At CertaPet, we are a dedicated team focused on one thing: Getting people in need the help they deserve as quickly as possible. Whether from a psychiatric service dog or an emotional support animal, our easy and painless 3 step process will direct you down the path to regaining the power to live a life free from stress and worry.
The purpose of this article is to inform and educate people about the service dog world, the differences between a therapy dog, another term for a psychiatric service dog, and a support dog or emotional support animal.
We relay how they can help all people who suffer from ADHD (Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder), how they are specifically trained, and how we can help you acquire one for yourself.
What is ADHD (Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder)?
Attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), very similar to attention deficit disorder, is one of the most common mental disorders affecting people, especially kids. ADHD also affects the mental health of many adults. Symptoms of ADHD include inattention (not being able to keep focus), hyperactivity (excess movement that is not fitting to the setting) and impulsivity (hasty acts that occur in the moment without thought).
An estimated 8.4% of children and 2.5% of adults have ADHD.1,2 ADHD is often first identified in school-aged children when it leads to disruption in the classroom or problems with schoolwork. It can also affect adults with similar symptoms. It is a more common mental health condition among boys than girls.
Psychiatry.org has this great introductory piece on their site.
Common Treatments and Coping Mechanisms for ADHD
As more and more people seek holistic alternatives when developing their treatment plans, the use of assistance animals such as psychiatric service dogs is becoming more commonplace.
Typically, the most common treatments and coping strategies for ADHD consist of a combination of medications, psychotherapy, and behavioral counseling, following an assessment by a mental health professional. Medications assist with addressing the core neurologic issues surrounding ADHD but, they can be costly.
Psychotherapy and behavioral counseling can help curb ADHD symptoms, in a child or an adult, but those very same symptoms can limit the integration into such programs. Service and emotional support animals will fill in the gaps between treatments and create an environment where healing and improvement occur all the time.
Find more details here.
What are Psychiatric Service Dogs?
A psychiatric service dog (PSD) is a type of assistance animal/emotional support animal that’s trained to perform specific tasks for individuals living with a mental illness. These unique tasks are directly related to the handler’s disability.
Most of us are accustomed to seeing guide dogs supporting those with physical disabilities like a hearing or sight impairment. However, a psychiatric service animal helps people with typically unseen, unnoticeable disabilities.
For example, veterans with post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) who experience panic attacks or similar challenges can greatly benefit from the service of a PSD. Those who live with symptoms like social phobia, depression or other depressive disorders can also find the service of a PSD to be incredibly beneficial.
CertaPet’s Blog is updated weekly and full of informative articles, testimonials, and data from mental health and professionals. For a more in-depth overview of this complicated subject, read our full article.
How Can Service Dogs Help with ADHD?
People with debilitating ADHD can still benefit from a service dog. A service animal can help them regain some control over their life. For example, when a person with ADHD gets distracted from an important task, a service dog can help redirect the owner’s attention back to the task at hand. Dogs require schedules, so having the animal can help serve as a routine for the owner. Every morning you take your dog out, you get the dog food, you take your dog for a walk, etc. Having routine is great for individuals with debilitating ADHD, as it is a way to keep their mind focused and alert.
Additionally, service dogs can help ADHD patients deal with their hyperactivity. Having an animal allows you the opportunity to go for a run, a hike, or even swim together. This can help you or your child stay in shape, while also burning off some of their excess energy.
US Service Animals has many detailed resources to further research.
Mental Health Benefits
As stated previously, service animals aren’t for everyone, and an emotional support dog may be a better option for people with ADHD. Emotional support dogs can offer the following benefits:
- Be an outlet for excess energy
- Be a non-judgmental companion
- Provide social interaction opportunities
- Encourage routines
- Decrease stress
- Offer a healthy distraction
Service Animals grant people with mental limitations the ability to take back control of their lives. Once the individual regains control, both mental and physical improvements will happen more often and impact more forcefully. The Bark has a lot more to add.
Physical Health Benefits
Not only can a psychiatric service dog, or emotional support dog, help reduce stress, improve focus and decrease impulsivity but, their influence includes the drastic improvement of your physical well being also.
It’s truly remarkable the amount and variety of physical benefits service dogs can provide their dutiful owners. The main ones are improved heart health, decreased blood pressure and cardiovascular risk, improved overall health from increased activity and exercise, and becoming less physically isolating and anti-social.
As your training with the chosen service animal becomes a loving relationship, the cycle of mental and physical improvement becomes second nature and cyclical. With years of scientific research as the proof.
The American Kennel Club compiled this comprehensive list.
Specific Tasks They Can Perform To Support Their Owner
We have several articles on our website’s blog page to help gain greater understanding about the lengths service dogs can go towards improving your well being. This one in particular describes in great detail this topic.
Here are just some of the many ways that a PSD can help their owner:
- Tactile Stimulation, Deep Pressure Therapy, Pressure and Warmth Stimulation – Tactile stimulation and pressure therapy can help ground a person and offer a therapeutic distraction from excess energy, restlessness or the inability to focus. PSDs can also be trained to place pressure on their handler’s chest or lap to encourage emotional regulation, bring calm to a situation, or simply offer warmth.
- Grounding – When a person feels trapped by the thoughts in their mind, whether they stem from anxiety, flashbacks, or other types of distress, grounding techniques can be helpful in bringing a person’s focus to their physical body or surroundings. A psychiatric service dog can ground their handler through interaction, tactile stimulation, pressure therapy, or through another therapeutic means that assists their handler.
- Interaction and Interruption – A psychiatric service dog’s companionship can provide therapeutic benefit for those living with feelings of depression, isolation, or tearfulness. Through tactile stimulation, deep pressure therapy, or other means, a PSD can interact with its handler in order to bring comfort and calm. A psychiatric service dog can also initiate desired or needed interpersonal interactions for their owner’s benefit. In other situations, such as in the case of insomnia, a PSD may provide interaction until their handler initiates sleep preparations or another necessary routine.
Sometimes, a psychiatric service dog’s role may be to interrupt their owner from performing a certain action. This is commonly seen in situations when a PSD must interrupt a person’s repetitive or compulsive behavior or when they may need to ground a handler by interrupting a dissociative episode through tactile stimulation or deep pressure therapy. In the case of self mutilation, a PSD may interrupt the act by alerting or by providing tactile stimulation.
Emotional Support Dog vs. Psychiatric Service Dog: What’s the Difference?
PSDs and ESAs are both a type of assistance animal that a licensed mental health professional or doctor can prescribe to someone as part of their treatment plan.
However, only PSDs are recognized in the United States as official ‘service animals’ under the Americans with Disabilities Act. As legally recognized service animals, they’re entitled to the following rights:
- Public Access Rights (under the Americans with Disabilities Act they can accompany their owner into grocery stores, restaurants, etc.)
- Travel Rights (under the Air Carrier Access Act, they can accompany their owner in the airline cabin and the owner does not have to pay a pet fee)
- Fair Housing (under the Fair Housing Act, they can live in housing units even if there’s a no pets policy)
- Educational Facility Access (under the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act, they can accompany their owner into schools, colleges, universities, etc.)
ESAs on the other hand, do not have the same privileges when it comes to public access and travel, due to new DOT regulations put into place on January 11, 2021. Many major airlines now only recognize ESAs as pets, which means owners will have to pay a pet fee. (More information on these regulations and the airlines that have changed the policies here: https://www.certapet.com/new-dot-regulations-for-emotional-support-animals/ ). However, people can still enjoy fair housing rights with their ESAs, even if they live in a no pets unit.
The reason for this difference is that PSDs have to be specially trained to perform a certain task or type of work that helps support a person living with a disability (ESAs on the other hand receive no special training – they’re just meant to offer comfort through their companionship).
To be considered a service dog, a PSD must be trained to perform a specific task (examples here: https://www.certapet.com/how-to-train-a-psychiatric-service-dog/ ), which is why partnering with a professional trainer is the best option.
We’re currently onboarding our professional dog trainers and will be offering this option very soon. In the meantime, those interested in getting a psychiatric service dog, or emotional support, animal can begin the process by seeing if they qualify for a PSD through our free screening here: https://www.certapet.com/psychiatric-service-dog-screening/.
How to Get a Service Dog for ADHD
In order to obtain a psychiatric service dog, or therapy dog, you must receive a recommendation from a licensed mental health professional or a doctor. This ‘prescription’ takes the form of a letter, which will be written on your health professional’s letterhead and include their license number.
There are no limitations to the breed of dog you can use as your psychiatric service dog. Your PSD can therefore either be a dog you already own, a dog you adopt from a shelter or rescue group, or a dog you receive from a service dog organization. Keep in mind, however, that the dog must be specially trained to perform certain tasks in order to be recognized as a service dog under the Americans with Disabilities Act.
Certapet wants you to get a service animal as quickly as possible. And we know our services can do just that through our certified telemedicine evaluation and rapidly submitted recommendation letters. If you have additional questions, read these Healthline and Top Dog Tips articles.
How to Train a Service Dog for ADHD
In the sections above, we touched on the different training methods of an emotional support assistance dog. Here are some more details, along with a supporting blog post, regarding the typical training of a service, therapy, or support dog.
There are two components of an effective training regimen for all service dogs. First, the General Public Access Test is performed to instill good manners in service animals, ensuring that they behave appropriately in public settings. The second step, the specialized task/work training is done, which satisfies the requirement of all PSDs to be able to perform a specific action that’s directly related to their handler’s disability.
No matter the underlying causes of your ADHD, or how it affects which aspects of your life, this two step training process can not only create a service dog out of any dog but tailor their abilities to combat each and every symptom the handler may encounter.
The Best Service Dog Breeds for ADHD
Any breed of dog could be transformed into an emotional support dog or psychiatric service animal. It could be a dog you have owned for years or one you just picked up from a shelter or adoption agency. But, like with most things, there are a handful of dog breeds that are superiorly adept than the rest.
- Jack Russell Terrier
- Cavalier King Charles Spaniel
- Sweet Rough Collie
- Bernese Mountain Dog
- Labrador Retriever
- Golden Retriever
- Old English Sheepdog
Are you interested in getting a psychiatric service dog?
Here at CertaPet, we can help. CertaPet is an online telehealth platform that improves access to mental health care in the U.S. with a focus on providing services to individuals who are seeking animal assisted interventions as part of their treatment plan.
We are currently coordinating with emotional support dog trainers who specialize in the service animal space and who will soon work in tandem with our network of licensed mental health professionals to make the process of getting and training a psychiatric service dog affordable, convenient, and hassle-free.
We’ll have more information available soon about our Psychiatric Service Dog Training options. In the meantime, you can take our FREE pre-screening below to see if you qualify for a PSD!
Can you have a service dog for ADHD?
Absolutely, yes. Service dogs and emotional support animals are trained to assist in the activities of daily living for those who have one or more mental health conditions, including anxiety and depression.
How do you qualify for a psychiatric service dog?
We have a fast, easy, and stress free way to determine just that. We start with a free screening, move on to a telemedicine evaluation from a licensed professional, and finish with a personalized plan and ESA letter of qualification.
What can a psychiatric service dog do?
Under the ADA, a service animal is defined as a dog that has been individually trained to do work or perform tasks for an individual with a disability. The task(s) performed by the dog must be directly related to the person’s disability.
Can I use any breed of dog as an emotional support dog or psychiatric service animal?
Any breed of dog can take to the psychiatric service training well and you can even use one you already own. However, there are particular breeds that excel in these kinds of emotional, stressful, and difficult situations.
How are support dogs trained?
Service dogs can be trained by you, the handler, or by you with the assistance of a certified trainer. A third option is to adopt a service animal from an accredited training organization for service dogs.