A Concise List of Emotional Support Dog Requirements

By: Kathryn Anderson Updated: April 21, 2023

adorable dog with the emotional support dog requirements

Do you have a superhero hound? You know the type… Always ready with a cuddle and a kiss when you need it. So excited to greet you at the door when you come home! That emphatic tail wag. That goofy smile. It warms your heart and makes you feel like a million bucks. Wish that you could give them some sort of superhero status that others would recognize? What about turning your pet pooch into an ESA? How does a dog become an emotional support dog? What are the emotional support dog requirements?

ESAs: Who They Are and What They Do

New to the world of ESAs? What even is an ESA? An emotional support animal (ESA) is a dog or cat (with an ESA letter) that acts as a comfort to its owner.

For people diagnosed with depression, anxiety, post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), and other mental or psychological illnesses, an ESA can make a wonderful contribution to improving their owner’s life. Through their companionship, comfort, and unconditional love, an ESA can help to ease one or more aspects of an individual’s disability.

Emotional Support Dog Requirements: Any Dog Can Be an ESA!

Yes! Any dog can be an emotional support animal. No mad skills required! There are no breed restrictions, no size restrictions, and no age restrictions. If you already have a loving and devoted pet, with a simple ESA letter, you can turn them into an ESA!

If you don’t already have a furbaby, you can still apply for an ESA letter. Once you have received it, you can pop on down to your local animal rescue shelter and find a furry friend to happify your life!

6 Traits of the Ideal Emotional Support Animal

As much as there are no legal requirements when it comes to ESAs, there are some personality traits that will make both of your lives easier going forward:

1. First, and foremost, your ESA provides you with companionship.

2. Does your ESA help you to function better or more easily in society? It is so much easier to talk to people when you have the buffer of your furry friend by your side!

3. Is your emotional support animal the reason you get out of bed in the mornings? ESAs can help by giving their owner’s a sense of purpose.

4. Affectionate animals are going to serve better as ESAs than those who aren’t.

5. It is preferable for your pet to have a relaxed and easy-going nature. To be able to assist you to relax in stressful situations – you will want to draw on your pet’s calmness.

6. One of the benefits of having an ESA is that they can travel with you and accompany you more places than a non-ESA pet. Life will be easier for both of you if your ESA is well socialized.

african american woman cuddling with emotional support animal

ESAs, Service Animals and Therapy Animals: They’re Not the Same!

So, what is the difference between service animals, therapy animals, and ESAs? Service animals are hard-core, trained animals. Their training is long and thorough. These awesome animals serve to assist Americans with disabilities such as blindness and deafness.

Service animals assist their owner’s with day-to-day tasks. For example, a guide dog will help their owner navigate safely around town while running errands. A dog trained to assist an individual with a hearing impairment can indicate to their owner when a doorbell chimes, or a phone rings.

Unlike ESAs and service animals, therapy animals do not serve their owner or handler. Rather, a therapy animal brings comfort to the ill, the elderly, or persons under duress.

The handler of a comfort dog will take them to a place like a hospice or a retirement home. Here the animal will spend time with various people, bringing them love and healing in the form of companionship and unconditional affection.

Let’s Look at the Service Animal and Therapy Animal Requirements

There are no strict requirements for emotional support cats and dogs. However, this is not the case for service dogs and therapy animals. Both service dogs and therapy dogs undergo rigorous training. For this to be successful, a dog must be trainable and have an eager-to-please personality.

The ideal candidate for a service dog or therapy dog is:

  • In good health.
  • More than 12 months old.
  • Easy to train.
  • House-trained.
  • Well-socialized.
  • Patient with people. Therapy dogs especially need to be tolerant of clumsy petting.
  • Not anxious or given to outbursts of barking in stressful situations.

Breeds that make for good service dogs: Golden retrievers, Labrador retrievers, German shepherds, Poodles, and Huskies.

The Bichon Frise, Beagles, French Bulldogs, Poodles, St Bernards, Cavalier King Charles Spaniel, Labrador Retrievers, and Golden Retrievers all make for good therapy dogs.

woman training her esa dog labrador

Emotional Support Dog Training Requirements

There are no legal requirements for the training of an emotional support dog. Yet, some airlines might request proof of basic obedience training or a letter confirming that your pet is well socialized.

Regardless, for your sake as well as that of your emotional support dog, it is best if your pooch has some basic obedience mastered. When out and about, you will want to trust that your doggo will listen to you and not come into harm or harm anyone around you.

To do a bit of training together will only strengthen your bond! It will also make you re-realize what a superstar your pooch is. There are some awesome positive reinforcement training methods out there. With a clicker and a dog whistle in-hand, you and your pooch can have a bundle of fun learning some basic obedience and a few fun tricks!

ESA Perks: They Have Legal Protection

This is what it all really comes down to. Getting an ESA letter to confirm the importance of your pet in your life brings with it two significant privileges.

The Fair Housing Act (FHA)

The first of these privileges is thanks to the Fair Housing Act. This Act states that a landlord or housing provider should make reasonable accommodations for an individual with a disability.

In other words, if you have an ESA letter stating that you need the companionship of your emotional support dog as an integral part of your treatment protocol, you must be allowed to stay in accommodations even despite there being a ‘no pets policy’ in place.

The Air Carrier Access Act

If you have anxiety or agoraphobia and want to travel, you might find the company of your ESA will make that journey a whole lot more tolerable. The Air Carrier Access Act (ACAA) prohibits discrimination against persons with disabilities. If you need your pet to help reduce symptoms of your mental disabilities, you should be able to travel with them. Additionally, you should be able to do so at no extra cost.

Please note that different airlines do have different ESA- and pet policies.

ESA Registration or Certification is a Scam, Not a Requirement!

Do not be taken in by sites that claim that they can register your pet as an ESA. Even less so, by those offering to certify your ESA. There is no such thing as ESA certification or ESA registration.

Requirements for Emotional Support Dogs: Your ESA Letter!

You are the recipient of your ESA letter. A licensed mental health professional (LMHP) will write your ESA letter, explaining that your emotional support dog or cat is an important part of your treatment protocol. Your ESA letter is a prescription for you!

hipster hugging his jack russell esa animal

How CertaPet Helps People Get Their Legitimate ESA Letter

If you feel that you could benefit from having a furry superhero in your life, the process is quite simple! Set aside 5 minutes to take the Certapet pre-screening questionnaire. Once your answers are reviewed, a LMHP will be in touch with you to conduct a short, online, consultation. Within days, your very own ESA letter could be in your hands!

Common Questions About Emotional Support Dog Requirements

How do you qualify for an emotional support dog?

Do emotional support dogs have to be trained?

Which dog breeds are best for emotional support dog requirements?

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