Fifty million Americans are facing mental disorders, with a significant number in Texas, according to report published at Forbes. Addressing this issue is crucial, and while medications and therapies are effective, animal support is gaining popularity as a trusted and side-effect-free solution.
Emotional Support Dogs (ESAs) play a key role in mental well-being. Unlike regular dogs, ESAs are chosen for the specific purpose of providing emotional support. In this blog, we will explore what emotional support dogs are, reasons to consider having one, the best breeds to choose from, and how to acquire one.
In This Blog
- What are emotional support dogs?
- Difference between service dogs and emotional support dogs
- Are dogs good emotional support?
- The best breeds to adopt as your emotional support dog
- Breeds you should avoid
- How can I complete the online assessment for an emotional support animal letter?
- How can I consult with a therapist to evaluate my mental health symptoms?
- Frequently asked questions about emotional support animals
What Are Emotional Support Dogs?
Emotional support dogs are companion animals which provide comfort, support, and therapeutic benefits to those experiencing mental or emotional disorders. These dogs do not require specific training to assist disabled people because they offer companionship and emotional assistance through their presence, affection, and calming influence.
An ESA Dog can assist with medical conditions like anxiety, depression, PTSD, and more. Dogs, in particular, stand out as superior emotional support animals because of their unique ability to provide support and comfort.
To get an Emotional Support Dog, a prescription from an LMHP is must. While emotional support dogs are not privileged like Service dogs, they often accompany their owners in various settings, providing vital support and comfort whenever needed.
Difference Between Service Dogs and Emotional Support Dogs
Service dogs and emotional support dogs are the categories of assistance animals with notable differences based on their roles and training. Service dogs undergo intensive training to assist physically and emotionally challenged individuals. This training enables them to accomplish tasks that their handlers may not be able to do independently. In short, the service animals are trained to achieve the daily goals of their owners. Service animals have multiple categories. It includes mobility dogs, hearing dogs, psychiatric service dogs, and more. Psychiatric service dogs include dogs specifically trained to assist with a mental health condition. PSDs have the same rights as service dogs.
In Comparison, emotional support dogs do not require training as their primary responsibility is to take good care of their handler by providing comfort and emotional support. You should also know that not just dogs but almost any animal can serve as an emotional support animal as long as it can offer comfort and emotional assistance.
Service animals, including PSDs, are acknowledged by the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA). It protects their rights and permits them to accompany their owners in public spaces. However, despite being a category of assistance animals, emotional support dogs do not have similar protection due to the lack of training. Their access to public places is limited because of the lack of acknowledgment by the ADA. However, the Federal Fair Housing Act (FHA) shields emotional support dogs from housing discrimination. This rule considers emotional support dogs more than mere pets and provides them the right to request reasonable accommodations from their housing providers. It also prevents landlords from charging any fee or deposits for the same.
Are Dogs Good for Emotional Support?
Laws created to support ESAs recognize every pet as an emotional support animal if they can provide mental and emotional support to their owner. However, dogs are the preferred choice of many because of their ability to offer companionship and unconditional love. Moreover, their mere presence can help with medical problems like stress, anxiety, depression, PTSD, and more. Not just the list of dogs mentioned in this blog, but taking care of all kinds of dogs is a task of routine and discipline. It requires the handler to be more responsible than ever towards their needs.
Apart from that, dogs are socially recognized animals. They can facilitate those having problems like social anxiety. In fact, a dog can become a way to communicate with other people. Whether you and your dog meet people in a park or pet therapy, your dog can become a topic of discussion and an excellent way to come out of isolation. Many dog owners attest that their emotional support dogs promote a sense of comfort and relaxation even in stress-induced areas. Studies also claim that petting dogs can release feel-good hormones(oxytocin and serotonin) inside the human body. People believe that dogs are one of god's greatest gifts to humans, and dogs tend to prove it in every area by becoming an unconditional friend.
The Best Breeds to Adopt as Your Emotional Support Dog
1. Collie - Best Emotional Support Dog for Family
In 1943, an American film named 'Lassie Come Home' featured a rough collie breed dog, Lassie. This movie brought collies into the limelight, and their beautiful coats and charming personalities gained appreciation among the American people. Collies, being herding dogs, ensure the safety and happiness of their family. Due to their devoted nature, collies make great emotional support dogs, especially in a family environment.
Intelligent, Loyal, Gentle, Sensitive, Alert, Responsive, Eager to please, Playful, Protective, Devoted, Easy to train, Good with children, Good with other pets, Energetic, Reserved with strangers, Curious, Hardworking, Obedient
2. Poodle - Best Emotional Support Dog Breed for Allergies
Poodles are known for their style and allegiance. They are born with a touch of class and exhibit innate smartness. Intelligent, highly obedient, and easy to train, poodles thrive in challenging environments and enjoy competition. Also, Poodles have a single coat of curly hair which helps them retain the fur they shed. Their owners often showcase these pets in dog shows, where the perfect blend of style and smartness shines. Their obedient and loyal nature makes poodles highly chosen as emotional support animals.
Intelligent, alert, active, eager to please, trainable, social, playful, affectionate, sensitive, and curious.
Affectionate, playful, loyal, sociable, stubborn, curious, eager to please, relaxed, mischievous, charming.
4. Labrador Retriever - Best Emotional Support Dog Breed for Anxiety
“Retriever,” as the word suggests, Labrador Retrievers like to find, retrieve things, and finally give them to their most loved human. They are considered the most loyal dog breeds, obsessed with their owners and obedient at all costs. Labrador Retrievers are highly active, bright in sensing human emotions, making them the best choice as emotional support dogs for anxiety.
Friendly, Outgoing, Eager to please, Gentle, Intelligent, Loyal, Playful, Affectionate, Sociable, Energetic, Good-natured, Patient, Easygoing, Adaptable, Trustworthy.
5. Yorkshire Terrier - Best Emotional Support Dog Breed for Social Anxiety
Being petite enough to hold in arms and put on a lap, Yorkshire Terriers are deemed to be the most adorable lapdogs. They are pretty portable, making them a great fit for those who want to carry them in socially awkward situations. Many adopt them as their ESAs to calm anxiety and depression. While not viewed as guard dogs, Yorkshire terriers can warn by barking during dangerous situations.
Affectionate, confident, energetic, curious, brave, alert, independent, stubborn, vocal, loyal.
Friendly, curious, playful, affectionate, energetic, sociable, intelligent, stubborn, loyal, vocal, mischievous, active, adventurous, loving, independent.
Intelligent, Energetic, Affectionate, Loyal, Playful, Bold, Alert, Friendly, Outgoing, Stubborn.
8. Cavalier King Charles Spaniel
Affectionate, Gentle, Sociable, Playful, Loyal, Easygoing, Adaptable, Intelligent, Eager to please, Calm, Loving, Good with children, Good with other pets, Alert, Curious, Sensitive, Trusting, Devoted, Cheerful.
Pomeranians are known for their cuddliness, enjoying close moments with their owners and random belly rubs. Their affectionate nature and love for attention make them delightful companions that want to be around their owners all the time. Their small size, particularly in puppyhood, makes them easily portable. These qualities position Pomeranians as an ideal ESA dog breed, especially for individuals seeking constant companionship to alleviate loneliness.
Energetic, Playful, Intelligent, Alert, Curious, Confident, Affectionate.
10. Golden Retriever - Best Emotional Support Dog Breed for a Family
Golden Retrievers stand out as the top and most popular dog breed in the United States. Their shining golden and incredibly soft coats make them excellent snuggling buddies. Beyond being considered the best emotional support dogs, they are the prime choice for family pets. Retrievers' friendly, well-mannered, and calm temperament makes them well-suited for households with growing kids, who tend to adore them. Retrievers are also beneficial for individuals, whether kids or adults, who find it challenging to socialize, as their presence can enhance social skills
Friendly, Gentle, Intelligent, Loyal, Playful, Sociable, Affectionate, Calm, Trusting, Reliable, Patient, Good-natured, Easily trainable, Loving.
In addition to their loyalty, Vizslas boast great stamina and high energy levels. Managing this energy requires regular physical activity and training. Engaging in dog sports proves to be a healthy outlet for Vizslas, ensuring both their physical and mental well-being.
Affectionate, Energetic, Intelligent, Loyal, Playful, Sensitive, Social, Alert, Independent, Active.
12. Irish Wolfhound
If you're in search of a human-sized cuddle buddy, consider the Irish Wolfhound as the perfect match. With their gigantic size and soft coat, they excel at providing great cuddles. Despite their massive and hairy physique, Irish Wolfhounds belong to the most sensitive breeds, effortlessly tuning into human emotions. This sensitivity makes them a popular choice as emotional support dogs. However, before choosing one as a companion, ensure that you have ample space in your home to accommodate them comfortably, given their enormous size.
Gentle, loyal, courageous, calm, independent, dignified, affectionate, good-natured, reserved with strangers, sensitive.
13. Bichon Frise
Affectionate, Playful, Sociable, Gentle, Intelligent, Lively, Devoted, Curious, Alert.
Havanese are akin to small energy packets that crave love and adoration, making them notable attention seekers. This breed falls into the category of 'Velcro dogs,' as they love to follow and stay close to their owners due to their affectionate nature. The inherent stickiness of Havanese makes them an ideal choice for individuals dealing with anxiety and depression. Their comforting presence and loyal companionship make them a popular selection as emotional support dogs, particularly for those facing anxiety issues.
Affectionate, Playful, Gentle, Intelligent, Sociable, Energetic, Alert, Loyal, Responsive, Agile, Cheerful, Adaptable
Affenpinscher is derived from two words. In German, 'Affen' means 'ape/monkey,' and 'Pinscher' means 'terrier.' Consequently, these breed dogs are also known as 'monkey dogs.' This moniker originated from their historical role as hunters of small animals. While they were once working dogs, today they are considered toy dogs, appreciated for their clownish and entertaining demeanor. Nevertheless, their spunky and energetic traits should not be overlooked. Affenpinschers make for great home dogs, thanks to their alertness and protective nature.
Playful, Curious, Alert, Confident, Stubborn, Lively, Affectionate, Independent, Bold, Clever
16. Chihuahua - Best Small Dogs for Emotional Support
Bold, Alert, Curious, Loyal, Energetic, Protective, Affectionate, Intelligent, Sassy
17. Great Danes
Gentle, Friendly, Devoted, Protective, Courageous, Affectionate, Playful, Calm, Dependable, Independent
18. German Shepherd - best emotional support dog for child
Intelligent, Loyal, Protective, Obedient, Confident, Alert, Energetic, Curious, Trainable
19. French Bulldog
Affectionate, Playful, Loyal, Sociable, Stubborn, Clever, Alert, Easygoing, Comical, Protective
20. American Pit Bull Terrier
Affectionate, Loyal, Energetic, Intelligent, Courageous, Playful, Friendly, Confident, Protective, Strong-willed
Breeds You Should Avoid
When looking for an emotional support animal, you should not ignore several considerations that an ESA must cater to. There is a long list of dog breeds eligible for emotional support. However, a few may not be suitable for this role. So, let's look into some dog breeds that are generally not recommended as emotional support animals:
1. Chow Chow
Many owners have attested to their ability to provide emotional support. However, Chow Chow possesses an independent personality. It may not align with the need for providing consistent emotional support. Known for their aloof nature, these canine partners may not enjoy cuddling or spending time with their handlers. Adding to that, Chow Chows are hard to train.
2. Airedale Terrier
These medium-large terriers are loved by the owners, but one struggling with a mental health disorder may find it hard to align with this breed as Airedale Terriers are stubborn and need an extra level of attention and exercise when compared with other ESA breeds. Airedales Terriers demand mental and physical stimulation and can become vocal if you fail to meet their needs. So, unless you are willing to commit to the high energy requirements of Airedale, having them as a pet can be an added stress, and it is not something that can qualify to provide emotional support.
3. Australian Cattle Dog
Known for their exceptional work ethic, Australian Cattle Dogs are better suited for roles such as watchdogs or herding dogs rather than emotional support animals, which excel in giving comfort and affection to their handlers. Australian Cattle require substantial exercise and ample space to run freely. Due to their alert and active nature, it is difficult for them to sit quietly or engage in leisurely walks at a calm pace.
Therefore, it is essential to note that a dog's suitability as an emotional support animal can vary according to individual needs. It is not that these breeds cannot qualify to provide emotional support at all. Only their characteristics and tendencies make them less likely candidates for meeting the specific emotional support needs of individuals struggling with mental health disorders. Ultimately, a deep consideration of your own preferences, living arrangements, emotional requirements, and work schedule is essential before choosing a companion.
How can I complete the online assessment for an emotional support animal letter?
Completing an online assessment is the first step of the process of getting an ESA letter. To start the process, you have to visit the online appointment form. It collects information about your mental health and emotional support needs. By carefully and honestly answering the questions in the online assessment, you will provide valuable information to the assessors. This data helps them understand your situation and the symptoms that you may be experiencing. A detailed explanation will also help the provider to determine your ESA eligibility.
The questionnaire also includes questions that help the accessors identify the purpose of the ESA Letter application, for example, accessing a reasonable accommodation with an emotional support animal or traveling.
Please note that it is essential for you to complete the assessment if you are seeking an ESA Letter. Providing accurate and detailed explanations to every question will increase the chances of approval.
How can I consult with a therapist to evaluate my mental health symptoms?
For getting an ESA Letter, the determination of eligibility is essential. For this, you can consult with a therapist and have your mental health symptoms evaluated. To get a diagnosis, you can follow the steps mentioned below:
Step-1: Schedule your online visit with the provider
The first and foremost step is scheduling a visit with a professional. You can do that by visiting our online assessment form and completing the questionnaire. As mentioned above, this form includes questions about your current medical condition and uncovers the purpose of getting the letter. After the submission, we will pair and set up a live consultation with an expert who can understand your unique situation and medical symptoms.
Step-2: Consult with the provider
After the confirmation of the visit, the portal will generate a unique link that you will use to connect with the provider. They will conduct a thorough evaluation of your mental health and emotional well-being. During this consultation, you will have the opportunity to discuss your mental health symptoms in depth, providing the therapist with important information. In this step, they will determine your eligibility for an emotional support animal letter. If your symptoms match with any of the medical conditions mentioned in DSM-V, your approval is guaranteed.
Step-3: Receive your ESA Letter
The final step of online assessment is receiving the ESA Letter. The provider will upload your signed ESA Letter to your patient portal in this step. We will also send a copy to your email address for easy access.
Frequently Asked Questions About Emotional Support Dogs
Are emotional support dogs easy to train?
Training an Emotional Support Dog depends upon the dog's ability to learn and respond. If you adopt an intelligent dog, it will be comparatively easy for you to train them. However, it is noteworthy that specific training is not mandatory for these dogs as their primary role is to provide comfort and emotional support to their owners. Breeds like Golden Retrievers and Standard Poodles are among the most preferred emotional support dogs because of their intelligence and eagerness to learn new things. You can also determine the training difficulty by looking at a dog's temperament, personality, and previous training experiences.
What rights do emotional support dogs have?
Fair Housing Amendments Act (FHAA) has granted several rights to Emotional support dogs. It ensures that they can assist their handler with emotional or psychological disabilities. It is important to note that ESA Dogs are not as privileged as service dogs. If you want to adopt a pet, you must recognize and respect these privileges. The FHA protects the rights of you and your emotional support dogs while living in a rental place (No-Pet Housing Included). It also ensures that a landlord does not discriminate against you just because of your ESA dog and disability. FHA requires a landlord to make a reasonable accommodation to enable their presence in rented properties. However, unlike service animals, you will need permission to enter establishments like restaurants or shops with an emotional support dog. Though ESAs do not have similar rights like service animals because of their lack of training, the provisions acknowledge and safeguard their crucial role of contributing to their owners' emotional well-being.
How long does it take to receive the emotional support animal letter?
With the online process of Fast ESA Letter, you can receive your ESA Letter within 24 hours of your consultation. We ensure a faster turnaround and streamlined process. However, Californian residents may experience service delays because of AB-468. It requires a patient-provider relationship with the doctor for at least 30 days.
Can emotional support dogs reduce anxiety?
Emotional support dogs are the first choice of people when it comes to dealing with anxiety. They tend to provide support and comfort in stress-induced situations, resulting in controlled anxiety levels. Dog breeds like Labrador Retriever, Golden Retriever, and Cavalier King Charles Spaniel are the most recommended emotional support dogs for anxiety.
Can I bring my emotional support dog to school?
Emotional support animals enjoy the rights offered by the Fair Housing Act (FHA), which helps them get rent-free accommodation even in pet-restricted buildings. However, no regulation permits the handler to bring their emotional support dog to school or work. The reason is the lack of training. Under the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), individuals suffering from mental and other disabilities can bring their service animals to most public places, including schools. But, it is essential to note that emotional support animals are not service animals. They are just for companionship and the emotional support of the individual.
Therefore, bringing an emotional support animal to the school may comply solely with their policies. Moreover, they can ask for the document for allowance (an ESA letter by a licensed medical health professional) that can help the place recognize the need for the student to have the companionship of an ESA for their mental well-being.
However, schools may impose certain restrictions regarding the type of ESA they allow. While schools may allow dogs and cats as ESA, they may restrict other exotic or dangerous animals because of the safety of fellow students.
Moreover, they require you to ensure the handling of your ESA. You should keep your ESA on a leash or in a carrier to ensure a safe environment for all other students and staff. Additionally, schools may ask for regular meetings and check-ins with their parents to learn about the behavior of ESA.
Is there an age requirement for having an emotional support dog?
For having an emotional support dog, there is no specific age requirement. Both children and adults may qualify for an ESA provided if the licensed medical health professional recommends the need to emotional support animals in the mental well-being of the individual.
Can I have more than one emotional support dog?
You can have more than one emotional support dog after getting a recommendation from a mental health professional. Most importantly, there should be an ESA letter for each ESA obtained from a licensed mental health professional. Moreover, the landlord cannot charge any extra rent or deposits in case of multiple ESA accommodation. However, the accommodation for multiple ESAs should be reasonable.
Under the federal laws of the US Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD), the Fair Housing Act (FHA) protects emotional support animals, including multiple ESAs. The law acknowledges that, an individual may need more than one assistance animal for their mental well-being, provided each animal should be equally essential.
For example, if one of your pets helps you with panic attacks and anxiety and another pet assists you to stay active, both emotional support animals are deemed necessary for your mental health.
There are many options to choose from as your ESA dog. You can pick any and stay with it on any rental property, school, or college dorm by certifying it as an emotional support animal with a legitimate ESA letter. So, pick a dog’s breed you like and certify as an emotional support dog with the Fast ESA Letter today
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