Companion Animal 101: ESA’s the Name, Companionship’s the Game!

By: Kathryn Anderson Updated: December 21, 2023

A companion animal can really change the life of its owner in such a positive way. If you feel as though you could do with some help getting through those difficult days, a companion animal may be just what you need.

What is a Companion Animal?

To put it simply, a companion animal is basically a pet.

However, this doesn’t mean that they aren’t special…

A companion animal is able to help with both mental and physical health issues in a number of ways, while also providing enough unconditional love to make every day seem a little better.

Sometimes We Use the Term “Companion Animal” When We Mean ESAs! How the Company of an Animal Can Improve Lives!

It is easy to make the mistake of calling a companion animal an emotional support animal because they also provide so much emotional support.

Whether an ESA or a companion animal, having an animal in your life will bring you the following benefits and more:

  • Improves self-esteem – research shows that those who have a pet have a stronger sense of self-esteem than those who do not. They also tend to be more outgoing and less fearful than non-pet owners
  • Reduces loneliness – a pet is able to significantly reduce feelings of loneliness and isolation
  • Improves physical health – having a pet encourages you to exercise. Whether this may be taking your dog for a walk or playing with your cat” href=”” data-wpil-keyword-link=”linked”>cat in the garden, an animal encourages you to spend more time outdoors
  • Reduces stress – there is plenty of research out there pointing to how animals can significantly lower stress and anxiety levels, while offering plenty of comfort
  • Increases socializing – owning a pet makes it easier to meet new, like-minded people
  • Reduces blood pressure – owning a pet helps keep blood pressure stable, enabling you to avoid any dangerous spikes

The Difference Between a Companion Animals and ESAs? The ESA Letter!

As mentioned earlier, many people use the term ESA and companion animal interchangeably. While there may be big similarities between the two, there is one main difference that sets an ESA apart…

Although an ESA provides pretty much the same benefits as a companion animal, you need an ESA letter from a licensed medical health professional (LMHP) in order for your pet to be recognized as an emotional support animal.

If you need the extra benefits that come from having a pet recognized as an ESA, then applying for this letter would definitely be worth doing.

How Do You Know You Need an ESA?

Of course, not everyone needs an ESA. Sometimes a companion animal is more than enough.

So, how do you know if you need an ESA instead of a companion animal?

ESA status can be granted to animals whose owners suffer from a mental disability, such as:

  • Depression
  • Anxiety
  • PTSD
  • ADD or ADHD
  • Learning disabilities
  • Other psychological disorders

What do you need to do to have your pet recognized as an ESA?

It’s simple – as mentioned above, all you need is an ESA letter.

When it comes to acquiring one, you have two main options…

The first is to speak to an LMHP face-to-face, which can be quite a time-consuming process. Alternatively, you can complete CertaPet’s pre-screening. Takes five minutes, and you could get connected to an LMHP right then.

Emotional Support Animals Come from Companion Animals

All emotional support animals begin as companion animals.

This means that any companion animal out there also has the potential to be an emotional support animal.

Both of these categories of animals share extremely similar qualities, all of which will help to make your life so much better…

5 Qualities That the Best Companion Animals Share

While every companion animal will have benefits to offer their owner, there are a few qualities in particular that the best companion animals share.

These include:

  1. Intelligence – an intelligent dog will be easier to train, and will also be able to pick up on your cues as to when you need emotional support
  2. Playfulness – being able to interact with your companion animal through play will not only improve your physical and mental health, but will also strengthen the bond between the two of you
  3. Loyalty and love – knowing that your pet loves you unconditionally and will always stay loyal to you will give you a huge mental boost
  4. Sociable – having a sociable animal makes it easy to meet new people and make new friends, both for you as well as your pet
  5. Calmness – being able to calmly spend time with your pet, rather than having to constantly deal with hyperactive behavior, is a huge bonus

Companion Animals are Basically ESAs – Just Without the Rights!

All of the qualities mentioned above that make a good companion animal are also shared by emotional support animals.

So, what’s the difference between the two? How do you benefit by applying for an ESA letter to grant your pet ESA status?

Fair Housing Act: Living with your ESA

There are two important laws that ESAs benefit from.

The Fair Housing Amendments Act, which is also known as FHA. This means that any accommodation that would normally not allow pets needs to provide an exception for an ESA. Again, you will need to have your ESA letter along with any other necessary documentation for this to hold true.

Top 5 Companion Dog Breeds That Make Wonderful Emotional Support Dogs!

While every companion dog has the potential to be an ESA, there are certain breeds that tend to excel when it comes to the support needed from an ESA.

If you are looking for a companion dog that could possibly also become an ESA, here are the top X breeds to consider:

  1. Golden Retriever – these dogs love the outdoors, and have a history of being known for their loyalty and devotion
  2. Poodle – an intelligent dog that loves to socialize, poodles come in so many different sizes and colors, giving you plenty of choices
  3. West Highland Terrier – if you are looking for a small dog, a Westie could be perfect. Although they still need plenty of exercise, they are extremely faithful and also make good guard dogs
  4. Collie – highly intelligent but also patient and loving, collies provide excellent companionship as well as emotional support
  5. Labrador Retriever – generally quite calm and obedient, Labradors thrive when they receive plenty of interaction with humans

Rescue Dogs Have as Much to Offer as Any Other Dogs! If Not More!

While you may think that you need to buy a purebred puppy in order to have a good companion or emotional support animal, rescue dogs have just as much, if not more, to offer.


Well, to begin with, rescue dogs tend to be slightly older and more mature. This means that you don’t have to deal with the same level of training and stress that often comes with owning a puppy. Rescue dogs usually also have a certain level of training to begin with, which will make your life so much easier.

Not only that, but the sense of appreciation that a rescue dog will have at being given a new chance at life is really so rewarding.

Adopt! Don’t Shop! Shelters are Overflowing with Companion Dogs Waiting for New Homes!

Even if you have a particular breed or qualities in mind, you will likely be able to find a rescue dog that matches these.

Shelters are literally overflowing with dogs looking for a new home, meaning that there is so much variety when it comes to picking a pooch.

Convinced you want a puppy?

There are plenty of pups in shelters too, and each one could potentially be the perfect companion dog for you.

Get Your ESA Letter and Have the Constant Companionship of Your Canine Friend

In order to really enjoy constant companionship from your dog, an ESA letter is what you need.

This will make it easier to find accommodation for the both of you.

While a companion animal offers so many benefits to a person’s physical and mental health, acquiring ESA status for your pet makes this official.

However, even if you decide that you don’t need an ESA, a companion animal is still well worth considering if you don’t already have a pet, and it won’t be long before you begin to see all of the positive changes that a companion animal brings to your life.

Take the pre-screening and get connected to an LMHP today!

Common Questions about Companion Animals

How is a companion animal different from an ESA?

Which dog breeds are best for providing companionship as well as emotional support?

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