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emotional support dog

How to Train your Emotional Support Dog?

An emotional support animal is an animal that provides emotional support (comfort and companionship) to people with mental or emotional disabilities. Under the Fair Housing Act, owners of emotional support Animals have special rights to live in no-pet housing without paying extra fees or deposits.

The most common ESAs are dogs. People choose dogs as emotional support animals because of their loyalty and trainability. ESA dogs differ from Service dogs as ESAs provide emotional support and companionship to their owners, whereas service dogs are trained to do specific tasks.

How to train an Emotional Support Dog?

Dogs provide emotional support in the life of their owners and family. Having a dog can reduce your physical stress. Spending a happy time with your emotional support dog may release endorphins and oxytocin hormones that efficiently minimize stress. Any dog with the best temperament and learning ability can be an ESA dog. Training of emotional support dogs is also required, while it is considerably less in trend. 

People can train emotional support dogs to perform a specific task formulated to reduce anxiety, stress, and depression, known as Deep Pressure Therapy. This therapy works for those who suffer from anxiety, depression, and other mental health conditions. Your emotional support dog applies pressure on the specific area of your body to reduce anxiety or stress to calm you during DPT. A small dog may perform this task by sitting on you, while a large dog does this by resting his paw or head to relieve and calm you from the symptoms. Some essential points to train your ESA dog are:

  • Initially teach them how to climb up and down from a short height like a sofa, with a verbal command saying “up”.
  • Calmly move them to the place you want them to apply light pressure by sitting or putting their paws or head.
  • Use verbal commands to make it easy for them to understand, like saying “paw off” when you feel it’s the right time to get them down.
  • Praise them for keeping them calm and pet them while doing the task. 
  • Doing verbal commands with the same word every time is compulsory so they do not get confused.

Step-by-step obedience training

There are no restrictions on what and how you can teach your emotional support dog. A few essential things that will help your dog to be an excellent emotional support animal are:

Institute potty training

Dogs can control their bladders for one hour for every month of their age. Make a routine for them that they follow while growing, and try to follow your emotional support dog’s timings. Ensure you take them to the same spot outside every day. Restrict their access to a specific house area to avoid any mishap. Reward them with treats and love, and praise them when they do their business outdoors according to your training. Similarly, do not shout at them if they are mistaken and do something inside.


Maintain a distance, while commanding, between you and your emotional support dog. This will impact like a father commanding effects which result better.


This part of the training teaches them how fast and long they must assist you in times of distress. They also help them to learn quickly.


Dogs easily get distracted by even the most minor things. It may lead to a bad experience if your emotional support dog gets distracted while doing their task. While you train them, introduce different things purposefully and then skip it from the view gradually. It will help them to be distract-proof as your dog learns a new skill.

Tips for socializing training

  • Train them from an early age.
  • Start to socialize with them when they are three months old.
  • Try to use positive reinforcement.
  • Introduce new places and new people to them from time to time.
  • Start grooming them little by little.
  • After completing their vaccine series, make it normal for them to be distracted by new people and new places without getting over-excited.

What Qualities should an ESA Dog have?

When it comes to selecting an emotional support dog, always pay attention to a few crucial points about the dog, including:

  • Personality
  • Temperament
  • Learning ability
  • Trait/behavior

According to federal guidelines, ESAs do not require any special training. The only task of an emotional support dog is to provide emotional support and comfort of companionship to its owner, who has mental health issues. Emotional Support dogs fulfill this task easily by being loyal and present at times of distress with him. 

Emotional support dogs have all those skills/abilities a typical dog is expected to have. They are devoted to their owners. If a doctor recommends an emotional support animal for your mental health, ensure your ESA dog is calm and trained to handle you in distress. An overly anxious or excitable dog will not be suitable for you. If you are suffering from depression, anxiety, or post-traumatic stress disorder, an outgoing emotional support dog with a cheerful personality is the best companion for you. He will help you get unstuck from a depressed routine.

Emotional Support dogs should understand the basic commands as well. Due to the special rights of ESA under the Fair Housing Act, primarily emotional support dogs live in non-pet buildings. This unrestricted access makes them more responsible for not misbehaving because they are considered superior to common pets. If any emotional support dog misbehaves, causes harm to other tenants or is a reason for substantial property damage, a landlord may deny reasonable accommodation. 


Just because ESAs usually don’t need any specific training, that does not mean we should leave them completely untrained. Like other pets who live in residential buildings, ESA dogs also need training. If you go for adoption, always choose an authentic institute so that they can provide you with complete details about the dog’s traits and unique personality. The shelter’s workers may also assist you with the dog’s personality and compatibility with your needs.

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