyal and affectionate. Those who truly understand the breed appreciate that Dobermans are what you might call "velcro dogs" due to their strong bond with their handlers. They will stick by your side, ready to offer unwavering support and love.

When trained as psychiatric service dogs, Dobermans can be especially well-suited for individuals who require a dog that provides a grounding presence. They can be trained to offer tactile stimulation such as licking or nudging when called upon, helping to anchor the handler in the present moment and prevent the escalation of difficulties.

Renowned as exceptional guardians, military, and service dogs, the Doberman's commanding presence and affectionate nature make them an ideal choice for individuals with PTSD or panic attacks. Even seemingly simple tasks like a walk to the corner store can feel overwhelming. However, the reassuring presence of this loyal companion can provide a profound sense of safety and security.

9. Boxer

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This delightful breed is recognized for its gentle nature and love for human companionship, making them an excellent choice for a psychiatric service dog. Boxers, commonly known for their role as guard dogs, can redirect their protective instincts through proper training, becoming attuned to their owner's emotions and behavioral patterns.

Like the other breeds on our list, Boxers can be trained to provide invaluable assistance to individuals with disabilities. With the guidance of an experienced service dog trainer, a Boxer can learn to retrieve medications or use tactile stimulation to interrupt obsessive-compulsive or harmful behaviors exhibited by their handler.

Their natural guarding instincts also make them adept at keeping strangers at a distance, and they can quickly learn to "bluff" on command.

With their loyalty, attentiveness, and friendly disposition, Boxers fit in well with families with children who may have ADHD. They are quick learners and adapt easily to various situations, making them versatile and reliable for psychiatric service work.

10. Border Collie

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Renowned for their exceptional intelligence, this breed stands out as the epitome of devotion, friendliness, and loyalty. With their natural desire to please their owners, they excel at any task they undertake. Originally bred for herding sheep and cattle, these diligent dogs will keep you in line and exceed expectations in doing so!

Border Collies are bundles of energy and liveliness, accompanied by a deep affection for their owners. Their infectious enthusiasm will motivate you to engage in activities even when you're not in the mood, and their charming antics will brighten your day. This endearing quality makes them an ideal choice for individuals living with depression.

Moreover, they possess an innate ability to provide comfort through cuddling and snuggling, creating a calming and contented atmosphere through their presence alone.

Given that Psychiatric Service Dogs play a crucial role in grounding their owners during panic attacks by offering physical support, the highly intuitive nature of Border Collies makes them a perfect match for individuals prone to such episodes. Their remarkable understanding and responsiveness make them reliable companions in times of distress.

Choosing a Psychiatric Service Dog Made Easy

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Finding the ideal psychiatric service dog can feel like searching for a needle in a haystack. With numerous breeds to choose from, selecting a four-legged partner who suits your lifestyle needs and establishes a meaningful connection is crucial.

Remember, this is more than a service; it's a unique relationship that holds the potential to transform lives. Before embarking on this significant journey, consider these essential factors to ensure you find the perfect psychiatric service dog for you.

Define Your Dog's Role

Define what you want your furry companion to accomplish. Do you need a non-reactive or reactive dog? Should your faithful friend prevent specific behaviors or aid in redirecting your actions? Understanding how your dog can support you through your disability will guide you toward breeds that excel in those tasks. The right dog can be your ultimate ally, enhancing the quality of your life in ways unimaginable.


Match Personalities

Reflect on your temperament and lifestyle. Are you seeking a more independent canine or a devoted sidekick eager to work by your side? Can you handle the energy of an active dog that requires a lot of exercise, or would you prefer a laid-back companion who just wants a quiet life snuggling on your lap?

Harmonizing your personality and preferences with the breed's characteristics will ensure seamless and happy companionship. Remember, it's easier to train a dog than to train yourself to keep up with their needs.

Grooming Considerations

Grooming can be a therapeutic experience for some, fostering a deeper bond with their dog. However, individuals struggling with depression or fatigue might find regular grooming challenging. If the thought of dog fur scattered around your home adds to your anxiety, grooming requirements should play a role in your breed selection.

Each breed demands a different level of upkeep, so weigh your ability to dedicate time and energy to grooming before deciding.


Size for Mobility

If you frequently travel, choosing a dog that suits your mobility needs becomes vital. Larger breeds may pose challenges when traveling, while smaller dogs can be more convenient for flights or road trips.

Luckily, modern airlines are more accommodating towards service dogs, making it easier to journey alongside your loyal companion. Assess the ease of travel for you and your furry friend before settling on a size that suits your adventures.

Selecting a psychiatric service dog is a major decision that will affect your life for years to come.

By considering your dog's role, matching personalities, grooming requirements, and mobility needs, you're on the path to finding a canine partner who will empower you on your mental health journey. Prepare to unlock a world of companionship and support as you embark on this

life-changing quest together.

PSD Training and Certification

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Now that we've looked at various breeds and the traits that can make them great psychiatric service dogs, we have to ask the questions – how can I train a PSD correctly, and do they need special certification to qualify as a service dog?

First, to be entitled to a psychiatric service dog, you must suffer from a "psychiatric, intellectual, or other mental disability" under the ADA. This includes various conditions ranging from clinical depression, ADHD, PTSD, anxiety disorders, autism, and more.

You will need documentation issued by a licensed mental health professional that details and proves your mental disability. A PSD needs to be trained to support your specific condition and needs, so they can perform tasks that improve your daily life.

A psychiatric service dog must respond to their owner's commands, perform relevant tasks, and be well-behaved and able to ignore distractions.

The ADA permits owners to self-train their PSDFs. The dog has to go through no set of rules or a standard training process – the only requirement is that the PSD has to perform tasks and not just offer emotional support. If that is what it does, it would be considered an Emotional Support Animal and not have the same protections under the ADA - for example, for air travel.

Can I train my own Psychiatric Service Dog?

Yes, but we don’t recommend it. It can be a long process, which could be years before your dog is skilled at performing tasks and responding to your cues. Training a service dog yourself will require experience, skills, time, and patience.

What are the options for training a PSD?

Most people choose professional training for their psychiatric service dog whenever possible, whether face-to-face or online, as a more budget-friendly alternative. Working with an expert will help your dog with specific tasks, while being attuned to your needs and behaving impeccably in public.

Is an ESA the same as a PSD?

With the controversy around emotional support dogs and how they differ from actual service dogs, many people are abusing the privileges afforded to trained and qualified service dogs by claiming their pets are emotional support animals (ESAs)- to gain access to different locations.

Read this article to learn more about why fraud is a threat to every genuine ESA and PSD owner

So it's understandable that many owners with genuine needs are interested in proper certification for their psychiatric service dog.

To learn how easy it is to certify you as a PSD owner and your pet as a PSD by Clicking Here

Felicitails, we make it easy through our Free My Paws Psychiatric Service Animal Therapist Certification Program.