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Emotional Support Dog Criteria

Criteria for an Emotional Support Dog

There are so many children that would love to have a pet and adults that wanted a puppy as a child and even now as an adult. Me! There are many that have never grown out of that desire.

For some, a dog is a need and in reality, this “pet” is truly no pet at all, but a working animal. It is called Emotional Support Dog.

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What is an Emotional Support Animal?

“So”, you ask,  “What exactly is that?” Also known as an ESA and an “assistance animal”, ESAs are a therapeutic animal for those with emotional or mental disabilities. If you have a wheelchair and no one to turn on the lights or pick things up off the floor or you’re blind and need guidance, you purchase a service dog. Let’s say you have anxiety, severe depression, mental impairments, or any other number of psychiatric disability or emotional impairment. Is there help for that? Yes! You can get an Emotional Support Dog!

What are the Criteria for an Emotional Support Dog?

First, let’s talk about the criteria you must meet if you are looking for an emotional support dog. There are only two qualifications:

(1)  You must be considered emotionally disabled by a mental health professional. Some of the disorders that may qualify you are:

  • ADD
  • Motor Skills Disorders
  • Substance Abuse Disorders
  • Bipolar Disorder
  • Tic Disorders
  • Cognitive Disorder
  • Mental Retardation

(2) You must have a letter stating such by a qualified doctor.

You can take a free test to see if you qualify. We can show you how!

Get Your ESA Today


Due to the new Department of Transportation (DOT) policy, Emotional Support Animals are NO longer allowed to fly in airplane cabins for free. However, Psychiatric Service Dogs are eligible.

Now onto that furry, fuzzy friend:

Make Sure Your Dog is a Good Fit

My 10-year-old daughter has several mental illnesses that cause her to need her dog quite frequently, and he fits her quite well. If your Emotional Support Dog and you do not click, you will not have a good relationship, and that is important. You need to bond.


You will need, of course, to housebreak and crate train your puppy. That goes without saying. You should also train your dog in the basic commands if you want him to be a blessing instead of more of a strain on your emotional well-being. It doesn’t matter how old he is when you get him. He’s still trainable. Trust me! Training him to sit, stay, “quiet”, go, come, “out”, and crate will be a life-saver. You may even wish to go a step further and train him to do more complicated tricks for your enjoyment.

A good place for learning to train your dog correctly might be YouTube or a good How-To book. There are also good FaceBook groups online that deal with training dogs. One I particularly like is this group on Facebook. They have several files full of documents and videos on training your dog.

Your Emotional Support Dog does not need any specialized training. He fits the criteria as long as he doesn’t cause any hardship to the landlord or any undue disturbance to the neighbors. If you’d like more information on this, you can contact American Service Pets.

Your dog can be trained, however, to do specialized tasks that are customized to what you need. My 10-year-old’s Emotional Support Dog, Beastie is trained to do several things that help her during one of her fits. He comes to her, offering her comfort, standing there patiently and allowing her to cuddle, stays close-by in case he is needed further (not shying away through the screaming), and gives deep pressure therapy. Youtube is a great source for finding and learning to train your dog in these areas. An ESA can be trained to do anything a service dog can do, but he does not have to be specifically trained to meet the Emotional Support Dog criteria.

There you have it—the criteria you need! Basically, all you need is a dog you can love, that loves you, and that will offer you comfort. He must be well-behaved, and, don’t forget, you must have that letter! If you have any questions, you know where to find us!

ESA or PSA Certification?

The benefits of an Emotional Support Animal certification and a Psychiatric Service Dog certification are drastically different. Fortunately for you, American Service Pets’ network of active board certified doctors can help you find the right path to certification. To find out whether you need an ESA or PSD letter, take our easy, three-step Pet Owner Survey!


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