Emotional support animals do not need to be highly trained like certified service dogs, but there are things people need to consider when they choose a dog intended for emotional support, or when training a dog you already have. Keep in mind, emotional support animals are companion pets that a mental health professional has recommended for someone.
Qualities For a Good Emotional Support Pet
If you have been recommended an emotional support animal to assist with your mental health diagnosis, you should look for a dog that is calm and laid back in nature, responsive to you, and that’s about one year in age. An instant bond or making a good connection with your pet is a way to make sure your dog will be supportive for you. Some owners want to teach puppies to be emotional support animals, and this is a good way to teach this important duty to the dog from the ground up.
There are some dogs that are too full of energy, anxious, or too shy to be good pets for people experiencing difficult situations. This is not to say these types of dogs could never be emotional support animals, it means it may take more training.
Initial Obedience Training
Once again, you want to find the kind of dog that is people-oriented and is eager to learn. These breeds include golden retrievers, labradors, poodles, and goldendoodles. Any breed can offer the qualities searched for, but be willing to do research and interview multiple puppies to find the best match. Once you get your puppy, start them with the basics of obedience training – stay, sit, down, come, heel, etc. If you start these commands while your puppy is young, the more suitable your dog will be for an emotional support companion.
If you are not up to the task of training your dog, find the help of a professional trainer, or maybe a family member or a friend will want to do the training or take the training classes with you.
Socialization of the Emotional Support Pet
In addition to obedience training, the dog will also need socialization. They need to be taught not to jump, bark, lunge, beg for food, or other annoying behaviors that some dogs exhibit when in public. This is not just for your own benefit, but for others as well. It is hard not to be stressed if you must be looking out for your pet’s undesirable behavior, so your companion animal must be well-behaved when out in public.
Deep Pressure Therapy and Your Emotional Support Pet
Studies show that a technique called deep pressure therapy helps calm those who suffer from autism, anxiety, self-harming behaviors, and stress. This non-medicated treatment reduces the duration of the situation and makes it easier to deal with. The idea behind deep pressure therapy is to have your dog gently apply pressure to your chest, body, or body part depending on the size of the dog. Smaller dogs can lie along the front of your body or directly across your chest, while large breeds can place their feet or head across your lap or legs. The point is for the animal to do whatever is comfortable for you.
If you want the deep pressure therapy to do its magic, you want a small to a medium-sized dog to be vertically along your body with its paws on your shoulders and its head next to yours. For larger dogs, they will put their paws across your legs or lie their heads on your lap when you are in a sitting position.
Training Your Dog to do Deep Pressure Therapy Technique
To train your dog to do this, use paws up commands, then down commands once they are vertically along with your lap or in place. After your dog does this task, give the paws down command, and give him a treat. You must practice this repeatedly for your dog to do it on command, with the result being a no food reward.
When teaching a larger dog the deep pressure therapy, he must lean into your lap for the pressure to be at the proper application; however, once the dog relaxes, the weight should be put on your lap. Once your dog has mastered the techniques above, you can take the training further every time you experience a stressful situation. By practicing when you are home and being rewarded for following the commands, he will be able to learn this technique when you really need it the most.
Continual Training for Your Emotional Support Pet
Emotional support animals are special in that they calm people down. Your dog may need a little training along the way, or they may instinctively pick up on what you need, this kind of support is the first step in healing for people who may otherwise suffer in silence.
We’re Here To Help
Let 2 Paws Up Inc assist with giving you the skills and the knowledge to better manage your dog. We specialize in Private In-Home Training from Puppies to Adult Dogs as well as Board and Train Programs. Our programs are about teaching you, not just training your dog, and each program is customized. Every dog is unique just like your customized plan. Contact us today for your Initial Consultation!