Emotional Support Dogs: How do They Work?

You’ve more than likely seen or heard of a service dog. Many people with visual, hearing, and mobility impairments must utilize them in order to go about their daily lives with more ease. However, have you heard of an emotional support dog? Though different than service dogs, emotional support animals, too, are essential to improving quality of life for those with specific disabilities.

Service Dogs vs. Emotional Support Dogs

Service dogs are trained to help impaired persons by performing tasks and doing work that helps their owners navigate through life safely and effectively. They act as a form of medical equipment, doing things for their owners that they could not complete on their own. These tasks include helping their owners cross the roads, performing chores around the house, or even providing physical support if their owners become unbalanced.

Emotional support dogs are different, primarily because they receive no training at all. Simply, these dogs are there solely to provide companionship and unconditional love. Emotional support animals (they can be dogs, cats, or nonconventional pets such as pigs) are helpful for those suffering from various emotional disorders, including:

  • Anxiety
  • Phobias
  • Depression
  • Bipolar disorder or other mood disorders
  • Panic attacks
  • Thoughts of suicide

Why Emotional Support Dogs are Needed

Many doctors are prescribing people with the aforementioned conditions emotional support dogs to help sooth and comfort the patient, providing some form of stability to their lives. Stability and comfort are especially important when someone with an emotional disorder is having an episode, which is why emotional support dogs are becoming more integral in the treatment of these conditions. An owner of an emotional support dog will likely experience lower blood pressure, cholesterol, and reduced anxiety.

Laws for Emotional Support Dogs

Emotional support dogs are not considered medical equipment like service dogs, but they are offered some protections in the form of laws. Emotional support dogs do qualify to fly with their owners on airplanes at no extra charge. There are also laws in place that allow your emotional support dog to live with you in pet-free housing. It must be noted, however, that as far as motels, libraries, and other public areas are concerned, your emotional support dog is still a pet and if they do not allow pets inside, your dog is not exempt.

Speak with your doctor about whether or not an emotional support dog is right for you. You can also talk to your doctor about helping to register your current dog, if you have one, as an emotional support dog.