fbpx How to Train an Emotional Support Dog?

How to train an emotional support dog?

Emotional support dogs are pets that doctors often recommend for individuals with different mental problems. It hasn’t to be a strongly trained animal with tens of commands in its reserve. But despite the absence of excessively stringent requirements, such a dog must have some qualities, and it is still impossible to do without training.

The reasons to train an emotional support dog

The emotional support animal is a loyal and helpful companion, which can reduce mental problems, improve the overall inner state, and just help to go through a difficult life period. It can have a positive effect on people suffering from depression, anxiety, melancholy, loneliness, or even PTSD. 

With preliminary preparation and a number of exercises, a dog will provide a higher level of support and positive influence. 

dog with owner

When it is better to start the training?

There are no hard and fast rules about that matter. You can start training either a young dog or an adult animal. There will be a benefit in any case. However, it would be desirable to start training as early as possible – because the younger a dog, the easier it can learn commands and anchor the desired behavior in its subconscious.

It is also important to stick to the chosen training method and not change it in the middle. Otherwise, it will strongly complicate the learning process. Also, make a workout schedule and stick to it. Such an approach is going to help you in creating a new habit for yourself and your dog.

If you have a puppy, keep your workouts short, up to 5 minutes. Puppies are able to concentrate for a small amount of time, and too long training will cause dislike and even rejection of such activities. That rule can be learned during almost any training classes.

The main exercises

Dog training for emotional support can be roughly divided into several stages.

The first one is the obedience training. This is the basis for further development: without submission, a dog will never be able to provide good emotional support. This includes training in basic commands (sit, come, down, etc.) and socialization outside your house, which helps to prevent some anti-social things like unexpected barking, unreasonable rushing, and others.

dog gives paw

Having finished with the above things, you can start basic training. At this stage, you should teach your dog the main techniques for emotional support. Let’s take a closer look at each of these techniques:


Some studies show that a dog’s presence calms people and helps to fight against stress and anxiety. For example, an appropriately trained dog can slightly pressure the owners’ body, chest, or other body parts, causing a calming effect. Here are the exact steps to teach your dog such a command:

  1. Help your animal to get used to sitting on the sofa or bed. Just tempt it with some treats and wait for the dog to get up there. Accompany that action with “Paws Up” command. Achieve a great performance and only then proceed to the next.
  2. Let the dog get used to lying next to you. You don’t need to load it with commands until it adapts properly.
  3. After that, reward the dog every time it gets in the correct position and its paws rest on you comfortably. Repeat the command “Hug” at the same time to anchor it in the dog’s mind. 
  4. This command is suitable for both small and large breeds. But be careful, a large dog can put too much pressure on your body, so correct its position from the very beginning of training and do not let its whole body lie on you.
  5. You can improve this command by saying “Paws down” when your dog gets back on the floor. 


It is a very useful command that will make your dog get calm when it is necessary. Simply put, your dog will start to control its emotions and impulses. How to teach:

  1. Prepare a calm and quiet place for your dog. Place a mattress or something soft in there.
  2. Stand with the dog near this place. Throw a treat there and order “Settle”. 
  3. Move further and further from the place each time. Get the dog to leave without treats.
  4. Reward your dog with food each time he lies down there. 

dog with owner


This command takes its name from “deep pressure therapy”. It is similar to “Hug” order but may be applied in a sitting position. This order makes your dog to drop its paws and head on your knees and freeze in that position.

  1. Say the command DPT every time your dog lays its paws on your knees. You can tempt it with treats, so it would take the needed pose. But don’t forget to reward it with food after completing the order!
  2. Say the command “Freeze” after the dog drops the paws on your knees. Give it treats when it starts laying still. 

Anxiety signs

It is very important that your dog learns to recognize your anxiety on its own. After all, you will not always be able to call her and give commands. Sometimes there is neither strength nor desire for this. Therefore, the dog itself must come and help to cope with mental problems. Here’s how to teach it: 

  1. Mimic the behavior you usually express in times of anxiety and depression. 
  2. Repeat the above orders and reward your dog with food. 
  3. After some practice start slowly removing some commands, so the dog would be forced to guess on its own. But mind – not all the orders. For example, say “DPT” several times. Then just show a treat, sitting in the same position. When dog drops its paws on your knees reward it. Command “Freeze”. So, just combine this method with different orders and your dog will very soon get the idea.

You can definitely teach your dog to be an ESA yourself. But if you want to speed up the training of your dog, it would be best to contact a specialist. Search for a center – just google “Emotional Support training near me” and scroll through the results.


An emotional support dog is an excellent helper in dealing with all kinds of mental problems. In addition, the very process of learning can dispel boredom and even temporarily protect against anxiety and depression. Isn’t it great?

How useful was this post?

Click on a star to rate it!

We are sorry that this post was not useful for you!

Let us improve this post!