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What Are Emotional Support Dogs?

Estimated Reading Time: 4 minutes

Did you know that in the U.S. alone, almost seven in 10 households own a pet? That translates to about 85 million families!

Of these pets, dogs lead the pack (pardon the pun), with 60.2 million families having a canine as a “family member”. After all, there’s a special, albeit scientific connection between humans and their dogs. According to a study, the love (brought about by the hormone oxytocin) between these two is mutual.

For many of these people and households though, their dogs are more than just family members. They’re emotional support dogs whose presence is necessary for their daily functioning.

What exactly makes these dogs different from others though? Are they the same as service dogs?

Learn the answers to all these questions and more in this post, so be sure to keep reading!

Emotional Support Dogs: A Quick Definition

Emotional support dogs are a type of emotional support animal (ESA). ESAs are assistance and companion animals to those who have an emotional disorder. ESAs can also be cats or other animals, but dogs are still the most common.

Registered Emotional Health Support Dogs vs Fido

Now, you’re likely wondering, don’t most dogs provide comfort and support to their owners? Definitely. In fact, 74% of surveyed pet owners said having a pet helped improve their mental health.

However, the term “emotional health support dogs” comes with some legalities.

For instance, a pet can only be an emotional support dog if a mental health doctor prescribes it. This is often the case for patients who have mental or emotional health problems. Mental health professionals who prescribe ESAs are often therapists, psychiatrists, or psychologists.

The doctor first needs to decide if an animal can help a patient’s mental or emotional health. For instance, patients may have fewer depressive episodes if they have a dog for a companion.

The presence of a support dog can also benefit people with anxiety disorders. A support dog’s warmth and companionship alone can already make them feel more at ease. Here’s a post where you can read more now about the other benefits of therapy dogs.

ESAs and Service Animals: How the Two Differ

Note that under the American Disabilities Act (ADA), ESAs aren’t services animals. Service animals go through formal training so they can perform specific tasks. For example, they learn how to help a blind person walk and cross the streets.

Whereas ESAs don’t receive specific, formal training. They aren’t trained to perform tasks related to their handler’s disability. However, you can have an ESA dog trained to become a licensed service dog.

That said, the key difference between ESAs and service animals is their “training”. It hinges on whether they had formal training or not.

Emotional Support Animals Can Save Lives

Granted, emotional support dogs don’t have the same “rights” as service animals. However, they can still be a crucial aspect in the treatment of mental or emotional disorders. Their presence can make a difference in the lives of the 20% of Americans who suffer from mental illness.

Learned a lot from this post? Then be sure to bookmark our blog’s Life section for more health and life pro tips!

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