Tricks of the Trade: What a Service Pup for Mental Illness Must Be Able to Do


There is no denying that mental health is a formidable issue in countries across the world. After all, it is estimated that millions of people around the world are affected by a vast number of psychiatric disorders.

Therefore, it makes sense that more and more individuals are turning to service dogs to help them contend with a variety of psychiatric symptoms. If this is something you are considering as well, then you can guarantee that it is a good decision.

However, before you go ahead and pick out a service pup, you must be aware of what they need to do in their line of duty. Naturally, a pooch’s abilities and skills will need to directly correspond with any symptoms that you might be experiencing.

On this note, this post will take a look at everything a service dog should be able to do, depending on a specific mental health condition…

A Quick Note About Breeds

All service dogs have to be trained before they are partnered up with a human. During this period, they learn all they need to know to help their human out on a daily basis. Despite this training, the breed can play an important role when it comes to service pups for psychiatric disorders.

Keep in mind, people suffering from mental health issues will need a dog that is loving, caring, affectionate, and loyal. At the same time, they will need a pooch who is able to control their emotions and behavior and not be excitable.

This is why it is a good idea to stick with Labradors, Standard Poodles, Havanese, German Shepherds, and other breeds that have been found to handle psychiatric symptoms well enough.

What Service Pups Can Do for People with Depression


A service pup’s role in aiding people with depression is actually rather unique. This is because their main goal here is to help improve the individual’s quality of life by keeping them stimulated and engaged.

Understand, people diagnosed with depression may find it difficult to gain pleasure from daily activities in life. Furthermore, they may stop taking part in other tasks that can actually help get them out of depressive states. A service dog must help to change all of this.

For instance, one of the things that people with this condition struggle with is self-worth. They constantly put themselves down and imagine that they can’t do anything right. A service dog can actually assist with this simply by being there.

A person can regain confidence in themselves when they are able to complete simple tasks for their dogs. This can include smaller ones such as feeding and taking them for walks. Even training their pooches can help them feel like they have accomplished something.

A dog can also gently nudge someone with this mental health condition to socialize more. Pups require quite a bit of exercise. Thus, a good owner will feel obligated to take their dogs to dog parks, parks, beaches, and more. Not only will they get fresh air, but they will also interact with other people, especially other dog owners!

How Service Pups Help People with Anxiety

Service pups often have a little more to do with people diagnosed with an anxiety disorder. This is because some individuals with this mental health issue may have more extreme reactions. For example, it isn’t uncommon for them to experience panic attacks and undesirable behaviors.

Furthermore, people with anxiety conditions may also be triggered by various stimuli. This could include people, social settings, or what they perceive to be a stressful situation. Thus, a service pup for this kind of behavior must incredibly well-trained as you can see from this post:

Keep in mind, your pooch must be able to detect the onset of your symptoms. It is only by doing this that they will be able to engage in helpful behavior.

In many instances, a service pup’s role would be to stay as close to their owner as possible in an unsettling situation. This can give reassurance and help a person avoid a panic attack or other symptoms. Also, the tactile stimulation that service pooches provide can often act as a grounding mechanism.

Even if you are in the throes of a panic attack, a service dog may be trained to help you snap out of it. They may manage this by pawing at you or nudging you until you are brought back to awareness.

How Service Dogs Can Be Useful for Those with PTSD

Most service dogs trained to deal with PTSD have been assigned to military veterans. However, it is becoming more commonplace for victims of all kinds of trauma to have such dogs around. Once again, these pups do have to be rather well-trained to handle the specific issues of PTSD.

Some people with PTSD have been known to have dissociative episodes. During this period, they aren’t all that functional. So, the dog will need to take them home and should not expect too much guidance from their handler

These pups must also be able to help their human cope if they are experiencing a flashback or are suffering from sensory overload. For people who live with near-constant hypervigilance, dogs will need to be trained to “search” homes and other spaces.

Last, but certainly not least, pups trained to do this will also have to know how to contend with night terrors. For example, they may need to know to turn on the light when their owner is in the midst of one. They may also need to provide tactile stimulation to help the person to calm down as well.

As you can see, service dogs for psychiatric illnesses need to be able to perform a wide variety of tasks. If you are considering partnering up with such a pooch, you now know exactly what tasks are expected of them. Naturally, these responsibilities can change depending on the person they are assisting. However, now that you are aware of this information, you can make a better-informed decision.