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How To Train Your Emotional Support Dog

How To Train Your Emotional Support Dog

Scott 2 March 27, 2024
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An emotional support animal (ESA) can be any animal species that aids individuals with their emotional or mental well-being. People are not restricted in the number of ESAs they can have.

To obtain official ESA Medical Recommendation Letter, a mental health professional must confirm that the animal offers therapeutic benefits for conditions like anxiety, depression, post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), autism, agoraphobia, fear of flying, and certain learning disorders.

Emotional support animals, service dogs, and therapy dogs each serve distinct roles. Emotional support animals, akin to service animals, are covered by the Fair Housing Act. This law mandates that landlords must allow reasonable accommodations for ESAs in housing, regardless of their no-pet policies. However, landlords can still deny or remove ESA owners for reasons like property damage. Therefore, basic obedience training is crucial for a dog to function effectively as an ESA.

While ESAs have specific housing rights, service dogs are afforded additional protections under the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA). Trained and certified service dogs can access locations that ESAs cannot, such as airports, restaurants, bars, and theaters.

Therapy dogs, unlike ESAs and service dogs, lack special legal privileges. These certified and trained animals are employed in places like hospitals, schools, and nursing homes to offer comfort and joy. They are only permitted in locations where they have been formally invited.

Although ESAs do not require the same level of training as service dogs, basic obedience skills are beneficial to prevent issues with landlords or others. The presence of treats, a leash, the dog’s bed, and patience is essential during emotional support dog training. Teaching vital commands is key to the dog’s success as an emotional support animal.

Potty Training
Housebreaking is the first step in training your puppy to be an ESA. It is crucial to establish a consistent routine by taking them to the same outdoor spot every time.

Puppies can hold their bladder for about one hour per month of age. As they get older, they can go longer without needing to relieve themselves at night. Removing their water bowl a couple of hours before bedtime can also be helpful.

Positive reinforcement such as treats, affection, and praise should be given when your puppy goes potty outside. Accidents inside should be cleaned up calmly without overreacting, sticking to the established routine.

Consider crate training your dog in addition to potty training to foster good behavior and provide a safe space for them when you’re away. This can prevent property damage, which could be a valid reason for a landlord to refuse an ESA.

Prior to seeking an ESA certification, it is essential to teach your dog basic commands like “sit,” “come,” and “stay.” These skills are not only impressive but also useful in various situations.

Training your Emotional Support Animal (ESA) in Socialization

The American Veterinary Society of Animal Behavior emphasizes the importance of properly socializing an emotional support dog to prevent behavior issues in the future. It is essential for an ESA to be well-adjusted, offer a calming influence on their owners, and not exhibit fearfulness. Seeking assistance from a professional dog behaviorist can be beneficial if you are facing challenges in socializing a timid or older dog.

It is recommended to commence training dogs during their puppy phase as this period is ideal for both socialization and obedience training. Socialization can commence as early as three weeks of age, although it is crucial to await completion of their vaccinations before exposing them to other dogs or public areas like a dog park.

Utilizing positive reinforcement techniques is imperative during the socialization process. Gradually introduce your pup to various stimuli, individuals, and environments. Early grooming sessions are essential to prevent anxiety, especially if your ESA will undergo professional grooming in the future.

When socializing your dog, ensure they encounter diverse objects ranging from plastic bags to lawnmowers. Exposure to different demographics like children, elderly individuals, and individuals with varied appearances is crucial. Exposing your puppy to loud noises and potentially distressing situations like nail trimming aids in their socialization development.

Additional Training for Your Emotional Support Dog

Once your Emotional Support Dog has completed basic training it is recommended to complete Emotional Support Dog Registration.

Beyond basic commands, emotional support dog training should encompass techniques to aid individuals during challenging scenarios. Deep Pressure Therapy (DPT) is an effective method that can benefit individuals dealing with anxiety, depression, or similar conditions. During DPT sessions, the ESA applies pressure to specific areas of the individual’s body to alleviate stress and anxiety. Smaller dogs may achieve this by sitting on their owners, while larger dogs may use their paws or head for comfort and relaxation.

Regardless of the ESA’s size, DPT training follows the same fundamental steps:

1. Teach them to respond to a command like “up” to climb onto the sofa.
2. Position the ESA to apply gentle pressure by sitting on or resting their paws on the individual.
3. Use a consistent command like “paws off” when they need to disengage. It is essential to assign a distinct command for each action to ensure clear communication between the owner and the ESA.


If you believe that an emotional support animal could alleviate your symptoms, discuss the potential advantages and disadvantages with your doctor or therapist or you can obtain an ESA recommendation letter online.

Owning a pet demands dedication and effort, so it is crucial to ensure that you are ready for the responsibility and capable of looking after the animal. Express your expectations concerning the benefits of having an emotional support animal and explore the type of animal that would suit your requirements.

An ESA offers a source of solace and assistance for individuals dealing with mental health issues or disabilities. Acquiring legitimate documentation for an emotional support animal is essential to preserve the credibility of those who genuinely rely on the companionship of a support animal.

If you genuinely require an emotional support animal, consult the healthcare professional currently managing your treatment. Avoid purchasing certification letters from unreliable online sources that provide questionable documentation to anyone willing to pay a fee.

2 Replies to “How To Train Your Emotional Support Dog”

    1. Hi Holly, with an emotional support dog there is no formal test required. If you are working with a trainer on a regular basis they will issue certificates for Good Citizenship and Public Access testing.

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