3 MIN READ | Psychotherapy

Dennis Relojo-Howell

How to Train Your Emotional Support Dog

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Dennis Relojo-Howell, (2022, September 7). How to Train Your Emotional Support Dog. Psychreg on Psychotherapy. https://www.psychreg.org/how-train-your-emotional-support-dog/
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A quarter of Americans have an emotional disorder or mental illness. An emotional support animal is an animal that helps you deal with emotional issues or mental illnesses. A dog is man’s best friend and the most prevalent emotional support animal.

An emotional support dog should at least be socially adapted and understand basic commands, which can only result from training. You should conduct step-by-step obedience training to ensure your emotional support dog is in the best position to help you. The following is how to train your emotional support dog: 

Potty training

The first and foremost step in training your dog should be potty training. Potty training affects you, the dog, and others which is why it is so important. Dogs are creatures of habit, so you should establish a feeding and bathroom routine.

It would be best if you regularly spaced your dog’s walks after bouts of feeding to condition your dog to go to relieve themselves at the same time and place. To potty train your dog, you should have treats to reward good behaviour.

Praise and a belly rub are also effective positive reinforcement tools. You must be patient and consistent before your emotional support dog is entirely potty trained. Taking away their water a few hours before bedtime will also help. 

Sit and stay training

The following command you should train your emotional support animal to follow is to sit. It is also relatively easy as sitting is very natural for dogs. You should hold a treat for your dog at nose level and move the treat backward without giving it to them while telling them to sit.

Use positive reinforcement when they sit, including compliments and a treat. If they don’t follow, repeat the process until they sit.

Staying is another vital skill for an emotional support dog. While your dog sits, you should gradually step back while presenting them with an open palm. Keep saying ‘stay’ until the dog learns what you mean, and reward them with a treat. 

Walking with you

You will often see people walking with their pets. Even with leashes, the dog runs circles around them and can even trip them, which will not work with an emotional support dog. Since you travel to most places with your emotional support dog, they must learn to walk alongside you.

You want them to be in sync with you, so it would be best to get a hands free leash. You can use the leash even when running and exercising with your dog. Teaching the dog to walk correctly will take time and patience to be consistent. 

Socialising training

You will spend a lot of time with your emotional support dog; if you spend time with others, your pet will also be there. Both socializing and having an ESA can help your mental health. Therefore, you should train your emotional support dog to be sociable, which is not always easy. 

You should start by taking the dog to the park so it can interact with others, albeit at a safe distance. As the dog gets more comfortable with other dogs and people, you can introduce them to others in more intimate spaces. 

Travel training

One of the most complex parts of training an emotional support dog concerns travelling. Travelling to foreign places in foreign vehicles can make dogs anxious. Pets help improve our mental health and well-being, especially in stressful situations like travelling, but it goes both ways.

It would be best if you travelled with your emotional support dog as often as possible, starting with short distances like driving to the grocery store. Add more distance until both of you are comfortable travelling together.

There are many ways you need to train your emotional support dog. Potty, walking, travel, socializing, sitting, and staying are the primary forms of training. It helps to hire a trainer or attend classes to train your pet better. Your life will be fantastic if you have a well-trained emotional support animal.


Dennis Relojo-Howell is the managing director of Psychreg.

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