Home » The Top 10 Psychiatric Service Dog Breeds for Mental Well-being.

The Top 10 Psychiatric Service Dog Breeds for Mental Well-being.

Updated on March 13, 2024 by Lisa Tevis
Many people have been using Psychiatric Service Dogs (PSD) for their mental health for years. They are trained to perform tasks to mitigate a range of physical, psychiatric, or intellectual disabilities for their handlers. A Psychiatric Service Dog benefits people who have been diagnosed with a psychiatric ailment, such as anxiety, PTSD, bipolar disorder, schizophrenia, or depression.

The Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) provides several legal safeguards for Psychiatric Service Dogs. Hereby, they can access public spaces like restaurants, grocery stores, and offices that ordinarily prohibit dogs from entering. They can assist their handler in many ways, including offering comfort and stopping self-destructive tendencies. Some incredibly unique canines make the best dog breeds for Psychiatric Service. Thus, today’s article will discuss the 10 best breeds considered Psychiatric Service Dogs.

10 Best Psychiatric Service Dog Breeds

How Do I Choose The Right Psychiatric Service Dogs For Me?

Individuals often face difficulty in choosing the right psychiatric service dog for themselves—one that not only aids in their mental well-being but also suits their lifestyle and is not heavy on their budget. Keeping all your needs in mind, we have compiled a list of factors that you can consider when selecting a dog that will help you get a good psychiatric service dog for you.

  1. Trainability
    Dog that can be trained easily is essential because they are for the physical assistance of the handlers, and any negligence in their role can put the handler as well as the Service dog in trouble. Therefore, a dog breed with a lower level of intelligence and poor trainability won’t make a good psychiatric service dog. The dog must be capable of learning and recalling different tasks and commands with which they can aid in their handlers’ physical and mental well-being. While all dog breeds may be smart enough to be trained as PSD dogs, choosing a wiser one is best.
  2. Adaptable and Friendly
    Choosing a psychiatric service dog breed that is comfortable and calm in different public settings is essential. The dog must avoid getting easily irritated by small or large crowds of people. A psychiatric service dog may need to interact with strangers during a medical emergency. Thus, it needs to be a breed that is friendly to interact with new people.
  3. Temperament
    Just Being friendly is not enough. The psychiatric service dog should also have a calm demeanor. The dog must remain calm and composed in any situation. If the Service dog loses its calmness in a chaotic condition, it won’t be able to help the handler when most needed. Therefore, a hyperactive dog breed can become a problem here. So, it is advised to choose a naturally calm and manageable breed.
  4. Reliability
    The most crucial trait of a psychiatric service dog is reliability. Thus, the dog should respond to a given command by the handler in any situation.
  5. Compatible
    While choosing a psychiatric service dog, it is important that the individual deeply analyzes several dog breeds. Someone looking for a dog doesn’t need a hyperactive dog, nor should it be lazy. Moreover, the Service dog must be hardworking and inclined to do the required tasks when commanded. Thus, a breed with balanced energy and readiness to work can be good for the role of a PSD.
  6. Hypoallergenic breed
    PSDs have the right to accompany their owners to places where other pets are not permitted. So, it is necessary to select a hypoallergenic dog breed as a psychiatric Service Animal. It is suitable for the health of their handlers and the people who may encounter them in public spaces.
    One crucial point is that no specific breed will have all the above mentioned characteristics in a perfect balance. Also, individual dogs have certain personality traits that may or may not exactly match their breed’s traits. Thus, an individual needs to find a balance between all the traits based on their specific need for a Service dog. However, if you are looking for the best psd dog breed, here is the list of the top 10 psychiatric service dogs.

Which Breed Of Dog Is Best For Psychiatric Service Dog?

BreedGroupHeightWeightTemperamentDisadvantages
Golden RetrieverSporting group20–24 inches55–75 lbsIntelligent, eager to please, active, energetic, friendlyOften hungry, Sheds a lot, Needs exercise every day, not good at being left alone all day.
Labrador RetrieverSporting group21.5–24.5 inches55–75 lbsGentle, intelligent, family-friendly, aptitude to please, stable temperament, outgoing, devotedNeed plenty of space, Higher energy dogs, Sheds a lot.
German ShepherdHerding group22–26 inches75–95 lbsDependable, loving family companion, approachable, direct and fearless, strong, energetic, fun-loving, loyal.High energy levels, Prone to health issues, Potential for aggression, Large size.
PoodleNon-sporting group18–24 inches44-71 lbsalert, intelligent, loyal, trainable, active, friendly, playful, responsiveRequires a significant amount of grooming, Needs lots of attention, prone to diseases.
Border CollieHerding group18-22 inches40-55 lbsIntelligent, Energetic, Tenacious, Alert, Keen, Responsive, Loyal, AthleticHave nipping behaviors, highly energetic, needs lots of exercises, needs extra socialization, can have behavioral disorders.
BoxerWorking group23 to 25 inches66–70 lbsDevoted, Friendly, Intelligent, Energetic, Cheerful, Fearless, Bright, Loyal, Confident, Playful, CalmDon't tolerate extreme weather, Prone to skin issues and allergies, Need proper training and socialization, Require a lot of exercises.
Cavalier King Charles SpanielToy Dog group12 to 13 inches12-18 lbsAffectionate, Playful, Sociable, Fearless, Gentle, Patient, Adaptable, GracefulProne to Hearing and Vision Impairments, may suffer from Hip and Knee Problems, Don’t like to be left alone.
PomeranianSpitz breed6 to 7 inches3–7 lbsPlayful, Extroverted, Intelligent, Sociable, Lively, Friendly, ActiveProne to health issues, can be high maintenance, grooming needs, bossy behavior.
Great DaneWorking group30 to 32 inches140-175 lbsDevoted, Friendly, Reserved, Gentle, Confident, LovingLarge sized, can be expensive to maintain, have short Lifespan, can have serious health issues.
Shih TzuToy dog group8-11 inches9-16 lbsPlayful, Clever, Affectionate, Intelligent, LivelyCan be high maintenance, Can be stubborn, Prone to health issues.

1. Golden Retriever

Golden Retriever

A dog with a charming personality and friendly face, the Golden Retriever is the most popular breed. Their smiling face, shiny hair, wagging tails, silky ears, and unconditional affection easily grab everyone’s attention. Well-known for its intelligence, friendliness, and loyalty, the Golden Retriever can be used as a supporting pet. As with other retrievers, this dog breed is suitable to be trained to help blind or disabled people cross the street safely and for different tasks. These furry friends will not only make you feel good and give you hugs, but they will also be great supportive companions.

2. Labrador Retriever

Labrador Retriever as psychiatric service dog

Since 1991, the Labrador Retriever has been the most popular pet dog breed in the United States. Labs are very friendly, eager to please, and gentle Animals. These qualities make them suitable for Psychiatric Service Dogs.
Labs are brilliant and can learn any task easily. They can transport items without causing damage, all thanks to their “soft mouth.”
Because of their intelligence, eagerness to please, and willingness to work hard, Labradors are invaluable workers in various fields. They’re among the most popular choices for Service dog work, search and rescue, bomb and drug detection, and therapy dog work.

3. German Shepherd

German Shepherds as psychiatric service dog

German Shepherds are amazing dogs that excel as watchdogs because they are devoted and submissive towards their tasks. These canine companions love to please their owners and are incredibly intelligent dogs. They like participating in many activities and games, which makes them ideal Service dogs.
German shepherds can be easily trained to perform tasks. They can pick and drop items, open doors for you, paw you, and nudge you, among many other tasks.
German Shepherds are playful dogs who enjoy daily tasks and are happy to engage in various activities with their devoted owners. Their level of devotion and loyalty can be significantly beneficial for individuals struggling with mental or emotional health conditions such as depression, anxiety, etc.
Studies demonstrate that spending time with dogs can reduce stress and anxiety. German Shepherds, in particular, have a calming effect on their owners, which can be beneficial for individuals struggling with anxiety or post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). The presence of a German Shepherd can help reduce blood pressure and heart rate and release oxytocin (the hormone associated with feelings of relaxation and happiness), which aids in lowering anxiety symptoms and promotes a sense of calm and well-being.
Nevertheless, owning a German Shepherd can positively impact overall mental health. Studies demonstrate that having a pet can help elevate mood, reduce symptoms of depression, and increase feelings of happiness and well-being. German Shepherds, in particular, have been shown to provide a sense of security and stability to their owners, which can benefit individuals struggling with mental health issues. The sense of companionship and unconditional love provided by a German Shepherd can help to reduce feelings of loneliness and isolation.
They are highly active dog breeds and may require regular exercise and outdoor time for physical and mental stimulation. As a result, owning a German Shepherd can encourage owners to get outside and engage in physical activity, which positively impacts mental health. Going for walks, hikes, and runs with a German Shepherd can also allow owners to connect with nature and reduce stress and anxiety. Additionally, regular exercise can help to reduce symptoms of depression and promote overall physical health.

4. Poodle

Poodle as psychiatric service dog

These adorable fluffy dogs originated in France or Germany to retrieve wildfowl. Their aptitude as support dogs is influenced by their inherited propensity to recover objects. Poodles come in four sizes: toy, miniature, medium, and standard. You can pick the one that best fits your requirements. While the smaller sizes can be fantastic at hopping on your lap and doing Deep Pressure Therapy, giant poodles can accomplish more physically taxing chores. It is well known that poodles are intelligent and devoted to their owners. They get along with adults and kids and are amiable and trainable.
If you own a poodle, we advise you to train your furry friend before allowing them to engage with other dogs because loud noises and rough play can stress them out. This breed is preferable among people when selecting a PSD because of its hypoallergenic nature.
Poodles rank among the one of the most intelligent dog breeds. They naturally tend to learn and excel in obedience training and diverse dog sports. Poodles respond well to positive reinforcement techniques and enjoy mental challenges. These little buddies have larger brains than their body size, allowing them to process information fast and develop creative solutions to problems. Poodles are quick learners and highly adaptive, making them ideal Psychiatric Service Dogs.

5. Border Collie

Border Collies as psychiatric service dog

Border Collie is a devoted, friendly, and loyal companion whose goal is to please its owner. It is unquestionably one of the most intelligent breeds available. Border Collies are vibrant and energetic dogs that show their owners a lot of affection. Even if you’re not in the mood, they inspire you to get up and move, and their adorable antics will make your day. Hereby, They are perfect for someone suffering from depression. Furthermore, they love to cuddle and snuggle. Nothing can provide you with more peace and happiness than caressing a dog. Their extremely intuitive personalities make them an excellent choice for people who are prone to panic attacks.
Border Collies are known for their intelligence. Dog experts widely agree that they are intelligent workaholics. They can learn many words and commands and are happiest when they’re put to work daily.
A border collie can accomplish much because of its endless energy supply. Its bountiful energy pools make it an effective workhorse, and its cheerful and vibrant nature can offer a much-needed mood boost. Remember that they need a lot of exercise for their mental stimulation.

6. Boxers

Boxers as psychiatric service dog

Boxers are still one of the most significant breeds for psychiatric service dogs. Despite their bold appearance, they adore spending time with their owner. They never want to leave their owners, which makes them a perfect companion for those who seek assistance frequently.
Boxers can live peacefully in a smaller space and easily handle almost any physically demanding work. They are also good at detecting changes in their owner’s mood. Boxers tend to be watchful and protective because they were developed as guard dogs. However, with the help of training, they can maintain this alertness at a healthy level without being distracted.

7. Cavalier King Charles Spaniel

Cavalier King Charles Spaniel

The Cavalier King Charles Spaniel is a popular breed due to its sweet, gentle, loving nature. Many consider it the ideal house dog. It is cheerful, affectionate, and friendly toward strangers, dogs, and other Animals. Cavaliers are ideal companions for children and older people.
They are playful and easy to train but somewhat laid-back; their energy level is moderate. Cavalier is generally not a good watchdog or protection dog. Remember that these claims are widely accepted generalizations about the breed, and the behavior of individual Cavaliers may differ.

8. Pomeranian

Pomeranian best dod breed

The Pomeranian dog breed is from the Pomerania region in Europe. They are known for their compact size, fluffy double coats, alert expression, and spirited nature. Pomeranians are highly energetic and intelligent dog breeds and often exhibit a confident and curious demeanor, making them popular as companion dogs. They come in various colors and patterns. Also, they need regular grooming to maintain their luxurious coat. While they make loving and loyal pets, their small and delicate build requires careful handling and supervision, especially around children and larger Animals.

These little dogs have a natural curiosity about the world. They are always eager to explore and interact with their surroundings. Their alert expression, bright eyes, and perky ears give them an endearing and curious appearance.

The extroverted Pomeranian is smart and energetic. They love meeting new people and get along well with other Animals. Moreover, they are alert and curious, making them excellent watchdogs.

9. Great Dane

Great Dane as psychiatric service dog

Due to their calm, amiable, and cuddly nature, Great Danes are generally regarded as the gentle giants of the canine world and make excellent Psychiatric Service Dogs. They require little care and exercise, making them simple to maintain, especially for individuals with restricted mobility. They can get to higher places and aid in keeping their handler balanced.
Their striking size even helps to divert people’s attention away from their handler. This quality will be very beneficial for people struggling with mental health conditions like social anxiety.

10. Shih Tzu

Pomeranian best dod breed

Shih Tzus are renowned for their happy temperament. They are lively and friendly, and they tend to get along well with other dogs and people of all ages. Due to their small mouth, they are not big chewers, but they do like to dig and engage in some nuisance barking. He likes to be surrounded by people.
Shih Tzus are easy Animals to raise but they can get fat quickly, so they must be exercised daily. These little furry friends compete in obedience and agility with some success. However, be careful, exercising your Shih Tzu in humid and hot weather, as they are at risk for heat stroke.

How To Train A Psychiatric Service Dog?

Before training your psychiatric service dog, identify specific tasks the dog must perform to assist with your mental and emotional health condition. After identifying the tasks, look for a dog breed with the right temperament, intelligence, and trainability. Here is the primary training that you can provide to your psychiatric service dogs, or an individual can also get a trained one.
Basic Obedience Training: Train the dog in basic obedience commands like sit, stay, come, heel, and focus. Practice these commands in different environments with varying distractions.
Task-Specific Training: Introduce and train tasks specific to your needs, such as interrupting self-harming behavior or providing deep pressure therapy. Use positive reinforcement techniques to shape desired behaviors related to the duties.
Public Access and Socialization: Gradually expose the dog to different settings, noises, and people to ensure they remain calm and focused. Train the dog to be well-behaved and obedient in public spaces, following etiquette standards for Service dogs.
Continual Training and Support: Professional assistance from experienced Service dog trainers or organizations specializing in Psychiatric Service Dog training can be highly beneficial. Each training plan should be tailored to the individual’s needs and condition, ensuring the dog’s tasks align with the handler’s requirements.
Training a Psychiatric Service Dog is a process that requires patience, dedication, and expertise. Professional trainers or organizations specializing in Service dog training can significantly aid in this process to ensure the dog is well-equipped to assist individuals with psychiatric disabilities effectively.

What Are the Legal Laws Protecting Psychiatric Service Dogs?

Psychiatric Service Dogs (PSDs) are protected under the ADA (Americans with Disabilities Act). Under the ADA, a PSD is trained to perform tasks for a person with an emotional, mental, psychiatric, or physical disability. Psychiatric Service Dogs and their handlers can access public places such as restaurants, shops, hospitals, schools, workplaces, and public transportation without being charged pet fees.
The ADA prohibits discrimination based on breed or size for Service dogs. Any breed can serve as a Psychiatric Service Dog if trained to perform tasks that mitigate the handler’s disability. Additionally, PSDs are exempt from pet fees in places that charge for pets.
Nevertheless, it is imperative to get a legitimate PSD letter from a licensed mental health professional, as an illegitimate PSD letter can put you and your Service Animal in trouble.

Conclusion

Although most pets give their owners company and can benefit mental health, Psychiatric Service Dogs must undergo considerable training to complete a specific duty that a person with a mental or emotional problem is unable to execute on their own. These Service dogs enable their handlers to live healthier and happier lives through their everyday assistance. More than just pets or perhaps just best friends, Psychiatric Service Dogs save the lives of many humans with their love and care.

About the Author

Lisa Tevis
Lisa Tevis
Lisa is a talented professional writer at Fast ESA Letter, fueled by a deep passion for animals. With a natural affinity for their well-being, Lisa combines her writing skills with her love for animals to create engaging and informative content. As a proud pet parent, Lisa shares her life with two beloved dogs, who have enriched her understanding of the human-animal bond. Through her work, Lisa aims to raise awareness about emotional support animals (ESAs) and their positive impact on mental health.
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