How to Train an Emotional Support Dog: 8 Things to Teach Your ESA!
Having an Emotional Support Animal (ESA) can be an excellent way to gain a therapeutic benefit, whether you suffer from anxiety, depression, panic attacks, or other conditions.
What Are Emotional Support Animals?
An Emotional Support Animal (ESA) is a pet that provides therapeutic and emotional benefits to people with a mental or emotional disability, such as depression or anxiety. Unlike a service animal, an ESA is not specifically trained to perform tasks for its owner. Instead, its presence brings comfort, which helps its owner cope with the symptoms of their disability.
What Does It Take to Train an ESA?
Training an ESA requires patience and consistency. You’ll need to start by teaching your ESA basic obedience commands like sit and stay, as well as any other commands you deem necessary. To train an ESA, here are 8 things to teach your ESA:
1. Basic Obedience Commands
The most important thing you can do is to start teaching your ESA basic obedience commands. Sit, stay, come, leave it, and down are all important commands to teach. Take the time to consistently practice commands with your ESA, and make sure to use positive reinforcement such as treats and praise when your ESA is obedient.
2. Leash Walking
Start teaching your ESA leash walking by having them follow you around the house when you’re wearing a leash, and then slowly transition them to trying it outside with you. Make sure to keep the leash loose as you walk, and give verbal cues/commands when necessary. Keep your walks to a minimum until your ESA is comfortable walking on leash.
3. Potty Training
Potty training is an important part of teaching your ESA how to behave and respond to your commands. Take them outside frequently and give them praise and treats when they eliminate in the designated area. Be sure to clean up after them and use positive reinforcement throughout the process.
It’s important to get your ESA comfortable with being groomed from a young age. Start by brushing them and then slowly introduce other grooming activities such as having their nails trimmed. Often times, you can find a groomer or vet that specializes in grooming ESAs.
Socializing your ESA is necessary for them to be able to cope in different situations. Start by introducing your ESA to people, animals, and different environments. Make sure to reward them when they remain calm in these situations. Have realistic expectations and be patient while they get more comfortable and learn how to behave.
Chewing is natural and expected behavior for many ESAs. It’s important to teach your ESA that only certain objects are chewable, like their toys. If your ESA is a puppy, they will more than likely chew things they shouldn’t. Be sure to set limits and appropriate boundaries, and then reward them when they obey.
7. Separation Anxiety
Separation anxiety is a common problem with ESAs. Start by introducing your ESA to being alone for short periods of time, and make sure to give them plenty of exercise and mental stimulation before. If their anxiety persists, be sure to consult a trainer or a qualified mental health care professional.
Traveling with an ESA can be challenging, depending on your destination. Start by teaching them to be comfortable in a crate, and then you can slowly introduce them to new environments. Once you’re confident in your ESA’s behavior, you can start to incorporate them into your travel plans.
Taking the time to properly train an ESA is a great way to gain therapeutic benefits, as well as ensure you’re a responsible pet owner. Be sure to use positive reinforcement and be patient when teaching your ESA. With enough training and practice, your ESA will be able to provide comfort and therapeutic benefits that will last a lifetime.