How to Train Your Emotional Support Dog

Relieve Stress, Combat Anxiety

On days when you feel blue, you look out for some emotional support. However, your situation might become worse if you do not have friends and family around.

Therefore, you need a dog that can be at your beck and call.

Then again, the question that arises here is- how to train your emotional support dog? Does it require specialized certifications? Or you can do it on your own?

Well, no certification is required to be an emotional support dog. But, as a pet parent, you can train your dog to become an emotionally supportive one.

Here, we will give you an elaborate insight into what it takes to train your dog into becoming your go-to emotional support.

What Is an Emotional Support Dog?

Emotional Support Dogs or ESAs are more people-oriented beasts that will allow you to seek sensitive backing when you are in dire need of one. They are the ultimate mood-lifters and stress-busters who can cheer you up whenever.

Moreover, your dog doesn’t have to undergo any specialized training to become your support. You can have your dog certified by a licensed therapist. For this, choose a species that is known for being easy-to-handles and responds well to your advances. Bullmastiffs, Bulldogs, Poodles, Border Coolies, Labrador Retrievers, make incredible choices.

However, this doesn’t imply that you need to have a dog that is well-mannered and groomed. Your high-spirited dog can also be your emotional support dog. But you must be willing to take care of it and train it to be well behaved at all times.

Here are some conditions under which you qualify to adopt an emotional support animal:

Learning Difficulty

When you or your child are facing difficulties in learning the easiest of concepts, and you cannot encounter any physical handicap.

Suffering from ADD

When you are suffering from intense impulsivity, hyperactivity, or have trouble concentrating. These can also be symptoms of Attention Deficit Disorder (ADD).

Severe Anxiety Disorder

Severe anxiety disorders can have you live in fear of failure and facing others, requiring emotional support from someone who won’t judge you.

Chronic Depression

The feeling of being depressed and sad all the time, characterized by chronic depression.

Intellectual Disability

When a person has immense intellectual disability.

Lack of Motor Skills

A failure in the development of motor skills during early childhood.

The above conditions qualify you to have an emotional support dog because they can help you get back to a healthy life.

What Are the Requirements to Be an Emotional Support Dog ?

Unlike service dogs, emotional support dogs do not require specific training. All they need to be capable of is to be able to take over when their owner is not able to accomplish particular tasks due to their intellectual or emotional disability.

  • Make sure that your emotional support dog is well-behaved and in-control at all times.
  • Also, they should not cause trouble when traveling or staying back home with you.

Even though it is not a statutory mandate, it is advised to have your dog spayed or neutered. It will help to escape the trouble of keeping the aggressive mating behaviors in control and taking care of puppy litter.

Neither Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), nor any other organization requires you to register your ESD. However, if you have yours registered, you will have ease dealing with airport authorities and landlords.

How to Train a Dog to Be an Emotional Support Animal?

No matter how convenient it sounds to have an emotional support dog at your disposal every time you feel low, it certainly is not. Before depending on your pup to be your emotional cushion, you will have to take it through the right training.

Read along to know the steps that will help you train yourself as an Emotional Support Dog.

Stage 1: Choosing the Right Breed of Dog

Even before you begin with the necessary training, you need a dog to train. While all dogs can serve as emotional support, people with sensitive and intellectual disabilities need someone who can understand them and follow their commands. Therefore, it is advised to pick a pup who is more social and is eager to learn.

Golden Retrievers, Poodles, Labradors, Golden Doodles, and the ever-popular bulldogs, are the go-to choices as they are known to be more people-oriented than the rest of the species.

For this, you can try visiting various puppies, do a little more research on breeds, look up acceptable traits in mixed-breeds, and choose the one that your heart calls for.

Stage 2: Training for Basic Obedience

Once you have the puppy comfortable in your living space, you need to start with the basic obedience training. Make sure that you start with the basic commands when the dog is young enough so that it doesn’t have much trouble grasping.

Start with the following commands:

Stay

Begin with having your dog sit from the required distance from you. Now, give the “stay” command. When it has been a while since your dog has assumed the stay position, give it a treat. In this way, it will start associating the stay command with a treat.

Repeat the training sessions regularly while increasing the distance and the duration every time. Eventually, begin introducing strange noises and distractions to keep them in their place even when the external factors are in play.

Sit

To begin with, most dogs tend to sit when they wish to. However, you need to make them sit when you need them to by relating the same with a command.

For this, hold a treat in front of your dog when it is standing. Now, swiftly move the treat backward. The dog will follow the treat, and its backside will automatically come into the sitting position. Now that your dog is sitting reward it.

Once the dog is accustomed to sit after being lured with a treat, you can start using verbal commands and hand gestures.

Down

Like you got your dog accustomed to sitting, you can get it to lie down too. Hold the treat in front of the standing dog and move it down and away to have to dog lay down. Once on the floor, you can reward it with the treat.

Settle

In public places, with all the people around, you need your dog to settle down. For this, you should train it by keeping it on a leash and holding it near you in such a manner that there is enough room to stand, turn around, and sit. Now that your dog has settled in such a situation offer a treat. You can gradually add in a verbal cue for this once the dog is in accord with the command.

Recall

By making your dog come back to you fun with lots of treats, games, and cuddles, you can recall them when needed. It is also an important skill to make sure that your dog doesn’t get into trouble or danger unnecessarily.

Leave or Ignore It

To protect your dog from things which can be toxic and people who appear suspicious, you should teach them the “Leave it” command. Though it will take some time to familiarize them with the concept of what’s dangerous, their instincts will come to your aid.

Apart from the basic commands, take your dog out on walks so that it can learn how to live in a social setting without barking, lunging, jumping, or begging for food. This type of training will also keep your stress in control because you will no longer have to worry about your dog misbehaving in public.

Stage 3: Do ESD Training Routine

Emotional support dogs are expected to be at the beck and call of a person suffering from acute anxiety, depression, and autistic disorders because they keep their owners emotionally stable. Otherwise, people suffering from such disabilities are more likely to cause self-harm. Therefore, such dogs must be trained to press against their owners’ bodies and provide them enough warmth according to their size.

Here is how you can teach your dog to be of use when you are going through a melt-down.

Getting on Sofa

Teaching your dog to climb and sit on the sofa can be a little tricky if not for the lip-smacking dog treats you can offer them. So, show the dog treats, move towards the couch. Let the dog follow you, and once the dog is near the couch, don’t shy away from showing it with lots of love and a treat.

Paws up Command

Now that your dog is near the sofa, to have it join you on it, give the “paws-up” command. Make sure that if you have a smaller dog, it is trained to have all four of its paws on the couch, and the larger ones two front paws.

Keep repeating the exercise unless it understands what the command means.

Paws off Command

Once your dog is through with the paws-up command, you need to begin teaching it’s the reverse- the “paws-off” command. This routine will enable your dog to understand when it is supposed to take the paws off the sofa and stay on the ground.

Laying or Sitting on Sofa

Ensure that the smaller dog is trained to hug you while the bigger one is smart enough to place its front paws on your lap and head down to make you feel better. Teach your pup to hug you vertically with its body on your chest, front paws around your neck, and head near yours. By pressing against you, the dog will give you a sense of security and warmth that will cool you down.

Getting off Sofa

Teach your dog to get off the sofa by moving away from them with a treat. Eventually ask them to get off the couch with you, without luring them with a treat so that you can handle them in more public situations as well.

The above steps are part of Deep Pressure Therapy (DPT) that enables the person suffering from anxiety, and other emotional disorders to feel secure and cared for when they are under a lot of pressure.

Stage 4: Reward Dog for Emotional Support 

Now that your dog has been such a good boy and helped you deal with your anxiety, you should reward it with a treat and lots of cuddles. Do not overdo the rewarding. You still have to test that your dog is ready to provide you with emotional support in real-life scenarios.

Stage 5: Test Your Dog for Emotional Support 

When you believe that your dog is well aware of how to comfort you when they are receiving treats regularly, you need to make sure that the same support will be available to you without treats as well. For this, try testing your dog by pretending to be emotionally low and see whether they come to comfort you or not. If yes, then your endeavors have been successful.

What Are the Benefits of Having an Emotional Support Dog?

For a person suffering from low emotional, intellectual, and mental phases frequently, a furry four-legged creature can be an all-weather companion. Here are some benefits of having an ESD that will only make you love them more.

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Emotional Support

In this world full of hustle, some people can develop psychological disorders because they don’t have a companion to rely upon emotionally. And an emotional support dog offers the emotional reassurance that they are seeking.

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Constant Company

An ESA will serve as your perfect companion, helping you live with a continuous sense of security at all times. Moreover, if you are under treatment for one of those anxiety disorders, depression issues, etc., they will help you heal quickly as well.

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Reduce Level of Stress and Anxiety

If you are suffering from anxiety, you tend to feel alone and alienate even when a hoard of people surrounds you. Then again, when you have an adorable pup by your side, your stress levels due to anxiety will decrease substantially.

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Healthy Distraction

When you have a furry companion, you are less likely to feel stressed out and anxious since you have a healthy distraction. Whether you have a hyperactive dog or the one that loves to cuddle, it will keep you involved and less likely to feel depressed.

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Creates a Sense of Purpose

A dog will help you keep busy by walking it, feeding it, and looking after it. This companionship will give you some purpose and live a more independent life. Also, they will act as your helping hand when you struggle with a task.

What Is Emotional Support Dog Certificate and Where to Get One?

An Emotional Support Dog Certificate or an ESA letter is how you can get your support dog licensed. You can contact a licensed mental health professional to certify your dog. However, they will not certify your dog unless they are well-behaved and well-suited for your well-being in social situations.

You can either contact a licensed psychiatrist online or offline. They will help you train your dog in getting it certified.

It is not mandatory to have your dog certified as an ESA by law. But you need to do it to make it easier for them to board flights and rent apartments with you. 

Here are the steps for obtaining an ESA letter.

  1. Recognize whether you need an emotional support dog or not.
  2. If yes, then you should connect with a licensed mental health practitioner,
  3. Also, you will have to demonstrate you need an ESD in front of your mental health professional.
  4. Have your documents handy for documentation and verification.
  5. Now, you are ready to get a letter. You do not have to register.

Quickly Learn How to Train Your Emotional Support Dog Today

Often, people shy away from having to seek mental and emotional help because they think that it will be looked down upon by society. If you are struggling with immense anxiety, low concentration, intellectual disorders, depression, or other such issues, then you should opt for a companion who will never leave your side. Plus, no one will serve as a better companion for all your emotional needs than an emotional support dog.

They will keep you occupied, distract you from feeling anxious, keep you company, and give you a sense of purpose in life. Moreover, people with limited motor skills can seek help from them in completing mundane tasks. But before you can benefit from their emotional support, you must learn how to train your emotional support dog.

In the end, the primary reason behind being emotionally unstable, mental health issues, and chronic anxiety is being alone and isolated from most of the world. But, when you have a dog to take care of, you will have to leave the solitude and step into the social life for walking it. Having an emotional support dog, in turn, will help you socialize and make friends who will help in reducing your social anxiety.

Moreover, the company of an ESD will keep you away from most negative thoughts and make you feel more secure.