People with anxiety-related issues can often benefit from having a specially-trained service dog. Certain people can get a service dog from specialist organizations.

Service dogs are companion animals that help people with physical or mental health conditions.

A service dog for anxiety can provide a sense of calm, anticipate anxiety attacks, and even fetch medication for their owner.

In this article, we look at the benefits of service dogs for people with anxiety. We discuss how to get an anxiety service dog, which breeds make the most successful anxiety service dogs, and how much they cost.

An elderly man in a hospital setting holding a dogShare on Pinterest
Erik Isakson/Getty Images

Service dogs offer practical and emotional support to people with physical or mental health difficulties.

The most well-known service dogs are guide dogs, which assist people with visual impairments. However, people can train dogs to help with various conditions, including anxiety, diabetes, and depression.

Psychiatric service dogs

A psychiatric service dog is a dog that helps someone with anxiety, depression, bipolar disorders, or other mental health conditions.

All service dogs complete specialized training that complies with the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA). These dogs can go anywhere with their owner, from restaurants to airplanes.

People can train service dogs to perform specific tasks depending on an individual’s needs.

Roles carried out by service dogs for anxiety include:

  • detecting signs of an anxiety attack before it happens
  • fetching medication or water during an anxiety attack
  • bringing someone to help the person in distress
  • preventing strangers from approaching the person in distress
  • calming a person down during an anxiety attack through distraction, such as licking their face or providing a paw
  • providing deep pressure therapy to soothe their owner
  • retrieving a phone during an anxiety attack
  • reminding a person to take their medication at certain times of the day
  • performing safety checks of rooms or turning the lights on for people with post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD)

Merely being around dogs provides many benefits, including:

  • Exercise: Having a dog is a great way to encourage those with anxiety to exercise. Physical activity can improve symptoms of anxiety and other mental health conditions. It is also vital for physical health.
  • Time outdoors: Walking a dog means spending time outdoors, which can sometimes be difficult for people who experience anxiety or depression. Spending time outdoors can boost people’s mental health.
  • Company: Dogs provide love and friendship. Having a pet can reduce feelings of loneliness or isolation.
  • Stress relief: Spending time with pets can reduce stress and anxiety and boost happiness. According to a 2015 study, having a pet dog may reduce the risk of anxiety in children.

A 2016 review suggests that interacting with animals may:

  • reduce depression and improve mood
  • encourage more positive interactions with other people
  • lower cortisol levels, which is one of the body’s primary stress hormones
  • lower heart rate and blood pressure
  • lower reported fear and anxiety

People can get anxiety service dogs from specialist organizations if they meet specific criteria.

Criteria may include having:

  • a physical disability or debilitating psychiatric condition
  • a recommendation letter from a doctor or licensed mental health professional
  • strong communication skills and patience
  • the ability to consistently care for and train a service dog
  • the ability to attend a handler training program
  • a love of dogs
  • a stable home environment
  • the finances to care for and maintain a dog for 12 years or more

Many people with anxiety issues may not qualify for getting a service dog. However, some of these people may benefit from having an emotional support animal.

Emotional support animals

Emotional support animals (ESA) differ from service dogs. While trained service animals perform specific tasks, the law considers ESAs as pets. However, people can still experience tremendous benefits from living with an ESA.

ESAs are companion animals that a medical professional thinks will support a person with a mental or physical health difficulty.

ESAs do not have the same legal protections that service animals do. However, they have some protections, such as an exemption from no-pet housing rules.

Those who would like an ESA must get a letter from a licensed mental health professional to say that an animal improves at least one characteristic of their condition.

Learn more about animal therapy here.

Service dogs can be expensive because of the high cost of all the training involved.

According to Little Angels Service Dogs, many service dog organizations throughout the United States spend between $30,000 and $40,000 per trained dog.

Each dog receives more than 600 hours of training, along with veterinary care, boarding, and grooming.

Some people choose to train the dog themselves with the help of a certified trainer. This option is less expensive, but it can still involve high costs.

However, some organizations can help people find service dogs at little or no cost. This is because they meet some or all the expenses through fundraising.

Any breed of dog can become a service dog. The most important factors are the dog’s temperament and ability to complete training.

Some of the breeds that work well as service dogs include:

  • boxers
  • German shepherds
  • golden retrievers
  • Labrador retrievers
  • poodles

Having a service dog can provide many benefits to those with anxiety. But getting a service dog is not always easy, and people must adhere to some strict criteria.

Those who wish to get a psychiatric service dog should speak with a licensed mental health professional to see if a service dog would be appropriate for them.

With treatment, people can recover from their anxiety disorder and enjoy a good quality of life.