How to Train Your Dog to Be an Emotional Support Animal for Anxiety

How to Train Your Dog to Be an Emotional Support Animal for Anxiety

Anxiety disorder affects more than 40 million people in the United States annually, yet only 30 percent seek professional help. Doctors too often prescribe medications for relief from anxiety. We often look at our animals for solace during the rush of anxiety attacks. Use basic training techniques to form a lasting connection between you and your animal.

Why Dogs Are Good for Anxiety

Our youth has difficulty discussing emotional issues, so rather than seek help, they try to deal with it themselves. Unfortunately, many end up taking their own lives. According to Maryville University, “suicide is the third leading cause of death for Americans between the ages of 10 and 24, and every year 157,000 youth between those same ages undergo emergency treatment for self-inflicted injuries.” One alternative is an emotional support animal. Dogs exhibit the ability to sense when their owners are experiencing difficulty. A dog instinctively knows what actions to take at the first sign of an anxiety attack. It’s also easier to divulge your secrets to the nonjudgmental ear of your furry friend with no questions asked.

The Difference Between Emotional Support Animals and Service Dogs

People often confuse emotional support animals with therapy and service dogs. Service Dog Certification explains that there’s a distinct difference between them, but the similarity between all three is the joy they bring to those they encounter.

  • A service dog is a working dog explicitly used for assisting those who have a physical impairment. A guide dog is a service dog. There are no restrictions for service dogs. These dogs can enter, board, and accompany their owners on an airplane with no advance notice or additional charge. An ESA enjoys the same advantage.
  • A service dog has a strict training program that starts as a puppy. An emotional support dog doesn’t require any formal training.
  • Therapy dogs comfort those in retirement homes, nursing schools, hospice, and more. They don’t enjoy the perks of service and emotional support dogs.

Tips and Tricks for Training Your Dog to Be an ESA

Training your dog starts during puppyhood. Puppies are like children; they don’t know how to do anything until they’re taught. According to ESA Doctors, “most dogs possess the natural tendency to be devoted to their pet parent, after all, that’s what makes them man’s and woman’s best friend. However, there are some dogs that may be too rambunctious, overly-excitable or just too timid to help people in their darkest moments. That isn’t to say that these pup-personality-types can’t or will never be able to be an emotional support animal, it just means they may take more training to do so.” Find what motivates your dog, such as food or a toy, and use that as motivation or a reward.

  • Housebreaking: With consistency and patience, your dog will understand it’s not OK to pee on the carpet. By adhering to a schedule for taking Fido out for potty breaks, he’ll catch on quickly. When he does his business, take him back inside immediately, reinforcing his understanding.
  • Socializing: Taking your puppy out in public, letting strangers interact with him, and encouraging him to enjoy and have fun during his outing will make him a well-rounded and happy dog. Part of the socializing process involves teaching the puppy not to bite. Dogs can cause injuries to a person by biting. Breaking the habit early will teach your pup that biting isn’t acceptable.
  • Basic commands: Sit, stay, down, no, come, and wait will deepen the bond between your four-legged friend and you.
  • Deep Pressure Therapy (DPT) techniques: The principle behind DPT is to have the dog apply gentle pressure to your body, chest or body part (as in self-harming) depending on the size of the canine. For smaller dogs, you can teach them to lie directly across your chest or along the front of your body, while those larger breeds can be taught to place their heads or feet across your lap or legs (whatever is most comfortable for you).

When all else fails, turn to your animals for comfort. They have only unconditional love for their owners. They may be animals, but they’re always our best friends forever!

For advanced dog training to help you and your dog let Fun Dog Training help out!