For decades, the nosology of mental illness has been based largely upon the descriptions in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of the American Psychiatric Association (DSM). A recent challenge to the DSM approach to psychiatric nosology from the National Institute on Mental Health (USA) defines Research Domain Criteria (RDoC) as an alternative. For RDoC, psychiatric illnesses are not defined as discrete categories, but instead as specific behavioral dysfunctions irrespective of DSM diagnostic categories. This approach was driven by two primary weaknesses noted in the DSM: (1) the same symptoms occur in very different disease states; and (2) DSM criteria lack grounding in the underlying biological causes of mental illness. RDoC intends to ground psychiatric nosology in those underlying mechanisms. This review addresses the suitability of RDoC vs. DSM from the view of modeling mental illness in animals. A consideration of all types of psychiatric dysfunction is beyond the scope of this review, which will focus on models of conditions associated with frontostriatal dysfunction.