Are you concerned that getting a psychiatric service dog will take too long or be too costly? 

Unfortunately, many patients with PTSD and other conditions may have to wait years to see this need realized. Even worse, the cost for this type of service animal can be tens of thousands of dollars. 

Thankfully, there may be another option. Under ADA service dog laws, you can list yourself as the trainer and handler. The details you read in this guide today can help you accomplish this task and protect your legal rights.

How to Train a Psychiatric Service Dog

As long as they meet the requirements, any breed can serve as your service animal. Regardless, there are some critical factors to consider before you make your choice.

Dog Breeds to Consider 

For example, the size of the canine can be advantageous. Someone with mobility issues may want to consider a giant breed like Saint Bernards or Great Danes. Their height and weight make them well-suited to help you move around.

Alternatively, small breeds like terriers or welsh corgis can have fewer issues while traveling with their handler. Airlines can require that your service animal fit under your seat to fly with you. Otherwise, you may have to purchase a separate ticket for them.

Essential Service Dog Training Requirements

There are strict expectations for how your service dog behaves. Their accessibility to facilities like airports or grocery stores depends on how they conduct themselves. The paragraphs below describe the standards a service animal has to meet to maintain public access rights.

Remains Calm in Unfamiliar Settings

The world is unpredictable, and your service animal must have the proper temperament. After all, you don’t want to risk any kind of dog bite injury. Dogs do not always behave well in an unfamiliar environment because their anxiety becomes overwhelming. Therefore, adaptability is essential and comes from regular exposure to the unexpected.

Willingness to Please

Some dogs respond more to praise than treats or vice versa. Nonetheless, your service dog must have a personality that is eager to please. They will need this temperament to learn critical tasks and make it through travels with you. This is one of the key things to look for when learning how to train a psychiatric service dog.

Reliably Performing Tasks

The services your dog performs can be essential to your well-being. Therefore, they need to be a reliable part of your daily routine. The commands and behaviors you need them to perform must become innate parts of their personality.

Reliable Recall In Public

Depending on the nature of the work, you may need to separate from your service dog occasionally. As a result, you have to be able to recall them. They absolutely cannot get distracted by external stimuli, and abandon you for people, other dogs, or food.  

Basic Commands

The advanced skills used by psychiatric service dogs start by mastering the basics. These commands become the foundation for any training that follows. 

The instructions below focus on giving verbal orders. Nonetheless, a nonverbal signal will go a long way for many dogs. So you will want to choose some hand movements to repeat with your commands.

Sit, Down, Stand

You will teach these commands individually. But you will want to combine them eventually. Canines should practice them in succession in what some trainers call doggie burpees.

Showing a dog how to sit usually starts when they are puppies. You will want to start as early as possible to make this command second nature to them. From a standing position, hold a treat over their head. They will naturally drop their bottom to the floor. When they accomplish this task, give a verbal command and reward them.

Teaching “down” starts when your dog sits reliably. As usual, you will need a treat as a lure. While sitting, move your hand from the chest to the floor. Give the command and reward when the pup follows you to the ground.

You can teach “stand” from either a sitting or lying position. Take a treat and place it in front of their nose. Give the command while moving your hand upwards. The lure should get them on all fours again.

Stay and Wait

These commands have similarities, so it makes sense to group them. Teaching one will make the other fall in line naturally. But, always remember to use patience when learning how to train a psychiatric service dog.

Get your dog into whatever position you desire – standing, sitting, or lying down. Hold your hand and palm up and give the “stay” order. Then, you need to take a few steps away from them and recall them by saying their name. 

You will want to reward them with a treat and continue to practice this skill. Extend the distance you go with each attempt to teach them patience.

The wait command is a slight variation. Instead of recalling your service dog, they will wait until you return. 


Service animals will need to get used to following their handlers to situations like work or classes. So, they have to learn how to get comfortable wherever they go.

You may want to purchase a rollable mat or blanket to teach this command. Spread it out next to you and call your service animal to your side. Have them lie down and give them the “settle” command.

Once they relax, you should give them a treat. You will want to continue to do this for a while, but you must reduce the frequency of the rewards as time passes.

Leave It

There are many natural temptations for a dog. For example, they love to sniff. It is one of their preferred ways to exercise their brain. Furthermore, they love to find an unexpected treat lying on the ground. These are tendencies they need to learn how to control while they are out with you. 

There are several ways to teach this command. Generally, you want to place a high-value treat within sight. Holding it in your hand is advisable. Once they notice what they want, give them the “leave it” command. Once they leave it alone and settle, then you can reward them.

Psychiatric Service Dog Training

Teaching a dog how to serve specific functions can take baby steps. These behaviors are complex for them, and you may need time to get them to perform reliably. You cannot assume they will pick up on these commands after a few attempts. Nonetheless, once they do everything in order, they can demonstrate they serve a therapeutic function.

Deep Pressure Therapy 

Having a dog provide deep pressure to someone can ease the stress on their nervous system. Accordingly, this is a proper way to show your dog is necessary for your therapy.

The foundational skill to learn is “paws up.” A way to start teaching it is to grab high-value treats and lure your dog to a couch or bed. Say their name excitedly to get them interested in joining you. Once they put their feet where you want them to be, give positive reinforcement by saying, “paws up!” You will want to repeat this training until they go where you are without additional persuasion.

Next, you will want to lie down with another treat your dog loves. Pat your chest and say, “paws up.” There may be some confusion at first, so remember to be patient. They may not understand or follow through during the first few attempts. Once they get comfortable, you may need to tell them “down” to get them to lay on top of you.

Eventually, you will want to reduce the number of treats given to get them into this position. Focus on giving verbal praise and pets to keep them where they need to be.

Sensing Anxiety Attacks and Providing Comfort

Dogs have a remarkable ability to sense different types of emotional distress. They can even smell fear and react to the signals your body gives. Furthermore, you can teach them to recognize signs of an anxiety attack and respond accordingly.

First, you need to choose a cue to present to your dog. You will want to pick something you are likely to do when a panic attack occurs. Examples would include grabbing your chest, fidgeting, or touching your face. Repeat this activity a few times and reward the canine when they take notice.

The next step is to teach them an alert cue. You could have them nudge you or even notify someone else that you are in distress. At first, this command will need to be verbal. It also requires some practice and patience before you put everything together.

Now you want to combine the anxiety cue and alert command. Present the symptom you taught earlier and say “alert.” Reward them when they come to your aid, but eventually, you want to drop saying alert out loud. They need to learn how to come to you independently, and you need to reward them generously when they do.

Psychiatric Service Dog Certification

Going through a psychiatric service dog certification process is helpful for training purposes. Moreover, you can get expert advice that helps you handle their quirks. But the reality is that certification is not a requirement to have a service dog. You have a right to be a service animal trainer and handler. 

Do You Have Legal Concerns Regarding Your Psychiatric Service Dog?

You may spend hundreds or thousands of hours training your service dog. You know their capacity better than anyone, but strangers do not. In fact, they may be woefully ignorant of ADA law and violate your rights. Depending on the situation, this lack of knowledge could represent discrimination.

Unfortunately, reasoning with these individuals does not always work. It can take legal action to help you and your service animal receive the respect they deserve.

We can connect you with a local disability attorney to advise you on how to proceed. The initial consultation is usually free, and many will work on contingency. Request help through our website or call (866) 345-6784 today.

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