Do you often find yourself in anxiety-filled situations and need emotional support?

The key to a more valuable life for you may lie in having an emotional companion dog. In the US, mental health is deteriorating, especially in youth. Depression is one of the biggest problems in millions of American adults.

Because of this, you’ll notice the rising numbers of emotional support animals (ESAs). Emotional support dogs are among the most common ESAs available. Below, we have a list of 10 things you need to know about having an emotional support dog.

  1. What is an Emotional Support Dog?

An emotional support dog is exceptional at sensing the emotions of their owner. They use this sensitivity to help reduce the symptoms of mental disorders.

Emotional companion dogs can be any breed of dog. The important thing is they make great companions and are manageable in public.

  1. What Do Emotional Support Dogs Do?

We mentioned that emotional support dogs help lessen the symptoms of mental disorders. This isn’t the only thing ESAs do for their owners. They are also part of a larger treatment plan for those undergoing therapy.

Psychological fitness is one of the goals of emotional support animals. Many people who have trouble with therapy find they make more progress with an ESA at their side. ESA owners also believe that emotional support animals are more effective than mediation.

  1. Types of Emotional Companion Dogs

Various ESAs have specific types and tasks. For example, a hospital or recovery therapy dog often works at a hospital. Another example is the reading therapy dog, which helps make reading fun for kids.

War veterans who suffer from Post-Traumatic Stress Disorders can get post-war companions. While they’re in active service, they can also bond with wartime companions. These animals can then help them readjust to life after their service.

  1. Who Can Get an Emotional Support Dog?

Only adults with an emotional disability can qualify for an ESA. Only a licensed psychologist, therapist, or other mental health professionals can certify you. The certification comes as a formal letter known as an ESA letter.

The mental disorders that can qualify you as an ESA owner include:

  • Learning disorders
  • Mental retardation
  • Attention Deficit Disorder (ADD)
  • Motor skills disorders
  • Bipolar disorders
  • Cognitive disorders
  • Substance-related disorders

Other mental disorders and disabilities can also qualify you. This will depend on your therapist or psychologist. Note that other doctors, like cardiologists, cannot qualify you as an ESA owner.

  1. Qualifications to Get an Emotional Companion Dog?

You don’t need to undergo training or seminars to get an ESA. The only thing you need to get an emotional support dog is an ESA letter. As we mentioned, this letter must come from a licensed mental health professional.

The licensed professional will write and sign this ESA letter. The letter must include your doctor’s letterhead, license number, signature, and date. The letter will establish that you have a disability and will mention your need for an ESA.

  1. Where to Get an Emotional Support Dog?

After you get a certification as an ESA owner, head to an ESA shelter or rescue. If you already have a pet dog at home which you feel comfortable with, you need not visit the shelter. You can also go to a pet store to buy an animal if you want.

  1. How to Take Care of an Emotional Companion Dog

Take care of your therapy dog as you’ll take care of a friend. Feed it, give it attention, and train it. On occasion, you can give your dog a treat to encourage good behavior.

Remember, big dogs need big spaces as well. If you live in a small apartment or home, you’ll want to get a small emotional support dog. Take your pet to the vet for regular checkups or whenever they look sick.

Bringing them with you is another case. Establishments can’t stop you from bringing them with you but airlines are now changing their policies. Make sure to stay updated regarding each airline’s rules about bringing ESAs with you.

  1. How Do I Certify My Dog as an ESA?

Often, there is a misconception that a dog needs official certification to become an ESA. You cannot certify your dog or other pet as an ESA. No certificate or program exists to qualify an animal as an ESA under law.

This means you can adopt a dog or other animal as an ESA as long as you have an ESA letter. Also note that the ESA letter is to certify you as an ESA owner, not to certify your dog. You don’t need to register your dog as an emotional companion dog.

  1. Service Dogs vs. Emotional Support Dogs

In case you’re wondering, emotional support dogs aren’t the same as service dogs. Both have special access to go where their owners go. Both also need to behave and stay focused when in public.

However, service dogs undergo training to perform specific tasks. Emotional support dogs don’t need to undergo any particular training. Also, ESAs don’t have access to some establishments like service dogs.

  1. What Are Other Animals Can Be an Emotional Support Animal?

The most common types of ESAs are dogs and cats. In some cases, you’ll see ferrets, birds, and bearded dragons working as ESAs. Horses, monkeys, and pigs may also qualify as emotional support animals.

There is no federal law that states an ESA needs to undergo any specific training. What’s important is that the animal has good social skills. The animal must not be aggressive towards people or other animals as well.

Finally, if the animal causes a disturbance or undue hardship for other people, it can’t qualify as an ESA. The people who often have issues with ESAs are apartment managers or owners. If you live in an apartment, make sure the owner allows pets or gives you special permission.

Live a Higher-Quality Life

Difficult situations aren’t the only events an emotional companion dog can help you with. Your emotional support animal can also begin social interactions. It’s great for people who find it difficult to socialize with others.

That concludes our top 10 things to know about getting and having emotional support dogs. We hope this guide helped and informed you about what you need to get an ESA. If you want to learn more about attaining a higher quality of life, check out our other guides.