Feeling overwhelmed or anxious can be tough. Emotional support dogs offer comfort and companionship to help with this. Our guide shows you the steps to train your dog for this vital role.

Get ready to learn!

Understanding Emotional Support Dogs

Emotional support dogs provide comfort to individuals with mental health conditions. To qualify for an ESA letter, one must meet specific criteria.

What are Emotional Support Dogs?

Emotional support dogs are pets that offer comfort and support in forms of affection and companionship for an individual suffering from various mental health conditions. Unlike service animals, they don’t need to undergo specialised training mandated by the American Kennel Club.

These canine friends play a crucial role in improving their handler’s mental well-being, helping them handle anxiety, depression, and other emotional challenges.

Securing an ESA letter from a licensed mental health professional is essential for your dog to be recognised as an emotional support animal. This certification allows your pet to live with you in housing units that generally restrict pets without extra fees.

Emotional support dogs can greatly aid in recovery from emotional overload by providing stability and love, making every day a bit easier for those battling severe anxiety or other psychiatric conditions.

Qualifying for an ESA letter

Once you understand the role of emotional support dogs, the next step is getting an ESA letter for your pooch. A healthcare professional can write this letter for you. This includes therapists, psychologists, and psychiatrists.

They need to confirm that you have a mental health condition and that your dog helps with this condition. This process proves that your dog is not just a pet but a necessary support for your health.

You must have a genuine need for an emotional support animal. Conditions like anxiety, depression, PTSD, or phobias qualify. Talk to your healthcare provider about how your dog eases your symptoms.

They will review your needs and may write you an ESA letter if they agree it’s right for you. This letter allows your dog to live with you in many housing situations where pets are not usually allowed under the Fair Housing Act.

Training Requirements for Emotional Support Animals

Training your emotional support animal involves teaching crucial skills such as toilet training, obedience commands, deep pressure therapy (DPT), and socialisation to ensure they provide the necessary support.

It’s important to focus on these aspects to cultivate a well-rounded emotional support dog that can effectively assist individuals in need.

Potty training

Potty training your dog is the first step in making them a supportive companion. It sets a strong foundation for further emotional support dog training.

  1. Choose a regular toilet spot outside. Dogs prefer consistency, which helps them learn faster.
  2. Keep a strict feeding schedule. This makes their toilet times predictable.
  3. Take your dog to their toilet spot first thing in the morning and then every 30 minutes to an hour throughout the day.
  4. Right after meals, take them out as well. Dogs often need to go soon after eating.
  5. Praise your dog or give them a treat when they use their outdoor toilet spot. Positive reinforcement strengthens good behaviour.
  6. Use a command like “go potty” each time you take them out so they associate the phrase with the action.
  7. If your dog has an accident inside, clean it up quietly without scolding them. Negative reactions can cause fear and confusion.
  8. Be patient and keep at it, even when progress seems slow. Persistence is key in potty training.

    9.(If applicable) For puppies or younger dogs, you might need night trips outside initially until they can hold on longer.

Through these steps, using consistent schedules, positive reinforcement, patience, and understanding accidents as part of the process rather than setbacks helps build trust between you and your dog during potty training for their role as an emotional support animal (ESA).

Basic obedience commands

After mastering potty training, the next step is teaching your dog basic obedience commands. These skills lay the foundation for a well-behaved emotional support dog.

  1. Sit – Start by holding a treat close to your dog’s nose. Move your hand up, allowing the dog’s head to follow the treat and causing its bottom to lower. Once they’re in sitting position, say “Sit,” give them the treat, and share some affection.
  2. Come – Put a collar or leash on your dog for this one. Crouch down to their level and say “Come” while gently pulling on the leash. When they get to you, reward them with affection and a treat.
  3. Down – This is one of the harder commands because it puts your dog in a submissive posture. Find a good-smelling treat and hold it in your closed fist. Hold your hand up to their snout; when they sniff it, move your hand to the floor so they follow. Slide your hand along the ground in front of them to encourage their body to follow their head down into the laying position.
  4. Stay – Ask your dog to “Sit”. Then open the palm of your hand in front of you, and say “Stay.” Take a few steps back. Reward them for staying even for a few seconds at first, then gradually increase the duration as they get better at it.
  5. Leave it – Place a treat in both hands. Show them one enclosed fist with the treat inside, and say, “Leave it.” Let them lick, sniff, mouth, paw, and bark to try to get it — but ignore these behaviours. Once they stop trying, give them the treat from the other hand.
  6. Heel – This command is crucial for keeping your dog safe when walking on a leash or in public places. Hold a leash close enough that there is very little slack but not too tight that it’s pulling on their collar all the time; walk with your dog by your side or slightly behind you when saying “Heel”.

These six basic commands are vital for any emotional support dog’s training regimen. Obedience training not only teaches essential manners but also strengthens the bond between dogs and their handlers – laying down an unshakable foundation of mutual trust and understanding critical for any effective emotional support animal partnership.

Deep Pressure Therapy (DPT)

Deep Pressure Therapy, or DPT, involves teaching your dog to apply gentle pressure to your body. This can help calm and comfort people dealing with stress or anxiety. Dogs that are good at this often include breeds known for their empathy like Golden Retrievers or Cavalier King Charles Spaniels.

Training a dog for DPT starts simple. You encourage them to lay across you in specific ways that feel comforting, not too heavy.

Using positive reinforcement is key here. Give treats and praise when your dog correctly performs the pressure therapy moves you’re teaching them. For example, if someone feels anxious, having their trained support dog lean against them can provide immediate relief.

It’s a straightforward but powerful way of using the bond between pets and owners to manage emotional overload effectively.


After learning about Deep Pressure Therapy, socialisation becomes the next important step. This helps your emotional support dog feel comfortable around various people and environments.

  1. Start by introducing your dog to different settings such as parks, city streets, and shops. This exposes them to various sights, sounds, and smells.
  2. Take trips on public transport if possible. Buses or trains are great for getting your dog used to movements and crowds.
  3. Invite friends over regularly. Having visitors can teach your dog how to behave around strangers.
  4. Attend puppy training classes. These classes offer a chance for your dog to meet other dogs in a controlled environment.

    5a. Visit animal shelters with friendly dogs for playdates. Interaction with other canines is crucial for developing good social skills.

    5b. Pair walks with other dog owners when you can. It’s another way to improve their socialisation.

  5. Introduce your dog to people wearing hats or uniforms, like postal workers and police officers, so they learn not everyone is a threat.

    7a. Expose them gently to household noises such as vacuum cleaners and washing machines to reduce fearfulness.

    7b. Take them near busy areas like construction sites from a safe distance to desensitise them to loud noises.

  6. Frequent exposure to children under supervision teaches patience and gentleness towards younger family members.

Each of these steps contributes significantly towards building a well-rounded emotional support dog that can handle stress better and offer more consistent support in challenging situations like dealing with agoraphobia or panic disorders amidst crowds or unfamiliar places, thus fulfilling their role more effectively while ensuring comfort not just at home but also in various public spaces including those regulated by ADA regulations where ESAs are increasingly acknowledged for their vital role in mental health wellness alongside therapy dogs and psychiatric service dogs without the need for registry validation like purebred dogs from the American Kennel Club might require which focuses more on pedigrees rather than temperament, making every interaction an opportunity to reinforce positive behaviour through encouragement rather than negative reinforcement thereby strengthening the bond between owner and companion animal even further which is essential for maintaining mental stability among individuals facing challenges like loneliness or traumatic experiences seeking comfort through companionship facilitated by properly trained emotional support animals that truly understand how to manage diverse social situations effectively.

Tips for Training Your Emotional Support Dog

Teach your dog basic commands and implement DPT to provide comfort and support. Learn more about training your emotional support dog on our blog!

Teaching basic commands

Teaching your dog basic commands is crucial for them to become a reliable emotional support animal. These commands lay the foundation for further esa training for dogs, fostering obedience and trust between you and your pet.

  1. Start with ‘Sit’. This command helps your dog learn how to follow instructions. Hold a treat above their nose, move your hand up, allowing their head to follow the treat, causing their bottom to lower. Once they’re sitting, say “Sit”, give them the treat, and share affection.
  2. Move on to ‘Stay’. Ask your dog to sit, then open the palm of your hand in front of you, and say “Stay”. Take a few steps back. Reward them with a treat if they stay.
  3. Teach ‘Come’. This command can bring them back if they wander off. Put a leash on your dog. Gently pull on it while saying “Come”. Give them a treat when they come to you.
  4. Practice ‘Down’. This is one of the harder commands. Find a good-smelling treat and hold it in your closed fist near their snout. When they sniff it, move your hand to the floor so they follow. Slide your hand along the ground in front of them to encourage their body to follow their head down into the laying position.
  5. Introduce ‘Leave it’. This teaches restraint and can be very useful in many situations. Place a treat in both hands. Show them one enclosed fist with the treat inside, and say “Leave it.” Ignore all behaviours until they stop trying to get it and then give them the treat from the other hand.
  6. Work on ‘Heel’. Perfect for keeping walks pleasant for both of you without pulling on the leash rudelyly . Have treats ready in your pocket while walking with them leashedlyly . Begin by saying “Heel” when they start pulling ahead or lagging behind; reward promptly once they return beside you calmly.
  7. End with ‘Quiet’. Useful if your dog barks excessively or at inappropriate times.rs times . Say “Quiet” in a calm, firm voice when they begin barking; give praises or treats once obeying.

Each step requires patience and consistency from both trainer (you) and trainee (your dog). Reinforce these commands positively with treats, love, and patience ensuring that each session ends successfully so that over time these basics become second nature to both of you making every day more enjoyable together as companions but also as an emotional support team ready faces whatever challenges life throws at you together as one team ready faces whatever challenges life throws at you together as one unit ready faces whatever comes next with confidence knowing each other has got one another’s backs no matter what comes next bring strength from within each other growing stronger together every dayning strength from within each other growing stronger every dayning resilience every step taken forward together side side by sideeday

Implementing DPT

Implementing Deep Pressure Therapy (DPT) helps regulate emotions and calm anxiety in emotional support dogs. DPT involves applying gentle pressure to the dog’s body using tools like wraps or vests, promoting relaxation.

This technique aids individuals with mental health challenges by providing comfort and stability through tactile stimulation, reducing stress and anxiety levels in both the dog and its owner.

Implementing DPT forms a crucial element of training for emotional support animals, contributing to their role in offering companionship and comfort to those in need.

Implementing DPT is an essential part of training emotional support dogs as it directly affects their ability to provide comfort and stability for individuals with mental health challenges.

Comfort and socialisation

Socialisation of emotional support dogs is crucial for their role. They need exposure to various environments, people, and other animals from an early age. This helps them develop a calm and confident demeanor, making them better companions for individuals who struggle with mental health challenges.

Additionally, comforting these individuals in times of distress becomes more effective when emotional support dogs are well-socialised.

In conclusion, the importance of comfort and socialisation in training emotional support dogs cannot be overstated. These elements lay the foundation for their role as reliable companions for those with mental health challenges.

Importance of ESAs

Emotional support animals (ESAs) play a crucial role in providing structure and support for individuals with mental health challenges. These animals offer comfort and companionship to those in need, helping them manage anxiety and recover from emotional overload.

Moreover, ESAs have been found to lower blood pressure and heart rate, reduce patient anxiety, and increase levels of endorphins and oxytocin. Family members who are autistic or facing mental health issues can greatly benefit from the companionship provided by emotional support animals.

The presence of an ESA can contribute positively towards the well-being of these individuals.

Moving forward to “Next Steps: Making Your Dog an Official Emotional Support Dog”…

Next Steps: Making Your Dog an Official Emotional Support Dog

To make your dog an official emotional support dog, you need to obtain an ESA letter. This is a crucial step in legitimising your furry companion’s role as your emotional support animal.

Obtaining an ESA Letter

To obtain an ESA letter, consult a licensed mental health professional. They will assess your need for an emotional support animal and issue the letter if appropriate. The ESA letter is obtained through legitimate channels to ensure its validity.

It’s essential to work with reputable professionals and avoid online scams when seeking an ESA letter.

The legitimacy of the ESA letter underlines its significance in supporting individuals’ mental health needs. The process involves evaluation by qualified experts, reinforcing the importance of obtaining the letter through proper channels.

This ensures that individuals genuinely benefit from the support of their emotional support animals while also upholding standards for responsible ownership.


Training your dog for an emotional support role starts with toilet training and basic obedience commands. Implementing deep pressure therapy (DPT) and socialisation are crucial too.

Remember to obtain an ESA letter to make your furry friend official. Overall, emotional support dogs provide comfort and companionship that can greatly benefit individuals dealing with mental health challenges.


1. What do I need to train my dog to be an emotional support animal?

You need perseverance, a skilled dog trainer, and knowledge about ESA letters. Training focuses on socialisation and friendliness.

2. Can any dog become an emotional support animal?

Yes, many breeds like spoodles, lap dogs such as pugs, beagles, border collies, German shepherds, Welsh corgis, collies, and Yorkshire terriers can be trained for this role.

3. Do emotional support animals require special training?

They don’t need the same training as guide dogs but must learn good manners and how to behave in public places to help with mental disabilities or trauma.

4. How important is socialisation in training my dog for an emotional support role?

Very important! Socialisation helps your dog stay calm around other people and animals which is crucial for their role in supporting mental health.

5. Where can I get help training my dog to be an emotional support animal?

Look for professional behaviourists or trainers who understand the needs of companion animals meant for helping with mental disorders.

6. Will having an emotional support dog affect where I can live?

Landlords must accommodate tenants with ESA letters under certain conditions but check local laws as they can vary.