How do i get a service dog for anxiety

How do I get a service animal?

Taking care of an animal can be a great way to improve your mental health [1]. But not every landlord allows pets. You can get around this if a mental health professional certifies that you need an emotional support animal. There are other types of service animals too—it’s important to understand what you’re trying to get, because the steps are different for each type.

Emotional support animals (ESAs)

An emotional support animal (ESA) is just what it sounds like—a pet that provides emotional support. ESAs don’t need any special training (beyond the normal training a pet needs). Dogs and cats are the most common, but any domesticated animal can be an ESA.

ESAs are covered under the Fair Housing Act. This allows people with an ESA to have their pet in their home even if there is a “no pet” policy. The law also prevents additional pet fees for ESAs. Small ESAs can also travel with you on a plane free of charge. Unlike service dogs, ESAs aren’t allowed into other public places that don’t normally allow pets.

In order to get the benefits of an ESA, you will need a “prescription” from a mental health professional. This is basically just a signed letter stating that you have a mental health condition and that your pet helps you deal with it. Some landlords and airlines will accept a letter from a medical doctor, but often it needs to be a therapist or a psychiatrist.

Service animals (dogs only)

The Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) defines service animals as dogs that are individually trained to perform tasks for the benefit of an individual with a disability [2]. This can be a physical, sensory, psychiatric, intellectual, or other mental disability. Only dogs are legally considered service animals. Other domestic animals are covered only as emotional support animals or therapy animals.

Qualifying for a service dog is simple. Actually getting one is a bit harder. To qualify for a service animal, all you need to do is get written documentation from your healthcare provider that you have and are being treated for an emotional or psychiatric disorder or disability and require the assistance of an animal because of it. The work a dog has been trained to do must specifically relate to your condition. Training a service dog yourself can be difficult and can take years. Usually you would get a service dog from someone else who has already trained it.

Psychiatric service dogs (PSDs)

A psychiatric service dog (PSD) is a specific type of service animal trained to assist those with mental illnesses. These include post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), schizophrenia, depression, anxiety, and bipolar disorder. For example, a dog may assist someone with PTSD in doing room searches or turning on lights. Or it might help someone in a dissociative episode from wandering into danger. Providing companionship, calming anxiety, or providing a sense of safety merely by its presence are not legally considered “tasks.”

If you’re not sure whether to get an ESA or a PSD, think about what your specific needs are. Is this animal going to assist you in tasks you wouldn’t otherwise be able to do? You’ll probably need a service animal. Are they primarily going to provide companionship, non-judgmental positive regard, and affection? That sounds more like an ESA, which is much easier to get anyway.

Therapy animals

Therapy animals are used in therapeutic settings, like hospitals or nursing homes. Some examples might be a cat that lives at a treatment facility, a dog that is taken to visit people in a disaster area, or a horse used in equestrian therapy. Therapy animals provide affection and comfort to people, but they are different than PSDs or ESAs. They are screened for their ability to perform a specific type of therapy, and they are handled by professionals.

Can you take care of an animal?

Before getting any kind of pet or service animal, it is important to seriously consider the responsibilities that come along with it. Think about whether you can care for it physically, mentally, and financially. Service animals in particular are a big commitment. ESAs are a little easier since they don’t need special training, but any pet is still a commitment. If you can’t handle a dog, consider a lower-maintenance pet like a cat or a fish. If even that is too much, try starting with a plant or a stuffed animal, or another form of treatment.

Show References

  1. Mental Health Foundation. (2022). Pets and mental health. Retrieved from
  2. Brennan & Nguyen. (2014). Service Animals and Emotional Support Animals
    Where are they allowed and under what conditions? Retrieved from

Can You Get A Service Dog For Anxiety? Learn How To Qualify


Anxiety is the most common mental illness in the world, affecting over 40 million adults in the United States ages 18 and older. There are many medications, remedies, and treatments available for this condition, each with their own benefits and drawbacks. The correct treatment method will depend on the exact circumstances and severity of the condition.

Although this widespread epidemic is highly treatable, only around 35% of Americans who are affected actually receive treatment. This is partly due to the fact that many feel there is a stigma associated with seeking treatment for mental or emotional disorders.

Additionally, many people still struggle with the idea that mental illness is a health issue that can be corrected with medical treatment. Instead, many wrongly view depression, anxiety, and similar mental issues as personality defects that can be ignored.

However, anxiety can be very serious, and it should never be ignored. If you believe that you or a loved one is suffering from anxiety, you should consult a licensed physician immediately to get a diagnosis and, if necessary, determine a treatment plan that meets your needs.

It is also important to remember that there are many options besides pharmaceutical drugs for anxiety treatment. Animal lovers who suffer from anxiety often ask if they would be eligible to have a service dog to help manage their anxiety. Thankfully, the answer is yes; you can absolutely get a service dog for a mental illness, including anxiety.

What Are Service Dogs?

You may hear “service dog” and think that it is one of the animals that assist cops or military personnel. Dogs can be trained to do this, but these types of dogs aren’t the service dogs we are referring to. Service dogs encompass a wide array of dogs to help support those with mental illness and/or physical disabilities.

According to the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), service animals are defined as follows:

“Service animals are defined as dogs that are individually trained to do work or perform tasks for people with disabilities. Examples of such work or tasks include guiding people who are blind, alerting people who are deaf, pulling a wheelchair, alerting and protecting a person who is having a seizure, reminding a person with mental illness to take prescribed medications, calming a person with Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) during an anxiety attack, or performing other duties. Service animals are working animals, not pets. The work or task a dog has been trained to provide must be directly related to the person’s disability. Dogs whose sole function is to provide comfort or emotional support do not qualify as service animals under the ADA.”

What Laws Protect Service Dogs?

Thanks to the ADA, service dogs are granted certain protections by law. Many of these protections relate to where you can and cannot go with a service dog, as well as which questions certain people can and cannot ask about your condition. A service dog must be allowed to accompany their handler in any place where the public is typically allowed to go. Typically, the only exceptions are places like operating rooms (though they can be in most areas of a hospital), where things need to be kept extremely sterile. However, they are still allowed in places that serve food, regardless of local health codes.

Additionally, the ADA provides the following information related to questions that landlords, hospital staff, and others can ask of you, as well as certain exceptions to the aforementioned rules:

  • When deciding whether or not public access should be granted, people are only allowed to ask if the service animal is required due to a disability, and what work or task they have been trained to perform to help with that disability. They can’t ask for identification for the service animal, certifications, or any proof of your disability.
  • A fear of dogs or allergies to dogs are not valid reasons to refuse access to a service dog. Ideally, the person who cannot be around a dog and the itself should be kept to different areas of the building. However, neither person is allowed to feel isolated or like they are in a lesser part of the premises.
  • A service dog can only be asked to leave a premises if the dog is aggressive or destructive, or if the dog is not housebroken. If the dog must leave, the staff of the premises but offer to handler the chance to remain without their service animal present.
  • A person with a service dog cannot be kept isolated from other patrons, cannot be treated less well than other patrons, and cannot be charged any fees that those without animals are charged. All required despoits for animals but be waived as well, though a handler may still have to pay for any damages their service dog causes.
  • The staff at any premises are not rquired to provide food, water, or care to a service animal.

Service dogs are specifically trained to help make the day-to-day life of their owner better and alleviate the burden of their condition. These animals can help with different aspects of everyday life for their owner, from retrieving hard to reach items to physically supporting a person with impaired motor skills.

Since they must provide excellent support round the clock, service dogs are truly put to the test. They have to make it through extensive training before they can officially become a service dog. This helps give individuals some peace of mind, knowing that their companion is extremely well trained and reliable.

Service dogs are typically used by individuals with hearing or visual impairments, but those suffering from depression or anxiety can also utilize these furry companions. However, not all dogs can become a service animal. The most common breeds are Labs, Golden Retrievers, and German shepherds, but they will also need to meet certain standards and undergo the proper training.

Standards and Training for Service Dogs

As stated above, service dogs must meet certain criteria to qualify. A registered service dog will need to meet the following criteria:


Service dogs must be well-tempered. This means that they are not quick to anger, and do not get stressed out easily. They should enjoy being touched, and not react aggressively if a patient mishandles them. While some of these behaviors can be trained, dogs will need to be inherently calm to some degree.


Service dogs should not shed excessively. Shedding can be a major problem for people with allergies, and it creates an extra mess that owners would need to clean up. Service dogs exist to brighten people’s day, not cause more problems.


Service dogs MUST be social and friendly. This is perhaps the most important requirement, as they will need to cheer people up when they need it the most. However, dogs that are overly energetic can be too rough with certain individuals (especially the elderly), so service dogs must be social, but not overly-enthusiastic.


Service dogs will need to adapt to various environments. Sometimes they may need to provide support while there is a lot of noise going on, and other times they may need to help patients in cramped living spaces. In any case, they will need to be comfortable, no matter the setting. A dog that is uncomfortable might become shy or even aggressive, which could cause unnecessary harm to their owners.

However, these are not the only criteria that service animals must meet. Once it is determined that a given animal checks all the boxes listed above, they will need to undergo training.

What Type of Training Does a Service Dog Need?

The type of training that a service animal needs will depend on the type of service animal. Generally, there are 8 types of service dogs, each with their own required skill sets:

Guide Dog

This is a very common type of service animal, and is probably one that you have seen before. Guide dogs help those with visual impairments when they are walking around. A guide dog is trained to stop at intersections, move at the correct pace for their owner, and generally ensure that their owners do not fall or run into any barriers.

Hearing Dog

Hearing dogs help those who are either deaf or hearing impaired. A hearing dog will alert their owner if the phone rings, something falls down, someone is ringing the doorbell, if there is an intruder, and similar situations. The dogs are trained to know that barking is not an effective way to get their owner’s attention, and so they will paw or otherwise make physical contact with their owner.

Diabetic Alert Dog

Thanks to the heightened sense of smell in most dogs, they can detect when a diabetic patient’s blood sugar is either too high or too low. These dogs are trained to alert their owners when a hyperglycemic or hypoglycemic episode is about to occur. They can also retrieve the necessary medicine and try to get additional help if necessary.

Mobility Assistance Dog

Much like guide dogs, mobility assistance dogs help their owners get around. However, these dogs are specifically trained to assist people who cannot move freely on their own, like those in wheelchairs. Mobility assistance dogs can help open doors, retrieve hard to reach items, and get help if their owner has fallen down.

Seizure Response Dog

For those with epilepsy, a seizure response dog can be a real life-saver. These dogs are trained to help their owners “wake up” from a seizure, call for help, and/or move their owner to a safe location if necessary.

Autism Support Dog

Much like therapy dogs, autism support dogs help children and even some adults cope with their condition. These dogs are trained to keep a close eye on their owner, and also help boost their confidence in social situations.

Allergy Detection Dog

If a person has an allergy to something specific, like peanuts, their support dog will be trained to smell it before their owner can. This way, they can alert their owner and avoid a severe allergic reaction.

Psychiatric Service Dog

This is one of the broadest categories of service animals, as these dogs can help provide assistance to those with depression, PTSD,  and a myriad of other mental illnesses. This is the type of service dog that is most relevant to those suffering from anxiety, and we will go into further detail about psychiatric service dogs below.

How Do Service Dogs Help Those With Anxiety?

A service dog can help individuals who have anxiety in a variety of ways. These include:

  • Detecting signs of anxiety attacks before they begin.
  • Retrieving water, medications, or other items that provide comfort during the attack.
  • Getting someone to help if the owner is in distress.
  • Warding off strangers if the owner is in distress.
  • Distracting the owner during an anxiety attack to help calm them down.
  • Providing physical pressure to help soothe their owner.

Psychiatric Service Dogs

There are many ways psychiatric service dogs can help people with mental disabilities like anxiety. Psychiatric service dogs can be trained to bring medication or water to their owner at the first sign of an anxiety attack. Dogs may also lead someone to their owner to help with an emotional crisis, or bring a phone during an anxiety attack in order for the owner to call their therapist or support person.

Psychiatric service dogs provide love and comfort, often with tactile support such as licking their owner’s face or applying pressure to their owner’s chest or abdomen to disrupt an anxiety attack. Companionship can also help release tension and ward off a panic attack by letting the owner know that they are not alone.

How to Get a Service Dog

To get a service dog, the owner must meet several criteria. First, the owner must have a physical or mental disability that affects their day-to-day life and must be able to show that the animal can provide a service that benefits the person’s specific illness. You will need to see a physician to request the recommendation needed to apply for a psychiatric service dog. There are specific requirements in place that the individual must meet before they can bring home a furry companion.

  • You must have a physical disability, specific illness, or disorder.
  • You need to be present during your dog’s training.
  • You must still be able to give commands and care for your dog.
  • Your home environment must be stable.
  • You need a recommendation letter from your healthcare provider.
  • You must have the necessary finances to care for the dog.

Dog owners must be able to command and care for their service dog independently and provide a stable home environment for their animal.  Often, owners are required to be a part of their service dog’s training as well.

How Much Does a Service Dog Cost?

The help provided by a service dog may be invaluable to you, but the toll on your bank account may cause you to question if it is really necessary.

Service dogs are expensive because of the training that is involved to get them ready to care for their owner. Training could cost anywhere between $30-$40,000. On top of this cost, you have costs of food, grooming and veterinary visits each year. Some organizations will help individuals receive service dogs at little to no cost through fundraising. So, if the cost of a service dog is an issue for you, you aren’t immediately ruled out.

Service dogs can change your life and it is only fitting that every individual in need can have access to this opportunity.

Can Your Dog Become Your Service Animal?

You may already have a dog and think that you can put it through training to become your service animal, but this isn’t how it works. Dogs that have already been trained as pets can’t be trained as service animals.

What Breeds Are Best for Service Dog Work?

Technically, any breed be a service dog for anxiety, as long as they personally have the right temperament and physical traits to perform whatever tasks you need. For instance, if you need a dog who is able to guide you out of a crowded building, you’ll want one that is independent enough to find their own way, and large enough to pull you out if needed.

For a deeper dive into the best breeds for anxiety service dog work, you can check out our detailed guide.

What If You Don’t Qualify for a Service Dog?

Some individuals may greatly benefit from having a trained animal companion, but they may not meet the specific requirements for a service dog.

These individuals aren’t out of luck. They still have the possibility of being able to obtain an emotional support dog. Those with anxiety are typically given the go-ahead for these animals. In most cases, all that is needed to obtain an emotional support dog is a letter from your medical professional.

It may sound silly, but this letter is literally a prescription for an emotional support dog. This way, you can show that your animal is a necessity for your mental well being.

Emotional Support Animals

Emotional support animals are a great option for people who suffer from a milder form of anxiety and may not need the level of support a psychiatric service dog provides. Emotional support animals are easier to obtain and more cost-efficient than service dogs.

Unlike service animals, which are strictly limited to dogs, there are many animals that can be considered emotional support animals, including dogs, cats, horses, pigs, and even hamsters. However, service dogs are covered under more laws than emotional support animals, meaning that service dogs can access certain buildings and areas that emotional support animals cannot.

Additionally, emotional support animals undergo less intensive training, and existing pets can often be trained as emotional support animals. The main role of these animals is to provide emotional support and comfort throughout the day and in times of distress.  Pet owners also need a letter from a physician to have an emotional support animal.

If you suffer from anxiety or another mental illness, a psychiatric service dog may be the right treatment for you. Whether your anxiety is debilitating and something that hinders your everyday life, or you have a more mild disability, it’s a good idea to talk to your doctor to discuss the possible treatment options that could be right for you.

Acquiring a Service Dog for Anxiety

There are significant benefits to having a service dog if you suffer from anxiety. If you are looking for a way to feel a bit more independent, a service dog is a major step in the right direction. Additionally, service dogs can perform vital tasks such as retrieving items, alerting others in the event of an emergency, and perhaps most importantly, providing companionship and emotional support.

That said, not everyone who has been diagnosed with an anxiety disorder will qualify for a service dog. You will first need to consult with a physician who is familiar with your condition to determine if a service dog is the right treatment option for you. If not, you might also consider an emotional support animal, as they can provide similar assistance, without the high costs and training process.

Let Us Help You Get a Service Dog for Anxiety

If you and your doctor agree that a service dog or emotional support animal could benefit you and help alleviate some of the suffering caused by your anxiety, then you can continue the process of obtaining your animal. That’s where we come in. The experts at know how much a service dog or ESA can mean to someone in need.

Additionally, we understand the legal process that you must go through to qualify for one of these animals, and we can help you every step of the way. To learn more about qualifying for a service dog or emotional support animal, or if you simply have questions about how these animals can benefit you or a loved one, feel free to contact us directly at this link.

Register your service animal today!

Related Articles

Classification of service dogs and assistance dogs helping people with disabilities


. MOBILITY SERVICE DOGS or BRACE / MOBILITY SUPPORT DOGS - dogs that provide assistance in movement: towing a stroller, support when walking, support in case of loss of balance, in cases of unsteady gait with cerebral palsy and other diseases. Also, their functions are often supplemented by the functions of the Wheelchair Assistance Dog (paragraph 1. 2)

1.2. WHEELCHAIR ASSISTANCE DOGS - assistance dogs (assistant) for people in wheelchairs. They pick up objects, bring things in, open and close doors, turn lights on and off, and perform many other functions.

1.3. MEDICAL ALERT SERVICE DOGS and MEDICAL RESPONSE DOGS are medical alert and alert dogs. They feel physiological changes in the body of their owner and warn of the approach (onset) of a problem (fainting, the onset of a diabetic coma, epileptic seizures). nine0003

1.3.1. DIABETES ALERT DOGS are help dogs for people with diabetes. Trained to detect high (hyperglycemia) or low (hypoglycemia) blood sugar levels in people with diabetes and alert their wearers to dangerous changes in blood glucose levels.

1.3.2. SEIZURE ALERT DOGS are assistance dogs for people with epilepsy. They warn their owner about the onset of an epileptic attack. The owner has time to take measures to prevent an attack, to have time to take a comfortable position of the body so as not to fall. SEIZURE RESPONSE DOG - dogs that help people with epilepsy directly during attacks and immediately after attacks. Their functions: help to take the right position of the body during an attack and convulsions, stimulate a person to wake up after an attack, help get up after an attack, call for help, bring the phone, press the panic button. nine0003

1.3.3. ASTHMA ALERT DOGS are assistance dogs for people with asthma or chronic obstructive pulmonary disease. They notify their owners in advance of the onset of an asthma attack so that there is time to take measures to prevent an attack, they are trained to bring an inhaler. In addition, they can wake up a person suffering from bad breath or alert others to urgent medical attention.

1.3.4. CARDIAC ALERT DOGS - help dogs for people with heart disease. Trained to alert the wearer to impending drops in blood pressure that often cause unconsciousness. Advance warning allows the owner to take the necessary medication, lie down. nine0003

1. 3.5. SEVERE ALLERGY ALERT DOGS - these dogs smell allergens that are dangerous to humans. Warn their wearer of life-threatening allergens.

1.4. PSYCHIATRIC SERVICE DOGS - help dogs for people with various mental illnesses and disabilities, mental disorders. For example, autism, post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), panic attacks, schizophrenia, depression, anxiety, and bipolar disorder.

1.4.1. AUTISM SERVICE DOGS are assistance dogs for people with autism. Help people to socialize, gain independence and the ability to perform daily activities. nine0003

1.4.2. PTSD SERVICE DOGS are assistance dogs for people with Posttraumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) and panic attacks. In the event of panic attacks and stressful situations with its owner, the dog “returns him to reality”, helps to abstract from the stressful situation.

2. GUIDE DOGS – guide dogs for the blind. Help blind and visually impaired people move outdoors and avoid obstacles, warn of obstacles that arise on the way. In addition, dogs are trained to follow basic commands, fetch and serve items. nine0003

3. HEARING SERVICE DOGS - assistance dogs for deaf and hard of hearing people. Alert hosts to important sounds such as doorbells, fire alarms, telephone or alarms. They can also work outside the home, alerting their owner to car signals, signaling if someone calls the owner's name.

Does not apply to assistance dogs:

  • THERAPY DOGS - dogs for canistherapy. Canistherapy is a method of rehabilitation of people with the help of specially trained dogs for diseases such as cerebral palsy, psychomotor development disorders, recovery after a stroke, depression in children and adults, in the treatment of hospitalism and acute stress disorders, psychological trauma. Canistherapy dogs are successfully used for socialization and adaptation to everyday life of children and adults with various mental disorders: autism, Down syndrome. Such dogs can provide assistance in schools, hospitals, nursing homes, boarding schools, hospices, disaster areas. nine0036
  • MEDICAL DETECTION DOGS - diagnostic dogs. A number of studies have been conducted that have shown that dogs can successfully detect prostate cancer, thyroid cancer, skin cancer by smell, can identify people infected with malaria, even if symptoms have not yet appeared. Currently, diagnostic dogs are not used anywhere in medical practice. The only exception is Diabetes Alert Dog (section 1.4.1).
  • EMOTIONAL SUPPORT ANIMALS - emotional support animals for people suffering from emotional disorders, anxiety disorders, major depressive disorders, panic attacks. As a rule, these are dogs, but sometimes they are cats or other animals. Emotional support animals do not receive specific training for physical assistance to a person and are not classified as SERVICE DOG, their task is emotional support. nine0036

How do I get an Anxiety Guide Dog Certificate?

ESA letter consultation via CertaPet is only $149. The price includes examination, evaluation, consultation with a therapist, treatment planning, registration and free shipping - everything that comes with getting the ESA letter to you.

Like all other companion animals, service animals must be microchip-registered in New South Wales. However, there is no fee to register a service animal. nine0003

While not a legal requirement, registering a service dog can eliminate any confusion you may have in public. You can do this through a special organization for people with disabilities, such as Hearing Dogs for the Deaf.

In essence, to qualify as a psychiatric service dog, the owner must have a mental illness or learning disability that limits their function in basic life activities such as work, sleep, or learning. The standard for emotional support animals is similar. nine0003

They use a minimum pass/deny threshold. This means that any service dog, regardless of size or working position, must meet the standard. Since each item of the standard and test is important, a 100% score is required to pass our test.

Yes, your dog knows when you're stressed - and they feel it too. A new study shows that our furry friends sense our stress, opening a window to our own health and possibly affecting theirs as well. Here's what to do. nine0003

An anxiety guide dog can provide a sense of calm, anticipate panic attacks, and even bring medication to its owner.
Some of the breeds that work well as working dogs include:

A Psychiatric Service Dog (PSD) is a special type of service animal trained to help people with mental illness. These include post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), schizophrenia, depression, anxiety, and bipolar disorder. For example, a dog might help someone with PTSD to search a room or turn on a light. nine0003

As a general rule, a "true" working dog is easily recognizable by its focused, disciplined and non-reactive demeanor. Service dogs should not be easily distracted by dragging a handler against their will or leaving him to visit anyone they pass.

As of July 2016, New South Wales residents can register their pets online. Using their microchip number, owners can create an account and add contact details so they can be contacted. Payment for registration can also be made online.

Learn more