Your dog offers you comfort and support any time you have an emotional need or crisis. You have often felt like you would be better off if you could take him more places and have your dog by your side if you would happen to have an emotional breakdown. But, it's also likely that you've been asking, how to make my dog an emotional support dog?

How to Make My Dog an Emotional Support DogAll dogs offer some emotional connection with their owners and have an unconditional love that is boundless. A registered emotional support dog (ESA) does those things as part of their responsibilities and fulfill a psychological need for the owner.

If you've tried researching how to make my dog an emotional support dog, look no further. I've got some good news! Your own dog can be a registered ESA if both you and him meet certain qualifications.

In order to be a legal emotional support animal or ESA, your dog will have to be prescribed by a psychiatrist, psychologist or other licensed mental health professional. Your disability or mental health must require enough assistance that your dog provides comfort and your doctor acknowledges that the presence of your animal is needed to continue treatment of your mental health.

One way your dog may be of assistance to you is by its mere presence, being a calming focal point, when you need to ease your anxiety. But, you're surely wondering how to make my dog an emotional support dog, and we've got the answer!

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How to Make My Dog an Emotional Support Dog

How to Make My Dog an Emotional Support Dog

How Can an ESA Help?

Maybe you're not yet wondering how can I make my dog an emotional support dog. Maybe you're just wondering how an ESA could help you in your everyday life. Emotional support animals can help in endless ways. Though they are often referred to as comfort animals or simply pets, the definition of an ESA states that they don’t have to be trained.

It is defined that the very presence of the ESA lessens the negative symptoms associated with most psychiatric disorders. However, you as an owner can teach or train your dog to do or assist you with anything. There are no boundaries.

It can be more than just teaching your dog to give you a kiss when you are down. The calming presence your dog provides can be much like the emotional back-up of a non-judgmental best friend. It can be like always having that angel on your shoulder.

You can teach your dog to do things to assist you in your daily life, such as help with oversleeping when your alarm clock goes off. Your dog can even be there to calm your nerves by sitting beside you on your next airplane trip. The ways that your dog being an ESA can help could be endless, and that help can also extend to some rights that your dog would have as an ESA dog.

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Rights for an ESA

If you have an emotional or psychological disability, an emotional support dog can be a great addition to your life and your treatment plan. Emotional support animals can be used as a part of your medical treatment plan if approved by your physician.

How to Make My Dog an Emotional Support Dog

However, even if part of your treatment, an ESA is not considered a full-service animal under the Americans with Disabilities Act or the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA). They believe that emotional support animals are just that, for support for those who have emotional needs.

What the ADA does state is that it will protect your rights to own an official emotional support animal if you suffer from anxiety, depression, panic attacks or other psychological disorders in which your physician deems that you require your animal’s assistance. The main difference between the laws on emotional support animals and full-service animals is that emotional support animals do not require any specific training.

For this reason, an ESA does not have all the same rights protected under the ADA as a full-service animal.

Some of the rights that many who own an ESA are not aware of that they are protected under include the Fair Housing Amendment Act (FHAA) and the Air Carrier Access Act (ACAA). These legal provisions allow you to keep your dog with you in your home or housing unit and fly with you on commercial airlines.

The FHAA will allow your ESA even if your apartment complex has a no pet policy or specifies that it must meet certain breed or weight restrictions. Your landlord is required to provide reasonable accommodation including waiving the pet deposit.

If you need to fly, the ACAA will allow emotional support animals to fly with you without extra fees and charge. However, if you have a larger animal, and the airline is required to make a reasonable accommodation, it would be great if you called an hour or two ahead to prepare your flight attendants for your arrival.

To make your travels go smooth, be sure to have all of your necessary paperwork (including your ESA letter) with you before you leave.

ESA and Service Dogs

When learning how to make my dog an emotional support dog, it's important to know the difference between an ESA and a service dog. Your dog provides you with emotional support and comfort by its mere presence. It does not require any specific type of professional training. Most of the laws that are under the ADA are only extended to animals that are trained to perform certain tasks.

Service animals can be trained to do any of a variety of tasks, but the end result is the benefit of an individual with a physical, mental or emotional disability. Since there is a distinct difference, your dog as an ESA is not protected and does not have the same rights as a service animal.

Service dogs are given access to all public places including grocery stores, hospitals and movie theaters. Emotional support animals are only allowed in public places, restaurants and hotels that are pet friendly or that will allow for reasonable accommodations. Bear in mind, that it is your responsibility to be sure that your dog knows how to behave in public places and can follow basic commands.

Emotional Support Dog vs Service Dogs

How Can My Dog Qualify as ESA?

It is easy for your dog to qualify; all he has to do is bring you comfort by his very presence. All kidding aside, it is your own qualifications that are required.

In order to have a legal ESA, it is required that you obtain an ESA Letter beforehand.

To obtain this letter you need to have a verifiable disability and a legitimate need for an ESA. The first step in learning how to make my dog an emotional support dog is to meet with your psychiatrist, psychologist, or other licensed mental health professional to have them write you a prescription letter for your ESA.

ESA Certification

Once you receive your prescription letter for your ESA, you may be wondering if there is some type of official registry or any other legal notifications that you are required to fill out. The ADA does not currently require or mandate any type of registration or certification of emotional support animals.

However, with registration, traveling with your dog or accessing certain types of housing becomes easier. It will also reduce any type of embarrassing situations or even harassment and frustration while trying to obtain services. For these reasons, we recommend that the next step in learning how to make my dog an emotional support dog would be to get him certified.

If you take the extra step and register your dog through an acknowledged service animal registration system, then you make your life much easier. These services will provide you with necessary ID cards, service vests with patches and other forms of visible identification.

Identification items, along with a copy of your ESA letter, should be enough to get you most of the services you need without a lot of embarrassment or frustration. Being prepared and having all your paperwork in order can be a key part to a happy and productive treatment plan with your new ESA, your best friend, your dog.

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Healing Power of Dogs

Camden Savage is a Phoenix based writer, vegan, cupcake addict and dog lover. Years in the animal rescue trenches have taught her every aspect of dog ownership from behavioral problems, personality and breed specific trait differences of all dogs.