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OCD Service Dog 2022: How Can They Help With OCD?

Mitchelle Morgan

Updated on - Written by
Medically reviewed by Kimberly Langdon, MD

ocd service dog

People who suffer from mental disorders[1] like OCD, depression, and anxiety can benefit significantly from having an emotional support animal. The difference in their day-to-day lives between having this type of assistance with animals versus getting only treatment on medication for issues such as OCD is immeasurable.

A psychiatric service dog will be there to help you during episodes that are too much for one person alone—giving you peace while also grounding you to reality at times where it may otherwise feel overwhelming.

A dog has a powerful calming effect, especially if someone close goes through difficult periods. Not only are service animals vital to help people with OCD, but they can also help people with hardship performing specific tasks and also play a considerable role as guard dogs.

So much so that getting the right psychiatric service animal is vital. Depending on the person, you may get a cat, horse, or dog. But according to Title II and III of the Americans with Disability Act, recognize dogs as the only legal service animals.

A service animal is an animal that has been specially trained to do work or tasks for its owner. These can be anything from guiding the visually impaired, alerting anxiety attack patients if it is imminent, or retrieving dropped objects at your feet while you’re busy doing another task. The main difference with an emotional support animal is that ESAs provide comfort, security, and convenience, and service animals do all an ESA does, plus help with certain tasks.

Can I Have A Service Dog With OCD?

Yes, you can, and you should. Because when you are facing mental health challenges and no one is there to help you actively, a service dog might.

The service dog will ensure that you are safe and do all the basic tasks without hurting yourself. The following section covers all the areas in which a service animal can help an OCD patient with mental health care.

How Can Service Dogs Help With OCD?

Below are the significant ways that therapy dogs help a person with OCD:

Mental and Physical Benefits

Service dogs keep you present

OCD can make a person lose their sense of time and place. They might be so focused on something that they don’t hear what’s going around them. They might even not notice when someone calls out to ask for help because the individual has been consumed by thoughts in their head all day long without pause.

Service dogs are essential as they bring their owner back to the present. The service dogs often read or sense cues from their owner during work or home hours since mental episodes strike at any moment, causing great anxiety. If left unchecked, the OCD patient ultimately becomes less productive.

Calming the mind, reduce stress and companionship

People with severe OCD[2] often experience anxiety, and service dogs can provide companionship. When you get an anxiety attack, your best friend is available for support in any possible way, whether by bringing your medications or simply lying on top of your body during the commotion.

The connection between humans and their service animals is almost unbreakable, and this helps an OCD patient live a better life.

Service dogs help the OCD patient get fresh air and exercise

Service dogs can be more than just physical therapists for you. The act of obtaining, training, and integrating the service animal into one’s life will also create other benefits.

For instance: getting outdoors to enjoy fresh air which will improve your mental health by promoting exercise. You may also lose through spending time outside, where calories burn off slowly compared with sitting at home alone or inside working on electronics. Your heart will also become healthier due to activities like going on walks.

The possibilities don’t stop there either— these activities also lead nicely to some opportunities such as meeting others experiencing the same condition. This interaction helps you see that you are not alone and that it is possible to live with OCD and lead an everyday life.

What is OCD?

People of all ages and walks of life are impacted by obsessive-compulsive disorder[3] (OCD). It occurs when an individual gets caught in a cycle where they experience intense distress from unwanted thoughts, images, or urges that trigger them. The person will then engage with performing compulsions such as hand washing, hand tapping, or pacing.

These actions can decrease their distress but do not eliminate it entirely because every time someone has an obsession, there is still some level left over after being released back into reality.

If you’ve ever felt like your thoughts or behaviors were getting the best of you, then that is possible that is happening with OCD. People experience repetitive and compulsive behaviors on a spectrum from mild to extreme levels. This can become severe enough for diagnosis if they begin consuming too much time in an individual’s life and interfering with essential activities such as work duties at home. 

However, no two people will have the same symptoms because everyone has different capabilities when faced with mental health conditions.

Which Tasks Service Dogs Can Perform To Help OCD People?

OCD is a disorder that many people struggle with, but it’s essential to know the difference between obsessions and compulsions. The symptoms can be similar in both types of habit formations; however, each has its own unique traits, such as how long they last (some are short-term while others may linger).

They manifest within your mind and body is another difference; sometimes, you only feel the tension at only one specific part, like your stomach. Another difference is whether one needs help from another person, like an assistant groomer who does repetitive tasks while you focus on more critical ones – also known as “enactments.”

The following are ways that a psychiatric service dog can help an OCD patient;

Pressure and Warmth Stimulation, Deep Pressure Therapy, Tactile Stimulation

Pressure therapy and tactile stimulation[4] can help an OCD person feel more grounded while also providing a healing diversion from worry, melancholy, or a looming panic attack.

Psychiatric service animals can also be taught to apply deep pressure stimulation on their handler’s chest or lap to help them regulate their emotions, convey composure to a crisis, or just provide comfort.

Reminder or Medical Alert

A service dog can undergo special training to detect the early stages of a health emergency, such as a shift in respiratory function, an elevated heart rate, psychological aggravation, or imminent muscle spasms, and inform their owner.

Furthermore, a psychiatric service dog can alert their master whenever it’s time to take a prescription, go to bed, or conduct additional everyday tasks.


When individuals feel imprisoned by their feelings, whether they are caused by anxiousness, phobias, or other forms of anguish, anchoring practices can allow them to focus on their physical existence or surroundings.

Interaction, tactile contact, pressure treatment, or any other therapeutic means of supporting their handler can help a service dog calm their handler.

How To Get a Service Dogs for OCD?

Suppose you need a psychiatric service dog or therapy dog. In that case, you must first receive the recommendation from an attending licensed mental health professional and then have their signature on your certificate. The prescription takes the form of either letterhead stationery with the doctor’s license number printed at the center-top.

The process varies depending on where one lives. Generally, it begins by meeting face-to-face with a therapist whose job is to identify individual needs alongside providing them coping skills specific to these mental disorders challenges before recommending that someone apply for such certification if desired. This simply means that an OCD service dog will differ from one that you get for bipolar disorder or post-traumatic stress disorder.

There are no limitations, no matter what dog breed you want to use as your psychiatric service animal. Your OCD service dog can be an already owned pet or one adopted from a shelter and undergone proper training by organizations like Guide Dogs for the Blind[5].

However, it must meet specific criteria to qualify under ADA guidelines. This body requires them to have excellent manners and superior intelligence and offer support at crucial times. They are instrumental during medical treatment, such as reminding someone they’re safe when lost on busy streets after experiencing frightening hallucinations due to their mental illness.

Best Service Dog Breeds

Service dogs are a lifeline for people with disabilities and mental illness, assisting them in tasks that would otherwise be very difficult. A service dog that has gone through proper and extensive training can make all of life’s little adventures more manageable and give their human companions what they need to keep going day after day—reassurance.

But not all dogs are suited as assistance animals; here is a list of the top ten therapy dogs for OCD.


The Lab is the perfect service dog. Not only are they brilliant and extremely friendly, but their soft mouths give them an edge when picking up items for humans with disabilities that need assistance from others; this also makes them great canine companions.

They will learn new tasks quickly, and they’re always sure to conduct themselves well in public situations.

The best thing about these dogs?

They form strong bonds very quickly, too: it doesn’t take long before your little one feels like family rather than another pet on walks or sitting under desks during work hours. And for that reason, they make one of the best OCD service dogs.

Golden Retrievers

Golden Retrievers are another excellent choice for OCD service dogs, especially if you’re looking to train them yourself. They share many of the same characteristics as Labradors: smart and friendly with an easy-to-please demeanor that will make their owner glad every day.

The strength these large dog breeds boast also makes it possible for an entire workday alongside one’s a human partner in crime. One more thing about Golden’sGolden’s is that you’ll never have any problems alarming people when out on walks since they look so friendly.

Border Collie

Border Collies are intelligent, highly trainable OCD service dogs that love to please. These pooches make excellent service animals because of their intelligence and easygoing nature; they’re also great for remote settings like farm life or living alone where there isn’t much society around them other than you and your canine friend.

German Shepherds

German Shepherds are large, intimidating dogs with a gentle disposition. They’re usually associated with being guard or police dogs; however, they can also make excellent service animals for people who need assistance in different aspects of their lives due to disabilities such as diabetes and mobility problems!

Their sense of smell makes them perfect at monitoring blood sugar levels. Plus, this type has so much energy that it’ll be there chomping away by your side no matter what happens. So whether you’re pushing a wheelchair through crowds during busy days outside office buildings all day long—or helping you calm down after an OCD anxiety attack.

Cavalier King Charles Spaniel

The Cavalier King Charles Spaniel[6] is an ancient breed with a rich history. It was originally bred as both a companion and comfort dog. They make great pets because they’re always happy to love you. Pet Cavaliers can provide relief from OCD anxiety and stress, especially during times of difficulty.

Final Thought 

OCD service dogs are amazing creatures that deserve all the thanks because they are accommodating. One patient claims that his dog cured his OCD and the need for total control. After they got a service animal, it provided love during tough times and some disorders in life because it left some messes around to break up patterns of perfectionism.

For many people with mental health issues[7], owning and caring for a service animal can be very therapeutic. OCD service dogs are not just good at alerting their owners about intruders in the house; they also offer companionship that is crucial to someone living life fully every day.

Walking your service dog may seem like a trivial task before worrying about other priorities such as work deadlines or personal relationships but consider how relieved you will feel once this becomes routine.

So much so that when anyone has OCD and wants to live independent lives, a service dog may come in handy to get your mental illness in check and guide you through your recovery journey.

Frequently Asked Questions

Does the ADA consider emotional support, therapeutic, comfort, or companion animals to be service animals?

A resounding no. These names refer to animals that bring comfort simply by being there with a person. They do not qualify as service animals under the ADA since they have not been taught to perform a specific job or duty.
Some state or local governments, on the other hand, have regulations allowing people to bring emotional support animals into public locations. To learn more about these regulations, contact your state and local government offices.

Is it necessary for service animals to wear a vest, patch, or specific harness that identifies them as such?

No, the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) does not require service animals to wear a vest, ID tag, or special harness.

Who is in charge of an OCD service animal’s care and supervision?

The handler is in charge of the OCD service animal’s care and supervision, including toileting, feeding, grooming, and veterinary treatment. A covered entity is not required to oversee or care for a service animal in any way.

Out of regard for other guests, may hotels allocate specific rooms for guests with service animals?

No, a disabled visitor who utilizes an OCD service animal must be given the same option to reserve any available accommodation at the hotel as other customers without disabilities. They might not have to stay in “pet-friendly” rooms.

All dogs in my city are required to get vaccinated. Is my service animal included in this?

Yes. Individuals with service animals are not exempt from animal control or public health regulations in their communities.

Can any dog breed be used as an OCD service animal?

Yes. The ADA does not place any restrictions on dogs that can be used as service animals.

+ 7 sources

Health Canal avoids using tertiary references. We have strict sourcing guidelines and rely on peer-reviewed studies, academic researches from medical associations and institutions. To ensure the accuracy of articles in Health Canal, you can read more about the editorial process here

  1. Google.com. (2021). Google Scholar. [online] Available at: https://scholar.google.com/scholar?q=mental+disorders+cdc&hl=en&as_sdt=0&as_vis=1&oi=scholart
  2. Mayo Clinic. (2020). Obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD) – Symptoms and causes. [online] Available at: https://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/obsessive-compulsive-disorder/symptoms-causes/syc-20354432
  3. ‌Nih.gov. (2018). NIMH» Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder. [online] Available at: https://www.nimh.nih.gov/health/topics/obsessive-compulsive-disorder-ocd
  4. ‌Iaadp.org. (2021). [online] Available at: https://www.iaadp.org/psd_tasks.html
  5. ‌Guide Dogs for the Blind. (2021). Welcome to Guide Dogs for the Blind. [online] Available at: https://www.guidedogs.com/
  6. Kerns, N. (2001). Working With Obsessive/Compulsive Dogs – Whole Dog Journal. [online] Whole Dog Journal. Available at: https://www.whole-dog-journal.com/behavior/working-with-obsessive-compulsive-dogs/
  7. ‌Lloyd, J., Johnston, L. and Lewis, J. (2019). Psychiatric Assistance Dog Use for People Living With Mental Health Disorders. Frontiers in Veterinary Science, [online] 6. Available at: https://www.frontiersin.org/articles/10.3389/fvets.2019.00166/full
Mitchelle Morgan

Medically reviewed by:

Kimberly Langdon

Mitchelle Morgan is a health and wellness writer with over 10 years of experience. She holds a Master's in Communication. Her mission is to provide readers with information that helps them live a better lifestyle. All her work is backed by scientific evidence to ensure readers get valuable and actionable content.

Medically reviewed by:

Kimberly Langdon

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