A dog is truly a man’s best friend. Aside from guarding your house and being a pet, your dog can also be trained to become an emotional support dog. JoAnna Pendergrass, DVM, adds that “Dogs bring immeasurable joy to our lives. They can brighten our day when we’re feeling down, encourage us to exercise, and even help us be more social.” If you want your dog to be your emotional support, you must know about this essential information about emotional support dog training. We, in The Furry Companion, compiled this information to help you in your journey of emotional support dog training.
1. Right Attitude During Emotional Support Dog Training
Before training your dog to be emotional support, it is essential to create bonds with them by spending quality time with your pet. Your bonding may include giving of treats and cuddles. The relationship between you and your emotional support dog must be two-way. Emotional support dogs also need to be cared for and taken care of.
It is also crucial to give treats after every training command. That way, they will feel rewarded for their acts. Thus, they will continue to obey your commands in the future without the feeling of being scared.
2. Length of Emotional Support Dog Training
You can train your dog to give emotional support in just a few weeks! However, training must not stop in those weeks. You should continue to train and reward your dog for as long as you want your pet to be an emotional support dog. “In addition to the life-saving, emotional and functioning assistance service dogs provide, we need to remember the cost and number of years it took to get the dog to be specially trained,” W. Jean Dodds, DVM points out. Besides, the commands that they can learn can also help them to be safe and avoid accidents most of the time.
3. Emotional Support Dog Training Basic Commands
You must know how to train your pet to be an emotional support dog. Here are essential training commands for your dog to be capable of offering emotional support:
Sit and Settle
This command is one of the essential instructions in emotional support dog training or any other dog training. During the first time of executing this command, you are tasked to hold a treat near to your dog’s nose. Then, you must slightly push the gift backward. That way, your dog will now learn how to sit. You can now use verbal or hand signs during your next sit command.
Since your emotional support dog can be with you during travels, you need to be capable of commanding him or her to settle right next to you. You can avoid harmful events happening to your pet if you can execute the settle command during emotional support dog training flawlessly.
The lying down command is similar to the sit command. In this command, you should hold a treat in front of your dog. You should slowly get the gift away from your dog, and the dog should follow the treat you are handling. When your dog has finally got a hold of the treat, he or she should be lying down.
In this command, you should calmly tell your dog to leave things that are harmful and improper for them. Examples of these things are sharp objects, toxic chemicals, and inappropriate dog food. This instruction is one of the most challenging commands to teach your dog since it is their instinct to chew anything that they can see.
During the undertaking of this command, you must master the three D’s: distance, duration, and distraction. The first time you give a “leave it” command, you and your dog must have little distance between one another. After some practice with these commands, you must increase the range and duration of the activity. Then, you can now introduce distractions for your dog to be familiar with during your exercises.
Emotional support dog training must highlight the potty training command since emotional support dogs can travel with you. Thus, emotional support dogs must learn to poop in the designated place.
You must first introduce your pet to a place in one room of the house where your dog can pee or poop. When your dog has become accustomed to the designated area, you can now start to introduce your pet to other rooms in your house.
It is also helpful to create schedules for walks or visits to a specific place in the house where they can poop or pee. That way, they can incorporate potty breaks in their habits.
Dogs, when happy with their owners, are eager to answer a call from their owners. Aside from the happiness that a recall brings to you and your pet, recall is also a valuable command to keep your pet safe. Once you see them in a harmful situation, you can make the recall command.
They need to be accustomed to this command since your dog will be with you in almost any place. The stay command will aid in the avoidance of harmful incidents from happening.
4. Emotional Support Dog Training Commands To Calm Anxiety
You must hold a treat above your dog for him or her to catch the reward. Once your dog tries to capture the gift, you must say, “Paws up!” Repeat the command for several days, and your pet will keep his or her paws up even if you do not have a reward. Your pet may at first be unwilling to extend his or her hands, but you need to be patient and calm during training.
This direction is the reverse command of paws up. However, you can only teach him the paws off after your pet has mastered the paws up instruction. Give treats to encourage your dog to obey the command.
This command is different from the simple instruction of sitting. In this command, your dog will perform Deep Pressure Therapy (DPT). This therapy is one of the core missions of emotional support dog training. Train your dog to lie on your lap or your chest. After that, instruct your dog to apply a safe amount of pressure on these parts of your body.
Bigger dogs must be trained to lie on your lap, while smaller dogs must be taught to lie on your chest. The pressure you will feel during the performance of this command will help you through anxiety and panic attacks.
Calming Anxiety Training
This instruction is the final step in the emotional support dog training. However, it does not mean that you will stop the training when your dog has successfully obeyed the command. Emotional support dogs need to be trained continuously by their owners.
You will have to imitate your physical state during a panic or anxiety attack for your dog to know the signs when you need him or her the most. Prepare treats when executing this command for your dog to be encouraged to respond to the training successfully. You will not always have a reward, especially during panic and anxiety attacks. Thus, it is also essential for your dog to help you without the rewards.
5. Best Breeds for Emotional Support Dog Training
Any dog can provide emotional support to their owners. However, some breeds are more suited to this kind of responsibility because they can be easily taught to behave at home and outdoors.
Here are the dog breeds that are best suited to be emotional support dogs:
- American Pitbull Terrier
- Golden Retriever
- Labrador Retriever
- Yorkshire Terrier
- Irish Wolfhound
- Cavalier Kings Charles Spaniel
- German Shepherd
You are not forced to follow this list strictly. You can deliberate what breed you think will help you the most through rough times. You can also seek suggestions from a doctor. You can also evaluate during emotional support dog training if your pet can give support through your darkest moments.
6. Emotional Support Dog Training Certification
Emotional support dogs can receive the Emotional Support Animal certification or ESA certification from a medical professional. You will first need to express your intention and need for an emotional support dog through visiting a medical professional. A psychiatrist or therapist will evaluate your request for a support dog. After the doctor has evaluated your appeal, you will receive a letter indicating the result of your application.
If you receive an ESA certification, your dog will have travel privileges without additional requirements or payments. Your pets will also be allowed to enter places that have a “no pets” policy.
7. Benefits of Having Emotional Support Dog
Emotional support dogs can help those who are experiencing anxiety, depression, autism, learning disorders, post-traumatic stress disorder, bipolar disorder, and attention deficit disorder. “People may have conditions that make handling stress a special challenge and may benefit from having their pets with them,” Meredith Kennedy, DVM says.
An emotional support dog offers companionship. You will not feel abandoned or alone when you have a dog who will always be there for you. Emotional support dogs have travel and housing privileges; thus, you will be accompanied by your dog wherever you go.
They can also reduce your stress level and anxiety. Through Deep Pressure Therapy, their presence and touch will give you a sense of security and belongingness.
An emotional support dog can also keep you distracted should you have recurring negative and depressive thoughts. The bond that you have created during and after your emotional support dog training will help you navigate the rough times in your life.
We hope that this article has helped you learn the essential information about emotional support dog training. Ask for professional help should your negative feelings become unbearable. May you find the perfect emotional support dog for you!
Frequently Asked Questions
What is the difference between a service dog and an emotional support dog?
Service animals such as dogs are specially trained to perform specific tasks for individuals with disabilities. Examples of these tasks include guiding a visually compromised person and pushing or pulling a wheelchair. They can accompany people with disabilities to venture into public areas. Meanwhile, as discussed above, an emotional support dog is trained to perform calming actions to ease anxiety.
How do I train my dog to be an emotional support dog?
First, teach the dog paws up and command and getting on the sofa. It is important to practice the sofa command until the dog masters it. Next, teach your dog the paws off command which is just the reverse of the previous. Knowing the sofa command, your dog then must be trained to lie vertically on the sofa or to put its paws on your lap. These are the basic commands that therapy dogs learn.
How much does it cost to train an emotional support dog?
The cost is around $15,000 to $50,000. But for service dogs to aid during seizures and the like, the training cost maybe a little less.
How do you qualify for an emotional support animal?
To qualify for an emotional support animal (ESA), a person should be emotionally disabled certified by a licensed mental health professional. When the pet is registered as an ESA, it minimizes the hassle that may come along.
What breeds make good emotional support dogs?
If you are looking into getting an emotional support dog, there are certain breeds that are excellent at the job. The dog breeds to consider are German Shepherd, Labrador Retriever, Beagle, Poodles, and Yorkshire Terrier.
What does an ESA letter need to say?
An ESA letter must say that you are a patient of a mental illness certified by a licensed mental health professional. The letter must also state that you are being treated by the same professional and that an ESA is part of the treatment plan. Lastly, it must include that your current condition restricts you from doing at least one of the daily activities.
Can you train your dog to be a service dog?
It is recommended to adopt a trained service dog trained by a licensed trainer. Also, it is possible to bring your own dog to a trainer. However, it is not advised to train a dog on your own.
Can you get an emotional support animal for anxiety?
Yes, it is possible to get an emotional support animal (ESA) fo anxiety. Your therapist can make a letter stating the recommendation for an ESA to help your condition.
Can dogs sense anxiety?
Yes, dogs have a way of detecting anxiety. The ability of dogs to detect human feelings may be from tones and voice frequencies.
Janssen is a fresh graduate of Philosophy and is currently busy with freelance jobs to support her future law school journey. She loves spending her spare time watching TV series, movies, and sports.