Dogs are a common staple in U.S. households. In fact, as of 2020, there are approximately 90 million dogs in the USA. Most of these dogs are pets and compassion animals with no formal training, but a surprisingly large number also includes service dogs. In fact, there are over 500,000 service dogs living in the USA and assisting their owners.
Most commonly, when we hear service dogs, we think of seeing-eye-dogs for the blind, but there are actually many types of service dogs, such as psychiatric service dogs.
What is a Service Dog?
A service dog is legally defined by the U.S. Department of Justice as “dogs that are individually trained to do work or perform tasks for people with disabilities.” On a broader spectrum, a service dog is a licensed dog that provides assistance to a person with disabilities. These support dogs can provide assistance to people with mobility issues, emotional support, comfort for post traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) and much more. Out in public, these well behaved pups wear a vest to set them apart from regular pets.
As you can tell, there are many types of service dogs. Let’s go over the ones we will discuss in this article.
- A service dog receives extensive training to help individuals with tasks or activities that their disability limits or prevents them from doing on their own. These are often physical tasks. One of the most common types of service dogs is a seeing-eye dog for the blind. These dogs help their owners safely navigate the world, thus they are allowed in public spaces under the American with Disabilities Act (ADA). There are also other types of service dogs that receive training for special task forces, such as search and rescue dogs, police dogs, bomb sniffing dogs, and more. Another type is medical alert dogs, who alert owners to their illnesses. This is being used now for COVID even!
- A psychiatric service dog is similar to a regular service dog, but is trained to assist with mental disorders such as anxiety, post-traumatic stress disorder, depression, etc. Autism service dogs are a common service dog under this category. Psychiatric service dogs can sense anxiety attacks or PTSD episodes and help comfort their owner and alert them to it. Just like other service dogs, PSDs have public access rights and certain travel and housing privileges.
- Emotional support animals are companion animals who help alleviate symptoms of mental illness or depression. These animals require no formal training to be recognized as an assistance animal, they are just friendly pets that provide comfort and support to their owner. They do require a doctor’s note from a mental health professional though. They do not have the same federally protected rights as trained service dogs and are not able to accompany their owners in public places or on planes, unless specified. They may be allowed in non-pet housing, but that is all based on the guidelines that the specific establishment has in place.
- Therapy dogs (also known as facility dogs) are often found in hospitals or nursing homes. The presence of a therapy dog has been proven to bring comfort, social interaction, reduced stress, and joy into patients’ lives. It can even boost health benefits! Therapy dogs usually undergo some basic training order to work in these special settings, but they are not defined as service dogs under the ADA. They do not have the same rights as service dogs and are only allowed in places that state they allow pets.
What is a Psychiatric Service Dog?
Psychiatric service dogs help a person calm their mental issues and navigate the world. Some common conditions these dogs help with include PTSD, anxiety, ADHD, autism, etc. The tasks they help with vary owner from owner, as does service dog work in general, but these are just a few tasks they can do:
- Retrieve medicine and water and other items
- Provide affection and comfort during a panic attack or depressive episode
- Nudge to interrupt harmful behavior such as self harm, scratching, hair pulling, slapping, etc.
- Alert owner to heavy breathing, which could lead to an anxiety attack
- Offer grounding and stability support so owners don’t fall during attacks or episodes
- Summon help when needed
This is just a small list of the tasks these amazing service animals can do. They make life for people with disabilities much easier and provide comfort much like emotional support dogs.
Psychiatric Service Dog Rights
Since PSDs require extensive, quality training, they are recognized as service dogs by the ADA and have certain rights, such as:
- Public access rights: the right to be in public places with their owner, even if the business or area doesn’t normally allow dogs. These dogs must be allowed in the workplace, class, on company property, in stores, etc. According to Nolo, in New York, service dogs are allowed in the following list of places:
- all public and private housing accommodations
- all public and private transportation
- all schools and educational institutions
- all buildings to which the public is invited or permitted, including government buildings
- all theaters (including cinemas and live playhouses)
- all places that sell food, and
- all other places of public accommodation, entertainment, business, resort, or convenience to which the public is customarily invited or permitted.
- Travel rights: these rights ensure that a service dog can accompany their owner on their travels. It’s important that service dogs be allowed to support their human on flights, in airports, on public transportation, etc. Because of this, they have the right to sit in the cabin on airplanes and not in cargo.
- Fair housing: service dogs have a unique right to housing. Despite dog breed restrictions or no pet policies, service dogs must be allowed to live with their owners in their home at no additional fee.
- Educational Facility Access: service pups also are allowed to join their human in school and classes. It’s important for their owner to receive an education and service dogs must be allowed to help them should they have any issues while in school.
Service dog rights are always growing and changing and have rules that can differ area to area, including state to state. It’s important to respect these dogs and not hinder their important job. Look for a vest to tell for sure if a pup is a service dog or not. Never bring your pet anywhere and claim they are a service dog. This severely damages the reputation of well trained service dogs and makes life harder for service dog owners.
How Do I Get a Psychiatric Service Dog?
Getting a PSD is not a simple process. They must undergo extensive training to be prepared for life as an assistance animal. A service dog training program is very different from basic obedience classes.
The first step in acquiring a psychiatric service dog is consulting with a mental health professional. Psychiatric service dogs are only given to people who suffer from mental issues that disturb their quality of life. Search for a licensed mental health professional near you and contact them via phone or email for more information or a consultation to see if you could be a good candidate. There are thousands in upstate New York and the greater NY area. Sometimes there is a waiting list to speak to a professional, so reach out soon if you’re struggling.
The next step is finding a dog that works for you. The good news, according to the ADA, 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.
Finally, it comes down to training. If you adopt an already trained dog, continuous training is still important, but if you adopt a shelter dog or purchase a puppy from a breeder, even more training is absolutely vital.
Types of Psychiatric Service Dog Training
To be a service dog, these dogs go through extensive service dog training programs. There isn’t one set path for training, but rather a few routes owners can take to end up with a trained PSD.
- Self training: If you do this, you train your service dog yourself. This requires a lot of research and must follow certain guidelines set by the ADA to be met during the training. It’s a slower path as well, and can lead to more errors.
- Adopting an already trained PSD from an organization: This method requires a lot of money upfront, as training a service dog is expensive, but connects owners with an already trained dog that is ready to help them navigate the world. Trained service dogs can cost around $30,000 from reputable dog trainers.
- Partnering with a professional dog trainer: This is the most popular option because it ensures that your dog exhibits the best behavior when out in public and helps the dog understand all the specific signals for the task its owners will need it to do. It also allows the owner and dog to form a bond during the process. It’s important to work with a reputable trainer or business if you seek out this method.
Adopt a Service Dog in NY
Now you know where to begin with searching for a psychiatric service dog! But it can still be overwhelming. We’re setting out to help owners find their perfect service animal all across the country, so let’s help you narrow it down.
Animal shelters and rescue groups are a great place to find a canine companion who you can then train to become a PSD.. Below are some shelters and organizations in New York where you can find a new best friend.
- Animal Haven
Address: 1200 Centre St, New York, NY 10013
Phone number: (212) 274-8511
Email: Click here
- Animal Care Centers of NYC (3 locations)Manhattan Animal Care Center
Address: 326 East 110th Street New York, NY 10029Brooklyn Animal Care Center
Address: 2336 Linden Boulevard Brooklyn, NY 11208Staten Island Care Center
Address: 3139 Veterans Road West Staten Island, NY 10309Phone number: 1-212-788-4000
Email: [email protected]
- The Humane Society of New York
Address: 306 East 59th Street New York, NY 10022
Phone number: 212-752-4842
Email: [email protected]
- ASPCA Adoption Center
Click here to view adoptable dogs and contact the shelter about adoption
- Best Friends Lifesaving Center
Address: 307 West Broadway New York City, NY 10013
Phone number: 888-855-0353
Email: [email protected]
- Sean Casey Animal Rescue
Address: 153 East 3rd Street Brooklyn, New York 11218
Phone number: 718-436-5163
Email: [email protected]
- Humane Society of Westchester
Address: 70 Portman Rd New Rochelle, NY 10801
Phone number: 914.632.2925
Email: Click here
The New York area has thousands of dogs available for adoption and skilled volunteers will be able to assist you in finding the perfect dog to make a difference in your life. Visit their website and ask about the next step to adopt a dog for your service needs!
Psychiatric Service Dog Training in NYC
Finding a training program that works for you is key. Look for trainers that specialize in service dog training with a one-on-one class available. This will help you work on your skills and ensure all your questions get answered. Service dog training is quite different from basic obedience, so keep that in mind. You’ll do an evaluation with your pet to assess their current level and see if they’ll make a good service dog. Then, the trainer will discuss your goals for your dog and begin mapping out a plan that ends with a trained service dog!
During training, your dog will be introduced to a wide range of new situations to make them more comfortable and have no fear out in the world. Such things could be introducing them to the vest, having them walk on different types of services, loud noises, large crowds, other dogs, etc. You decide what your dog needs to know and a trainer assists you in finding a way to teach that skill. In any quality programs, any issues or problems will be addressed during your course. Remember, you and your dog are a client here, reputable training organizations should make this as simple as possible for you.
Dogs must pass a series of tests in training to become a service dog, so mastering the skills you need is a must. Expose them to new situations and new people as part of their program so they can help serve you and are comfortable in their evaluation. It’s important they pass obviously, but also receive all the skills and training they need to make you a great team. Take them to a business so they’re used to behaving in stores and not causing damages. Get them used to wearing their vest, retrieving your phone, helping you walk around your home, etc. All of this will help in your evaluation and maintaining your way of life past the test.
Look for a quality service animal training program in New York, whether that be in Albany, Buffalo, Rochester or in the city, such as the Bronx, Brooklyn, etc. Find a service dog trainer you trust with experience in assistance animals, specifically dogs in your local area. Contact them once you have found a dog you feel comfortable moving forward with. It’s important to trust your trainer because they are the person who is going to help your dog help you.
It can be hard to find a service dog and a service dog trainer, but we’re here to offer our services and help.
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 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.
What is a service dog?
A service dog is legally defined by the U.S. Department of Justice as “dogs that are individually trained to do work or perform tasks for people with disabilities.”
What is a psychiatric service dog?
A psychiatric service dog is similar to a regular service dog, but is trained to assist with mental disorders such as anxiety, post-traumatic stress disorder, depression, etc.
What do I need to get a psychiatric service dog?
The first step in acquiring a psychiatric service dog is consulting with a mental health professional. Psychiatric service dogs are only given to people who suffer from mental issues that disturb their quality of life. Search for a licensed mental health professional near you and contact them via phone or email for more information or a consultation to see if you could be a good candidate.