How To Train Your Dog To Be An Emotional Support Animal

esa dog certification

Remember Hachiko?

It’s the Akita dog that captured the hearts of many.

Dogs are totally loyal. They don’t hold anything against humans, even to those who have done nasty things to them. They will work hard to please their owners and will strive to have their acceptance.

And you know what else?

Dogs will never leave your side. Their level of companionship isn’t something you can find in other pets, making them one of the best emotional support animals.

Now, you’re probably wondering: How do you train your dog to be an ESA dog?

We’ll get to that later, but first…

What Is An ESA dog?

esa dog

Emotional support dogs are different from service dogs when it comes to purpose. Instead of assisting in physical activities, ESA dogs provide emotional support to their owners.

A dog doesn’t have to undergo any special training just to become an ESA dog. However, he needs to be well-behaved and respond well to his handler.

With this, it’s important to consider a dog’s traits to make sure that he can perform the job well. In general, you’ll need a dog with a laid-back and mellow nature.

Some of your best choices include:

  • Bullmastiff
  • Bulldog
  • Labrador Retriever
  • Poodle
  • Border Collie

Now, this doesn’t mean that you can’t get breeds that aren’t as subdued. In fact, you can get a high-spirited dog or one that’s full of energy if you want. There won’t be any problem with that as long as you’re willing to spend time and effort in training them to behave.

Speaking of training, here’s what you need to know.

See Also: 11 Best Dog Breeds For Nurses Who’ve Always Wanted Pet Dogs

How To Train An ESA Dog

If you have an existing dog that you want to train as an ESA dog, the first thing you have to do is assess its temperament. It must be social not just to other people but other dogs, too. If your dog barks excessively or lunges and jumps uncontrollably at other people, you may need to seek professional help to control his behaviors.

Now, if you’re just about to get a dog, keep in mind that it’s easier to do an ESA dog training during puppyhood. The earlier you start training a puppy, the easier it will be to instill long-term habits. Start with basic obedience commands.


Well, if a dog can’t sit on command, you’ll have a hard time making it respond properly to your emotional needs. It may even create more stress for you.

Ideally, you should begin training your dog with the four most basic commands: sit, stay, down and heel. Once he’s able to master those commands, you can begin training him for Deep Pressure Therapy.

DPT is one of the simplest ways to get relief from emotional or mental distress. It involves the application of gentle pressure to a particular area of your body, such as your chest.

If your dog is small, he can put his entire body on top of you. For a larger breed, you can teach him to put his head or one his paws on your chest or lap.

Training a dog for DPT can take a lot of time and patience. It’s not something that your dog can learn overnight or in just a week.

However, there are tips you can use to somehow shorten the process.

One of the best ways to start is to teach your dog that, in some cases, it’s perfectly fine to get up on the sofa. You can teach him to go on and off of your sofa on command. Once you are able to do that, you can begin teaching him how to put his body or a part of his body over yours.

In doing this, it’s important that your dog also learns how to relax once he’s resting his body against yours. This way, his weight can add to the soothing pressure you need to calm down.

Once your dog learns all these tricks, you need to simulate real-life scenarios to really instill DPT. Since you can experience mental and emotional distress anywhere, it’s important to make your dog as prepared as possible.

See Also: The Surprising Benefits of Pet Therapy in Nursing Homes

How To Get An ESA Dog Certification

emotional support dog identification

Is getting an ESA Dog Certification really that important?

Frankly, yes.

Being certified means being able to live with your dog even if you are living in a building or an apartment with a no-pet policy. You can even take your dog with you when you fly in an airplane, without any extra charge.


Even if you’re allowed to fly with your dog, you still have to let your airline know that you’ll be flying with an animal. Usually, you need to let them know 48 hours before your actual departure. This is to give them enough time to prepare the right accommodation for you.

To get an ESA Dog Certification, you need to secure a proper diagnosis from a licensed mental health professional. Once you’ve been properly evaluated, your therapist will make a recommendation for an animal support system.

You can actually find a lot of “registration sites” on the internet. However, before you sign up with any of them, remember that a proper diagnosis and letter from a mental health professional will get you a certification. There is no other way to get certified.

It can take around three to four working days before you get an identification card that you can take with you when you and your dog go out. For the actual registration, however, you only need to take a 5-minute questionnaire and you’ll get your letter in just 24 hours.

You can check HERE for more information on getting certified.


Having a dog around can help relieve your stress. However, if you are dealing with something much stronger than stress, an emotional support dog can greatly help you.

By training a dog to respond to your mental and emotional distress, you’ll be able to improve your mental health, recover faster and relieve loneliness. Getting an ESA Dog Certification, on the other hand, means being able to be with your dog all the time.