How to Train Your Dog to Be an ESA?

Pet Training


April 5, 2023

If you and your therapist have agreed that having an emotional support animal (ESA) would be beneficial to you, you should first know that these animals are more than just a pet that makes you feel better. To utilize an ESA and take them with you either to the mailbox or to your next vacation, the animal will have to be trained first to do this job.

If you decide to train the animal yourself, you’ve come to the right place. Learning how to train your dog to be an ESA isn’t difficult, but you still have to follow certain rules.

How to Train a Dog to Be an Emotional Support Animal?

You can indeed train a dog (or almost any other animal, for that matter) to be an emotional support animal if you know how. To do so, keep in mind the following rules:

  1. They Have to Be House-Trained

Puppy pad training, crate training, or other methods can be used to make sure your dog is house-trained. It really doesn’t matter what method you use to potty-train them; it just matters that they are indeed potty-trained because if they aren’t, they cannot be used as an ESA. It’s actually easier to potty-train a dog than you think, simply because there are so many ways to do so.

  1. They Should Come When You Call Them

Recall lessons can take time, but dogs should know how to come to you immediately after you call them. This is a must if you have an emotional support animal because you’ll be in public with the animal, and it needs to stay near you at all times. If you aren’t sure how to train your dog to do this, you can do some research online or ask your vet.

  1. They Should Be Able to Be Walked with a Leash

When you’re out with your ESA, they’ll likely have to be on a leash the entire time. If your dog is not used to being on a leash, they need to be taught how to do so. This means they need to be trained to be on a leash without pulling on it, fighting against it, stopping dead in their tracks, etc.

If you train them well enough at home, they’ll be used to the leash by the time you take them out.

  1. They Should Be Close to You Most of the Time

Your ESA should be used to being close by your side regardless of what you’re doing, as this will make it easier for them to feel comfortable right next to you if you take them out somewhere.

Your pet won’t do you much good if they don’t feel comfortable enough to be right next to you most or all of the time. Think of this part of the training as a good bonding experience for you and your dog.

  1. They Should Be Comfortable with Basic Outdoor Activities

A good ESA should be able to do certain things and feel comfortable doing them, including walking to the mailbox, being in an office, riding on public transportation, riding in your car, and of course, being around other people in public without it making them anxious or tense. The more you get outside and run errands with your ESA, the easier this will be for them.

  1. They Should Recognize When You Need Them

If you practice deep pressure therapy (DPT), it teaches the dog to recognize the signs when you need their emotional support. DPT is a therapy that allows your dog to help you relax and ease your stress when you’re in a tension-filled situation and you need them. If you get the dog to come to you when they recognize that you’re stressed, they can actually apply DPT and help you.

  1. They Should Know Basic Obedience and Training Commands

Your dog needs to be trained on the basic training and obedience commands, including but not limited to commands such as sit, stay, down, up, etc. If they don’t, they won’t do you much good in this area.

These are basic commands that most dogs find easy to learn, and remember to be patient, consistent, and use only positive reinforcement and never punishment as you’re training them.

What You Should Know about an ESA?

If you’re curious about what you need to do to officially utilize an ESA, the first thing to remember is that you do not have to officially register your dog anywhere, although you certainly can if you want to do so. In fact, some organizations recommend registration, but it is not legally a requirement. All you need is a note—AKA a “prescription”—from a licensed therapist in order to justify taking them along with you.

You should also know that an emotional support animal does not have to be a dog. Indeed, people with ESAs have used rabbits, ferrets, pigs, miniature horses, and snakes in that capacity. While dogs are most commonly used as an emotional support animal, they are certainly not the only accepted type by any means.

It is really up to you what animal you wish to use, but keep in mind that some of these animals may be prohibited in certain circumstances.

Finally, just know that ESAs are there to do many things, including help you reduce stress, provide a routine so you can handle things better, prevent you from being lonely, and even reduce or eliminate the odds that you will injure or harm yourself. As you can see, they serve many purposes, and if you want to train your own ESA, you can do so easily if you know what’s involved.


Emotional support animals (ESAs) are usually dogs, but they can be other animals as well. Training them is easy and involves the basics, such as basic commands, obedience commands, potty training, and getting them used to sticking by your side and following close by whenever you’re out in public. The more comfortable they are with certain tasks, the easier it will be to become the perfect ESA to meet your needs.