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How To Make Your Dog An Emotional Support Dog

There is more to it than you may think, but learning how to make your dog an emotional support dog is possible. Most people purchase emotional support animals that are already trained, but some owners prefer to train their existing dog that they are already comfortable with.

Does your dog offer you comfort and support any time you have an emotional need or crisis? Have you often felt like you would be better off if you could take him more places and have him by your side just in case you happen to have an emotional breakdown?

All 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.

Under the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), an emotional support dog is NOT considered a service dog. This means that they do not have the same rights and privileges as service dogs. For this reason, an ESA may not be allowed in restaurants, grocery stores, etc…

A lot of handlers don't feel that the ADA is fair when classifying emotional support dogs. The biggest difference is that service dogs undergo rigorous training to ensure they are always on their best behavior when out in public.

It will take hard work, patience and a lot of research, but you can learn how to make your dog an emotional support dog if you're up to the task. Below are some tips on how to get started.

How To Make Your Dog An Emotional Support Dog

how to make your dog an emotional support dog

An emotional support animal is a companion animal that provides emotional support to someone who is suffering from a mental health condition or emotional disorder. An emotional support dog is not trained to perform a specific task for their handler; they simply offer emotional support that makes daily life easier for their handler.

Emotional support animals are not trained to perform specific functions, because their support is given by simply being present. With that said, ESAs should have a temperament and understanding of obedience that is conducive to their role.

There is no requirement for ESA dogs to be registered or “certified” by any organization. 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.

The Rights of Emotional Support Dogs

As I mentioned, an emotional support animal is NOT protected by the Americans with Disabilities Act, but they are protected under the Air Carrier Access Act (ACAA) and the Fair Housing Act (FHA).

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.

The FHA 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 best if you called ahead of time to prepare your flight crew for your arrival.

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woman snuggling dogESA Certification

It is easy for your dog to qualify; all he has to do is bring you comfort by his very presence. When it comes to certification of an emotional support dog, it is your own qualifications that are required.

In order to have a legal ESA, it is required that you obtain an ESA Letter from a licensed mental health professional.

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 your 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.

Once you receive the letter, 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, I do recommend that you get your dog certified.

If you register your dog through an acknowledged service animal registration system, then you will make your life much easier. These services will provide you with necessary ID cards, service vests, 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 is a key part to a productive treatment plan with your new emotional support dog.

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Samantha’s biggest passion in life is spending time with her Boxer dogs. After she rescued her first Boxer in 2004, Samantha fell in love with the breed and has continued to rescue three other Boxers since then. She enjoys hiking and swimming with her Boxers, Maddie and Chloe.