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The Ultimate Guide on Emotional Support Dog Training [10 Facts]


man hugging his dog. emotional support dog training
18 min read

Do you find it confusing when it comes to Emotional Support Dog Training and about assistance animals in general? If you do, Congrats, you are in for a treat…

Do you remember Spartacus, The Akita Therapy Dog who was among the first on the scene of the horrific events happened at Sandy Hook Elementary, in Newtown, Conn?
He remained on campus in the months that followed, offering support and companionship to the traumatized students, teachers, and other responders.

Do you know about Hector, The Pit Bull?
He was One of the 47 victims rescued from Michael Vick’s dog fighting operation back in 2007.
Hector faced a world of hurt as a young pup But after his rescue and subsequent adoption, Hector’s new owners had him trained as An Emotional Support Dog.

The list goes on and on…

There’s no question that Emotional support animals (ESA’s) are some of the world’s most unheralded heroes. The sheer idea of another species ability to help heal their human friends is nothing short of miraculous. And help, they do.

From Children’s Hospitals to Nursing homes to Veteran centers, Emotional support dogs do good works

diseased kid petting an emotional support dog . Emotional support dog training
credit: The Leopard

There is a lot of information out there when it comes to this important subject and some of it is misleading or just plain false.

In this article, we offer you The Ultimate Guide on Emotional Support Dog Training and Everything you need to know about This subject matter. We will try to answer some of the most commonly asked questions and discuss all its related Facts.

Now, you’re probably wondering: How do I train my own dog to be an ESA dog?

We’ll get to that later, but first Let’s start with our first fact…

Everything You Need to Know about Emotional Support Dog Training

Fact 1. What Is An ESA (Emotional Support Animal) Dog?

An Emotional Support Dog provides therapeutic benefits to specific people with psychological issues like anxiety, phobias, or post-traumatic stress disorder.

Like other medical solutions, an Emotional Support Animal must be prescribed by a licensed mental health professional.

To get an ESA dog, the patient in question must be diagnosed with a disabling mental condition and limited in at least one aspect of their life.

To those patients, Emotional support dogs are a critical component of how they deal with otherwise disabling challenges.

woman hugging an ESA dog. emotional support dog training
credit: ESA

Unlike service dogs, Emotional support dogs are not trained to do specific tasks, like pressing an alert button when they sense their diabetic companion’s blood sugar is dangerously low.

On the other hand, ESA’s serve a simple, yet extremely important purpose which is to provide comfort to their owners.

Whether the dog stays close so they’re available for petting and cuddling, or simply stays close to provide companionship.
They offer valuable emotional support and need no special reward for this mission.

Fact 2. What Makes Me Need an ESA Dog?

If you are suffering from an emotional or mental issue, you can qualify for a legitimate ESA.

Many statistics Indicate that 1 in 4 Americans suffer from mental illness and are often untreated.

Also, A lot of people may seek a Pet friend to help them cope with The stressful fast-paced world we live in.

emotional support dog training

If You see yourself one of those people and this sounds familiar to you, there is no shame in seeking support and making your Dog a legal ESA.

Disabilities Where an ESA Dog Is Useful:

  • Anxiety
  • PTSD
  • Depression
  • Panic Attacks
  • Fears and Phobias
  • Mood Disorders

Fact 3. What Advantages Do Emotional Support Dogs Have?

man hugging his dog. emotional support dog training
credit: dogs life

Emotional Support Dogs (ESA dog) enjoy certain rights that normal pets do not

  1. First, an ESA has access to almost all types of housing regardless of no-pet policies. ESA’s are protected under the Fair Housing Act so that they can live with their owners.
  2. Second, an ESA is allowed to fly with their owner in the cabin of an airplane. ESA’s are protected under the Air Carrier Access Act for in cabin travel.
  3. Third, under both of these laws, an ESA’s handler cannot be charged an additional fee for housing or airline access.

Now, after you had a pretty good idea about what an ESD is, Let’s move on to the question that you are really here for…

Fact 4. What is Emotional Support Dog Training Requirements or How to Qualify My Dog to Be an ESD?

Before we dive into the nitty-gritty details of Emotional Support Dog Training, you need to check your dog’s compatibility to be an ESD in the first place.

What Qualities Should Your Dog Possess?

It comes without saying that Most dogs possess the natural tendency to be devoted to their pet parent, after all, that’s what makes them man’s and woman’s best friend.

On the other hand, there are some dogs that may be too rambunctious, overly-excitable or just too timid to help people in their darkest moments.

I don’t mean that these pup-personality-types can’t or will never be able to be an emotional support animal, It just means they may take more training to do so.

When you decide to go through your therapist recommendations of having an emotional support dog to help with your diagnosis, You will want to look for a canine around One-year-old with a calm or laid-back nature, as well as Responsive to you.

To have a true connection or an instant bond with any pet is one way to ensure your dog will be there when needed the most.

Here is a list of dog breeds with the most compatible traits to be ESD’s

Fact 5. Top 10 Most Affectionate Dog Breeds for Emotional Support Dog Training

All dogs as loving, devoted creatures that will do anything to please their human companion. However, some dog breeds go above and beyond the “love-meter.”

Golden Retriever

Golden Retriever. Emotional Support Dog Training

The Golden Retriever has been voted one of the most popular dog breeds for years. And it’s no surprise, for those of us looking for a big love bug, this dog won’t let you down. This pooch not only excels at giving furry love, but it also makes an excellent service dog, hunting dog, and athletic partner for jogging or agility training.

Labrador Retriever

Labrador Retriever. Emotional Support Dog Training

Similar to the Golden Retriever, the Labrador has been bred for human companionship – its coat may be shorter in length, but its loving devotion for humans will never be in question. This breed is also very athletic and will never give up the opportunity to do some agility, hiking or retrieving.

Brussels Griffon

Brussels Griffon. Emotional Support Dog Training

Monkeyface is one of the terms that has been used to describe this lovable little pooch. The Brussels Griffon is a small, sturdy dog that is cheerful, affectionate, and can get along with other pets. When it comes to being loving, Brussels have it in spades – there is no such thing as “personal space” to this pup.

Cavalier King Charles Spaniel

Cavalier King Charles Spaniel. Emotional Support Dog Training

Who wouldn’t fall in love with those big brown eyes of the Cavalier King Charles Spaniel? But if looks don’t mean that much to you, you’re still going to fall for the charms of this pooch. The Cavalier likes nothing better than snuggling with his pet parent, spending the day basking in each other’s love.

Old English Sheepdog

Old English Sheepdog. Emotional Support Dog Training

The shaggy coat isn’t the only unmistakable trait of the Old English Sheepdog – he loves a good snuggle. Not only that, when you’re not lounging around, the Old English has no problem competing in conformation, obedience, agility, and herding trials. Besides all that, he’s intelligent, fun-loving, and easygoing!

credit: The Spruce Pets

Affenpinscher

Affenpinscher. Emotional Support Dog Training

Also known as the “monkey terrier” (due to his large dark eyes and protruding lower jaw and lip), this little fella is alert, loyal, and affectionate. The Affenpinscher may do well with children, but due to their high prey drive, small rodents are not recommended in the Affenpinscher household.

The American Pit Bull Terrier

The American Pit Bull Terrier. Emotional Support Dog Training

Despite its negative reputation, anyone that has ever had the pleasure of pet parenting an American Pit Bull will argue those myths. This dog is a devoted pet that wants to spend every moment with his family. However, be aware that being a Terrier, this pooch can be a bit stubborn at times.

Irish Wolfhound

Irish Wolfhound. Emotional Support Dog Training

Known as the “gentle giants” of the dog world, the Irish Wolfhound has a big heart, is loving, and sensitive. Despite his large size (males can exceed weights of 155 pounds), the Irish Wolfhound moves with a graceful gait. However, because he is also a sighthound, keep in mind that he may use his speed to zip away when he catches a glimpse of something “chaseable.”

Chihuahua

Chihuahua. Emotional Support Dog Training

The Chihuahua can be described as a big personality packed into a small canine. He loves nothing more than being with his people – and due to his small stature – he is very portable. When not being toted around in a fancy bag, the Chihuahua will follow his favorite person from room-to-room, hoping for a moment to snuggle.

Collie

Collie. Emotional Support Dog Training

The Collie is a highly sensitive dog that has almost a sixth sense when it comes to knowing what their pet parent needs. Although this breed is still capable of herding, its devotion and love for humans would be wasted out in the fields. The Collie is especially good with children and will devote all of her time and energy into making sure they are secure under her watchful eye.

Fact 6. Why Emotional Support Dog Training is Important for Those with Anxiety, Depression, and PTSD

As we mentioned before, One in four Americans has an emotional condition or mental illness. Having a dog trained well, that you can rely on to behave in an appropriate manner no matter where you are, can go a long way to curbing an anxiety attack in social and otherwise stressful situations.

People suffering from conditions such as PTSD, depression, and anxiety need their animals with them wherever they go. Not just at home. So, you want a well-adjusted, obedient dog. A dog that will behave appropriately both at home and in public places.

Some dogs have a natural ability to respond to certain cues or stimuli. They will then respond in a manner that will lessen or even prevent the response to a stressful situation.

dog hugging his owner. emotional support dog training
credit: ESA doctors

For Example,
If you happen to suffer from claustrophobia, your emotional support dog could move between you and others to create “Breathing Room“.
A PTSD sufferer with frequent nightmares can train his ESA pup to wake and comfort him during a nightmare.

Now, Let’s Move on to The Actual Emotional Support Dog Training routine in a step-by-step fashion. Shall We?

Fact 7.

Step by Step Emotional Support Dog Training

Step 1. Start ESA Dog Training During Puppyhood

For optimum training results, you might find it easier to begin working with an emotional support dog that’s still in the puppy stage.

Emotional support dog Training at an early age is often ideal because the younger a dog is when you train them, the easier it is to set lifelong habits.

woman kissing her ESD. Emotional Support Dog Training

Step 2. Basic Obedience: Learning the Ropes

After you’ve Picked and found your ESA dog breed, the simplest way to begin training them is by taking care of the basic obedience commands first.

Basic dog training includes:

  • Potty/toilet training
  • Come/recall
  • Sitting
  • Staying
  • Lie down
  • Settle
  • Leave it/drop it

Even though most dogs can learn some basic commands in only a few weeks, your dog’s training should never stop. Continuous Training is good for your dog’s mental stimulation and helps retain the special bond between you and your ESD.

man training his ESD. Emotional Support Dog Training

A dog who cannot sit or stay properly will have a difficult time listening to any instruction, much less providing you the emotional comfort you require. As such, it’s important to start this training as early as possible, and stick with it.

For more on Basic Puppy Training Techniques,

Step 3. Socialization Done Right!!

Aside from obedience training, your dog will also need to be well socialized. socialization training means no barking, jumping, lunging, begging for food and other annoying habits some dogs can exhibit when out in a public setting.

This will come in your own benefit as well, as it’s hard to be unstressed if you have to be constantly looking out for your dog’s unruly behavior

woman training her ESA dog. Emotional Support Dog Training

If the task of training your dog is hard for you to do, enlist the help of a professional trainer, or a family member/friend that may want to help with the training.

Step 4. Start Easy: Four Commands to Learn

These are the most important commands to learn during The Emotional Support Dog Training

  • Sit
  • Stay
  • Heel
  • Down

When practicing these commands with your dog, Make sure to say each word in a level, calm voice and have a release word (such as OK or “Good”) ready to signal that the pose can be broken.

Step 5. Mastering the Three “D”s

Many dog training experts recommend following A Three-Step Program when training your pup on these simple, early commands. This will come in use when training your dog for emotional support.

This method centers on three D-words: Duration, Distance and Distractions

Duration

  • Start by positioning your dog in the pose you require.
  • Hold your pup for three seconds until using your release word.
  • Gradually Increase the time by a few seconds each interval until your dog can successfully hold the command on his own.

Distance

  • With slow steps, move away from your dog (about a step at a time) to build independence,
  • Make sure to return to your starting position before using your release word.

Distractions

As soon as you build a solid foundation through Duration and Distance, Now, you can start adding distractions, such as another person talking or you may mimic some real-life occurrences.

Dog Standing Up. Emotional Support Dog Training

The previous step is necessary as your emotional support dog will likely to encounter myriad environments while working and living with you. That’s why knowing how to respond appropriately to your voice at any given time is an essential part of building that bond.

Step 6. Calming Through Deep Pressure Therapy [Fact 8]

As soon as you’ve established a basic understanding of common commands, you can begin to demonstrate to your emotional support dog how to provide you with the comfort and care you need.

Benefits of DPT for Emotional Support Dog Training

Deep Pressure Therapy or DPT is considered the best and simplest way for an animal to bring his owner relief from mental and emotional distress

Deep Pressure Therapy has been scientifically proven to have a beneficial effect on persons suffering from a range of psychiatric conditions, including:

  • Stress
  • Anxiety
  • Autism
  • Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD)
  • Sensory Processing Disorder (SPD)
  • Depression
  • Alzheimer’s Dementia

However, DPT doesn’t include the use of any medication because when performed correctly, It can significantly reduce the duration of an episode and make it easier to bear.

The main idea behind DPT is to have the dog apply gentle pressure to your body, chest or body part depending on the size of the canine.

patient with his ESD . Emotional Support Dog Training
credit: 4 paws

If you do have a smaller dog, you can teach him to lie directly across your chest or along the front of your body. While in case of a larger breed, You can teach him to place his head or feet across your lap or legs (whatever is most comfortable for you).

Teaching your Dog DPT with 5 Easy Steps

Step 1 – Paws Up Command

If your pup isn’t comfortable with being on a sofa, you may have to coax him up using some treats. You can just show your dog the treat, then slowly moving it to the back of the sofa, while excitedly saying his name and “Paws Up”

For example, Toby, paws up!

Depending on the level of your dog’s reluctance to join you on the sofa, you may have to reward him each time he gets closer to being on the sofa.

Step 2 – Practice

In the case of you having a smaller dog, the main goal is for your pooch to have all four paws on the sofa, then be in a “Down” position.

On the other hand, If you have a larger dog (one that you don’t want to or can’t bare his weight), This “Paws Up” command will actually be with his front paws or head on the sofa.

man training his ESD. Emotional Support Dog Training

Continue practicing the “Paws Up” command with treats until your dog knows what it means. As soon as this is accomplished, you can practice it without the aid of treats.

Keep in mind,
You actually need your dog to feel the necessity of doing this for you,
Not for the sake of a food reward at the end of the session.

Step 3 – Paws Off Command

On this step, you will want to teach your dog the “Paws Off” command. It’s just the same as “Paws Up”, but in reverse.

To accomplish this, call your dog off the sofa with the command “Paws Off”

Make sure to reward your pup each time he follows through.

Step 4 – Laying/Sitting on a Sofa

To Actually get The DPT to work, Ideally you will want your small to medium-size dog to lie vertically along your body with his paws on your shoulders and his head next to yours. In case you do have a large dog, he will put his paws across your legs or lie his head on your lap when you are in a sitting position.

To make your dog do this, use the “Paws Up” command, then The “Down”  command once he is vertically in place or along your lap. When your pup completes this task, treat him with his favorite food and then give the “Paws Down”  command.

man training his ESD. Emotional Support Dog Training
credit: The Intercept

You need to practice this DPT technique in a back-and-forth manner in order for your dog to do it on command, Without the end result of a food reward.

Just in case you are teaching a larger dog the DPT technique, Make sure he leans into your lap in order for the pressure to be applied properly; However, as soon as your dog relaxes, he should naturally put his weight on your lap.

Step 5 – The Signs of Anxiety Training

Once your pooch masters the previous techniques, take the training further by mimicking the types of symptoms you may experience during a stressful situation.

Training your dog The DPT techniques while you are calm and able to reward your dog for following the commands, the better able he will be when you really need him.

However, a situation that triggers emotional or mental distress might not always conveniently happen in the comfort of your own home.

An ESD hugging his owner. Emotional Support Dog Training
credit: NPR

That’s why while you conduct your Emotional Support Dog Training, try to do so by recreating some of the physical signs you typically exhibit when you’re in the throes of a negative reaction. The benefits of doing so include:

  • Teaching your pup significant warning clues to look out for.
  • Enabling them to discern and act when something is going wrong
  • Great peace of mind for you as the owner.

Emotional Support Dogs Help

Emotional Support Dog Training has a special way of calming people down. Whether your dog understands your needs instinctively, or he requires a little training along the way, This type of support is a true step in healing for those who may otherwise suffer in silence.

Finally, Now after you trained your pup to be an excellent emotional support dog, It’s time to get him certified and registered

Fact 9. Where to get an Emotional Support Dog Certificate

An Emotional Support Dog Certificate is commonly referred to as an ESA letter.

This letter is a prescription from a mental health professional such as a psychiatrist, psychologist, or licensed clinical social worker. It states that you have an emotional or mental condition and require an assistance animal to alleviate some of the symptoms.

Emotional Support Dog certification. Emotional Support Dog Training

With the possession of an emotional support animal (ESA) letter, you can take your furry friend with you on most flights.

You may also be able to live in places or buildings which usually apply a no-pet-policy.

Fact 10 Emotional Dog Support Registration

The following is a list of sources where you can learn about emotional support animal registration:

Remember, that pets can sometimes be hard to manage, though the reward is satisfying.

That’s it.

That was our Ultimate Guide on Emotional Support Dog Training, I hope you have enjoyed it

If you liked this post, share it with a friend, he might be wondering about Emotional support dog training too.

Good luck on your Emotional support dog training with your pooch

Remember, Love is the most important part of this equation, let your pup feel your love

Love is the answer to all Problems. Love yourself and love all the living things around you

What did you think about this article?

Whatever you think, comment below and let me know!

If you liked what you read here and want to read more check out my other articles like 8 Fun Dog Training Games to Play with Your Pup or 10 Tips to Calm a Dog During Fireworks

If you have any questions or further tips regarding Emotional support dog training that I might have missed, Feel free to tell us in the comment section, We are all here to learn for the sake of our beloved furry friends

Have a nice day and Read you next time.

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