Emotional Support Dog Training
Dog Training

Emotional Support Dog Training

A person with mental health problems can experience substantial changes in their quality of life if they get an emotional support dog. The issues in question may vary extensively, encompassing anxiety and post-traumatic stress disorder. According to American Animal Hospital Association (AAHA) an emotional assistance dog can provide “therapeutic support to disabled individuals by providing companionship and relieving loneliness.” All that is required of emotional support dogs is a little amount of training. If you are familiar with all the details, you and any dog owner may train their emotional support dog with ease.

What Is an Emotional Support Dog?

Any dog that can offer comfort and emotional stability to their owner is considered an emotional support dog (ESD). Their key distinction from service dogs is that they are not trained to carry out particular activities for those with disabilities. Practically, any pet can handle emotional support dog training; it is not a talent that requires specialization. All an ESD needs is to be amiable and well-mannered. This enables them to just be there with their owner and offer emotional support. PetMD explains that a prescription from a licensed therapist is a must, if you want to get an emotional support dog.

Choosing an Emotional Support Dog: What Breeds Are the Best?

Certain breeds have a greater aptitude for this role because of their personalities and temperaments. The best emotional support dogs are usually calm, amiable, and devoted.

Known for their sociable and extroverted personalities, Labrador Retrievers are wonderful companions and can be trained effortlessly. Golden Retrievers are also kind, easy-going and incredibly loving dogs.

Charles the Cavalier Spaniels are ideal for individuals who require a lot of closeness. They are small, affectionate and great lap dogs.

Pugs are wonderful buddies because of their endearing nature and partiality for snuggling.

Compact and versatile, Yorkshire Terriers are perfect for apartment dwellers.

Qualities of an Emotional Support Dog

A great emotional support dog should be:

  • Calm and gentle so that they are capable of maintaining composure in different circumstances without becoming agitated or nervous. Having a nervous or excitable dog would negate the purpose and increase the owner’s anxiety.

  • Sociable and friendly toward both humans and other animals so that they do not get aggressive or display guarding behavior when out in public.

  • Obedient and able to comply with simple instructions. This will ensure that they act appropriately in public and do not cause trouble for the owner.

  • Intuitive and sensitive to the feelings of the owner. It helps if they are able to sense that the owner needs comforting and they offer it as and when needed.

How to Train an Emotional Support Dog

Emotional support dog training is very straightforward. Just teach them to behave properly in different settings and to respond to your emotional needs. Here’s a few tips to get you started on this path:

Potty Training

One of the first things you should focus on is potty training to reduce messes and the resultant stress they can cause. Consistency is key so take your dog outside frequently, especially after meals. When they do their business outside, lavish them with praise and treats. Accidents will happen but be patient and do not punish your dog.

Basic Commands

Sit, stay, come and heel are some of the essential commands you need to teach your canine. Again remember to use positive reinforcement techniques. Here is an example:

  1. Hold a treat close to your dog’s nose.

  2. Move your hand up, allowing their head to follow the treat and causing their bottom to lower.

  3. Once they’re in a sitting position, say “sit,” give them the treat, and share some affection.

  4. Repeat this process several times a day in short sessions until your dog masters the command.

Deep Pressure Therapy

Deep Pressure Therapy (DPT) can prove highly comforting to people with mental health issues. The dog applies very gentle pressure to a person's body. Just teach your anxiety service dog to lay over your lap or chest when instructed and they will be performing DPT.

How to Train Your Dog for Deep Pressure Therapy

Training your dog for DPT takes some time and patience. Here’s a simple method to get started:

  • Choose a Command: Pick a command like “hug” or “comfort.”

  • Use Treats: Lure your dog onto your lap or chest with a treat.

  • Reinforce: When your dog lays across you, use the chosen command and give them the treat.

  • Practice: Repeat this in short sessions until your dog understands the command and performs it without a treat.

  • Gradually increase the duration your dog stays in the position, always rewarding them for their patience and calmness.

Tips for Training a Therapy Dog

  1. Training can be a long process so stay patient and always use positive reinforcement.

  2. Follow a regular training schedule and be consistent with offering commands and rewards.

  3. Familiarize your dog to different environments, people and animals so that they learn to remain calm and well-behaved at all times.

  4. Focus on bonding and building a strong relationship with your dog. Spend quality time together and show them affection.

  5. Not all dogs can be emotional support animals. If your dog shows signs of stress or discomfort, understand that they are not suitable for the role.


Taking part in service dog training for emotional support can significantly augment your life quality. The most significant aspects are being patient, consistent, and full of love, whether you're teaching them general directions or more specialized skills like Deep Pressure Therapy. Pick the proper breed, pay attention to their personality, and don't forget to have fun on the way. Your emotional support dog is a friend who will make you feel happy and comfortable, not just a helper.

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