Service Dog for Stress: Calm Your Mind with the Best Company

Service Dog for Stress: Calm Your Mind with the Best Company

Updated on June 27, 2024
Written by Andre Gregatti

fact checked by Julia Oliveira

Dealing with stress can often feel like an unending, exhausting battle. While managing stress is crucial, it can be challenging and monotonous. Service dogs are specially trained to help people with health conditions, including stress. These dogs perform tasks that help their owners feel better.

A service dog can notice and help if someone feels very stressed. The dog might give a comforting hug, stop a panic attack, or just stay close to make the person feel safer. This support helps calm the person down and makes them feel more at ease.

The benefits of having a service dog extend far beyond their specific tasks. They can enhance the quality of life for those dealing with stress. In this guide, we’ll explore everything you need to know about service dogs for stress, from their benefits to how to get one and more.

What Are Service Dogs?

Service dogs are specially trained to assist people with disabilities. These dogs can perform tasks their owners cannot do on their own. For individuals with physical disabilities, service dogs might help with:

  • Mobility
  • Retrieving objects
  • Opening doors

For those with mental health conditions, service animals provide essential emotional support. They remind their owners to take medication or interrupt anxiety attacks. The bond between a service dog and its owner is strong. It provides a sense of security and independence.

Psychiatric Service Dogs

Psychiatric service dogs receive training to support individuals coping with mental health challenges. These mental challenges can include:

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Bipolar Disorder

For someone experiencing stress, a PSD can sense when their owner is feeling anxious. The dog can perform tasks like:

  • Provide calming actions like deep-pressure therapy
  • Remind their owner to take medication
  • Perform calming exercises

Psychiatric service dogs offer constant emotional support. They help their owners maintain daily routines. They also encourage their owners to stay active and engaged. Psychiatric service dogs help people manage stress and lead more balanced lives.

Emotional Support Dog vs. Psychiatric Service Dog

Emotional support dogs and psychiatric service dogs both help people with mental issues. However, they both serve different purposes:

Training and Tasks

An ESD provides comfort without special training. Through their presence, they offer general emotional support.

PSDs are trained to perform specific tasks. These can include reminding the owner to take medication and providing deep pressure therapy.

Legal Rights and Access

An ESD does not have the same legal rights as a service dog. They are not allowed in all public places and are generally permitted only in housing.

A psychiatric service dog has the legal right to go with its owners in public places.

Learn More About Emotional Support Dogs

Purpose and Role

An ESD offers emotional support to reduce feelings of loneliness, anxiety, and depression. Their role is mainly to provide comfort through their presence.

An anxiety service dog assists with specific mental health conditions by performing trained tasks. Their role is to help manage and ease the symptoms of these conditions actively. For more information, visit the detailed comparison of Emotional Support Animal Vs Service Animals.

How Can Service Dogs Help with Stress

Service dogs are beneficial for individuals experiencing stress. These dogs perform tasks that directly address stress-related symptoms. Service dogs can sense when their owner is feeling stressed or anxious. 

Service animals respond with calming behaviors, such as deep pressure therapy. An anxiety service dog can interrupt stress-related behaviors. If an owner shows signs of a panic attack, the dog can intervene by nudging, licking, or distracting them. 

This helps break the cycle of stress and refocus the owner’s attention. Service dogs also encourage a more structured and active lifestyle. Their companionship reduces feelings of isolation and encourages social interaction.

What is Stress?

Stress is the body’s response to pressure. Various situations or life events can cause stress. It can often be when we encounter something new, unexpected, or beyond our control. Each person handles stress differently.

Genetics, early life experiences, personality, and social circumstances influence stress. When we face stress, our body releases hormones that trigger the “fight or flight” response. These hormones help us respond quickly to danger.

This reaction can be helpful, such as pushing through fear to perform well. However, prolonged stress can keep our bodies in a constant state of alert. Which in turn leads to negative effects on our physical and mental health.

Service Dogs and Their Benefits for Stress

Service dogs offer a range of benefits for people dealing with stress. Here’s how service animals can make a difference:

Deep Pressure Therapy (DPT)

They provide comforting pressure by laying on their owner. This gentle weight can help calm you down when you feel overwhelmed or anxious.

Interrupting Anxiety Behaviors

A service dog can be trained to notice and interrupt anxious behaviors. They might nudge or paw you to break the cycle, helping you refocus and calm down.

Medication Reminders

They can be trained to remind you when to take your meds. This makes sure you stay on track even when you’re stressed out.

Providing a Calming Presence

Having your service dog around can be incredibly soothing. Their companionship helps reduce feelings of loneliness and isolation. Which in turn lowers your stress levels.

Encouraging Physical Activity

Service dogs need exercise, which means you’ll be more active. Regular walks, playing fetch, and other activities with your dog can help reduce stress.

Social Interaction

Service animals are great conversation starters. Taking your service dog out can lead to more social interactions. This helps you feel more connected and supported. It’s a wonderful way to reduce social anxiety and build relationships.

Offering Emotional Support

They provide general emotional support like emotional support animals. Their constant presence can help you feel more secure and less stressed.

Grounding Techniques

A service dog can help you stay grounded during high stress. They might nuzzle you, paw at you, or perform other actions that bring you back to the present moment. This helps you regain control.

For those who take medication to manage anxiety disorder, service dogs can be trained to remind their handlers to take their medication at the appropriate times.

How to Train a Service Dog for Stress?

Training a service dog to help with stress can be a rewarding experience. Here’s a simple, step-by-step guide to get you started:

  1. Pick the Right Pup: First things first, you need a dog with a calm and friendly temperament. Breeds like Labrador Retrievers, Golden Retrievers, and Poodles are great service dogs for anxiety and stress.
  2. Teach Basic Commands: Start with the basics. Your dog should know commands like sit, stay, come, and heel, which is essential for any service dog. Use positive reinforcement, such as treats and praise, to make learning fun for your dog.
  3. Socialize Your Dog: Get your dog used to different people and animals. This helps your dog stay calm and well-behaved in various situations.
  4. Focus on Specific Tasks: Now, train your dog to perform tasks that help reduce your stress. You can train them for DPT, interrupting anxiety behavior, and medication reminders.
  5. Practice in Public: Your service dog needs to behave well in public places. Take your dog to different locations and practice staying calm and focused.
  6. Keep Reinforcing: Practice commands and tasks regularly to keep your dog’s skills sharp and reliable.
  7. Get Professional Help: Working with a service dog trainer can make a big difference. They can offer tips and ensure your dog’s training is right.
  8. Certification and Paperwork: After training, you might want to get your dog certified. While not always legally required, having a certification can be handy when you need to show proof of your dog’s training and status.

Who Can Get Psychiatric Service Dogs?

If you’re wondering whether you can get a psychiatric service dog (PSD), here’s what you need to know!

Psychiatric service dogs are trained to help people with various mental illnesses, including:

  • Anxiety Disorders: Generalized anxiety disorder, panic disorder, social anxiety.
  • Depression: Major depressive disorder, persistent depressive disorder.
  • PTSD: Post-traumatic stress disorder, often in veterans or trauma survivors.
  • Bipolar Disorder: Managing mood swings and emotional support.
  • OCD: Obsessive-compulsive disorder, interrupting compulsive behaviors.

A licensed mental health professional must provide the diagnosis to ensure the need for a service dog. The individual should need the dog to perform tasks that mitigate mental symptoms. The tasks must be directly related to alleviating the person’s condition.

Finally, owners must prove their ability to care for and manage the dog. The process involves certification and training programs to match the individual with a suitable dog. It ensures the dog can perform the necessary tasks effectively.

Which Breed of Dog Can Help With Stress?

When choosing a service dog for stress, some breeds are better suited than others. Here are a few service dog breeds that are popular for their calming presence and trainability:

Labrador Retriever

Labradors are friendly, intelligent, and easy to train.

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Golden Retriever

Labradors are friendly, intelligent, and easy to train.

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Poodles are not only smart but also very adaptable. They come in various sizes, which can be a great option.

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German Shepherd

German Shepherds are highly intelligent and loyal. They are very protective and can provide a sense of security.

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Golden Retrievers are famous for their friendly and tolerant attitudes.

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Great Dane

Despite their large size, Great Danes are gentle giants. They are popular for their calm and composed nature.

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Border Collie

Border Collies are incredibly smart dogs. They can encourage their owners to stay active and reduce stress through exercise.

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Pomeranians might be small, but they have big personalities. They are very affectionate and love being close to their owners.

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Bernese Mountain Dog

Bernese Mountain Dogs are calm, affectionate, and good-natured.

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Pitbulls are often misunderstood but are very loving and loyal. They can provide a strong bond and a sense of security.

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How to Get a Service Dog

Getting a service dog involves a few essential steps. Here’s a brief guide:

  1. Consult With a Professional: Discuss your needs with a licensed mental health professional. This is to determine if a service dog is right for you and obtain the necessary documentation.
  2. Get a Psychiatric Service Dog Letter: Get a letter from your professional. It should state that you would benefit from a psychiatric service dog.
  3. Choose the Right Dog: Select a dog that fits your needs based on breed, size, and temperament. Adoption, breeders, or training your current pet are all options.
  4. Training: Train service dogs to perform tasks that help with your condition. You can do this yourself, hire a professional, or get a pre-trained dog.
  5. Documentation: Certification can be helpful in public to prove your dog’s status as a service animal.
  6. Ongoing Reinforcement: Regular practice and reinforcement ensure your dog continues to perform effectively.

Get Your Legit PSD Letter in 3 Easy Step

ESA Pet simplifies getting a legitimate Psychiatric Service Dog (PSD) letter. Here’s how you can do it in just three steps:

Step 1: 2-Minute Screening

Start by completing a quick pre-screening questionnaire. This brief assessment will help determine your eligibility for a PSD letter. The survey will discuss your mental illness and your service dog’s training and behavior.

Step 2: Consult with a Psychiatrist

Next, you’ll connect with a licensed mental health professional. During a telehealth appointment, you’ll discuss your disability, how it affects your daily life, and how a PSD can assist in managing your condition. The psychiatrist will check your situation to see if a PSD suits you.

Step 3: Receive Your PSD Letter

If approved, you will receive your signed PSD letter within three business days. This straightforward and hassle-free process ensures you get the support you need quickly.

Get your Official PSD Letter Consultation from a licensed therapist.

Get PSD Letter Now

FAQs about Service Dog for Stress

Can You Have a Service Animal for Stress?

Yes. You can have a service animal for stress. These animals get training to help manage stress-related symptoms by performing specific tasks. These tasks include providing DPT, interrupting anxiety behaviors, and reminding you to take meds.

How Bad Does Your Anxiety and Stress Have to Be to Get a Service Dog?

Your anxiety and stress need to impact your daily life to qualify for a service dog. This means that your condition should make performing essential tasks difficult. A licensed professional can test your situation and determine whether a service dog is appropriate.

What Is a Service Dog for Anxiety and Stress Called?

A PSD is a type of service dog trained to assist with anxiety and stress. These dogs are specifically trained to perform tasks that mitigate the symptoms of mental conditions.

Can Someone Ask Me for Papers on My Service Dog?

Yes. In certain situations, people can ask for documentation about your service dog. Typically, this occurs in public places where they can question the presence of a service animal.

What Are the Three Questions You Can Ask About a Service Dog?

According to the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), there are specific questions that can be asked to determine the legitimacy of a service dog:

  1. Is the dog required because of a disability?
  2. What work or task has the dog been trained to perform?
  3. (Optional) Inquiries about the specific nature of the disability or the dog’s training details may be restricted by law.


Service dogs can be a game-changer for those struggling with stress. These animals are individually trained to perform tasks that help manage stress and anxiety. A service dog’s presence can make daily life more manageable and less overwhelming.

Getting a service dog involves consulting with a professional, obtaining a PSD letter, choosing the right dog, and ensuring proper training. These dogs help with stress and improve quality of life. They can help by encouraging social interaction and physical activity.

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