There is often confusion as to the difference between an emotional support animal (ESA) and a service animal. However, the difference between the two is very distinct. While a service animal is trained to perform specific tasks for their human owners, an emotional support animal is licensed to provide health benefits to individuals that may be suffering from an emotional or mental disability or disorder. For example, emotional support animals have been found to be highly beneficial for people suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD).
There are several different laws pertaining to emotional support animals due to the proven medical benefit they provide their handler. Under the Fair Housing Act, emotional support animals are allowed in all types of housing regardless of pet policies and the owner cannot be charged extra. Under the Air Carrier Access Act, the emotional support animal can fly in the cabin of the plane with its owner, and cannot be charged more.
There are a variety of ways to qualify for an emotional support animal. For example, if you suffer from Attention Deficit Disorder, Learning Disorders, Autism, General Anxiety Disorder, Bipolar, Cognitive Disorders, Depression, Severe Anxiety, or PTSD, you can qualify for an ESA.
Legally speaking, there is no specific training required for an emotional support dog. However, the dog is expected to be well behaved and under the control of the handler at all times. They should also be spayed or neutered to prevent mating-related behaviors.
While any breed can serve as an emotional support dog, certain breeds may be better than others. Dogs that are too rambunctious, overly-excitable, or too timid won’t have what it takes to be there emotionally for their handlers when they are needed. The best dogs for emotional support are at least a year old, responsive to you, and calm by nature.
ESA dog training starts out just like regular dog training. You want to teach the dog to sit, stay, down, come, heel, and other common commands. The younger training starts, the more suitable the dog will be for emotional support training. You will also need to train the dog to avoid undesirable behaviors such as barking, jumping, lunging, or begging.
Once the dog is fully trained for behavior and responsiveness, you can start on specific esa dog training. This may include a variety of actions depending on why you need an ESA. For example, if you are prone to panic attacks or anxiety, you can conduct ESA dog training to teach your pet to lay across your chest or lap when you are having high anxiety. This type of gentle pressure has been proven to calm anxiety. This is referred to as deep pressure therapy.
Deep pressure therapy training involves teaching your dog what is called “paws up” in which they put their paws on your shoulders as you lay on the coach. For effectiveness, you want the dog to lay vertically along your body with their paws at your shoulders. This will apply even pressure across your neck and torso.
ESA training is no more difficult than traditional dog training. It requires time and consistency. However, many dogs can learn the commands fairly quickly with the aid of treats. Curbing behaviors that can be disruptive is highly important as part of the ESA dog training. For example, excessive barking can cause a great deal of tension in housing areas or on airplanes, which ESAs are allowed to go.
Since emotional support dogs are more lenient than service dogs, you may want to get an emotional support dog letter that you can provide people who may question why you have your dog with you in public. ESA dog training has proven highly effective in helping a wide range of people. For example, emotion support animals for treating depression have been supported over years of research. If properly trained, it is important no to let other prevent you from having your ESA with you due to their lack of understanding.
If you are unsure about your ability to train an ESA, it is important to seek the help or advice of professional trainers. Improperly training can eliminate the possibility of your dog being an ESA.