The Exceptional Sidekick is proud to train psychiatric service dogs, to empower disabled teens and young adults, enabling them to pursue education and live independently with confidence.
A Psychiatric Service Dog is specifically trained to assist their handler with a disability as defined by the ADA, such as post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), schizophrenia, depression, anxiety, ​or​ bipolar disorder. Each dog is individually trained to work and perform tasks that mitigate their handler’s disability.

Application Requirements

To meet our minimum qualifications for one of our program trained psychiatric service dogs, you must be:
  • in therapy for a minimum of one year and believe a service dog could drastically improve your life
  • between the ages of 12-22
  • able to travel to Newtown, CT for training classes, for up to one year
community service dogs at the zoo

Part of your overall treatment plan

  • A service dog is an essential part of a larger health plan for individuals with disabilities, including your medical and/or mental health providers.
  • The cost of our program reflects the extensive training, care, and support that goes into maintaining their health and well-being.
  • Studies have found that psychiatric service dogs can reduce symptoms of PTSD by up to 89%

Task Training

We believe that every young person deserves the chance to live a fulfilling life and our service dogs can make that happen.  Psychiatric service dog tasks vary to mitigate specific disability needs.  Below are some examples.
Deep Pressure Therapy
Prevent or recover from panic attacks
Tactile Stimulation
Licking or pawing can ground the handler in extreme distress
Creates more space for their handler
Interruption of Self-Harming
Licking, pawing, or barking
Light Guide Work and Mobility
Helps with disassociating during panic attacks and when disoriented

Application Timeline

  • As a small non-profit with a high volume of applications, we strive to respond promptly, placing our dogs with the best-matched individuals for successful partnerships.
  • The wait for a fully trained psychiatric service dog varies, and while we open our waitlist regularly, it takes up to two years for a puppy’s training completion.
  • If you have an urgent need, we recommend contacting multiple Assistance Dogs International-accredited organizations, and encourage thorough research and seeking references to ensure a reliable and supportive service dog partnership.
The Exceptional Sidekick does not train balance dogs, seizure-alert dogs, or guide dogs for the blind.
We are only accepting applications for Psychiatric Service Dogs at this time.
Once those needs are met, we will accept applications for other disabilities.