Having an animal companion is good for the soul. It feels great to feel this kind of unconditional love, completely free of judgment, and to be able to share in that deep emotional connection without even needing to say anything. It gives great comfort to sit with a dog in your lap, sharing a moment of calm and simple happiness together.
We also know dogs can be of great help to the blind, to mobility-impaired individuals, and people suffering from diseases such as diabetes and epilepsy. But can dogs also use their naturally comforting aura to help people suffering from maladies of the soul? Can a dog help an owner suffering from anxiety, depression or PTSD? Certainly.
While emotional support dogs are “working” dogs, just like service dogs, they don’t require any formal training. This is because these dogs don’t have any specific task to accomplish, such as pressing an alarm, guarding you while you’re convulsing, etc. No, their “task” is their companionship.
Simply by being there with you, by showering you with love, by not judging you and seeking your affection, emotional support dogs can help you better manage your mental health.
Several mental conditions, such as bipolar disorder, PTSD, depression, anxiety, and autism, could make you eligible for an emotional support dog. You need to get a certificate from a licensed mental health professional to either get an emotional support dog or assign an existing pet this job.
The only things that are absolutely required of an emotional support dog are to be calm, well-behaved and obedient. For this reason, irate, jittery, sickly, noisy and obnoxious dogs make poor emotional support animals.
Because an emotional support dog doesn’t constitute a regular pet, you are allowed to bring it with you on airplanes without additional charge, and you are allowed to live with one in your apartment, regardless of pet regulations. You are NOT, however, allowed to bring an emotional support dog to public places (e.g. restaurants) that otherwise forbid it.
You can put a vest on your dog (as long as it is not the same color as a service dog’s) to let people know that this is a working dog that shouldn’t be distracted.
If the idea of having a dog around to comfort you and empower you seems like something that can help you, you should definitely give it a try.