How To Adopt An Emotional Support Dog?

Adopting an emotional support dog starts with consulting your doctor or therapist to see if having an ESA would benefit you. If approved, look for reputable breeders, shelters, or rescue organizations. Consider the breed, temperament, and energy level best suit your lifestyle and needs.  So let’s learn how to adopt an emotional support dog!

Have potential dogs screened for health and behavior issues. Complete adoption contracts and be prepared to provide veterinary records proving you can properly care for the dog. Obtain documentation from your provider to designate the dog as your official emotional support animal.

Emotional Support Dog
How To Adopt An Emotional Support Dog

The Benefits of Having an Emotional Support Dog

Emotional support dogs provide a sense of companionship that can drastically improve your mood and well-being. They can reduce anxiety and stress, promoting an overall healthier lifestyle.

Their constant presence can also alleviate feelings of isolation or loneliness, giving you a steadfast and loving companion in times of need.


Having an emotional support dog by your side can make a big difference in your day. These caring animals bring joy and comfort. They help people who feel sad or lonely. Their love makes you feel good inside.

They stay with you, listen to you and give you a reason to smile each day.

Improved mood and well-being

Having an emotional support dog can make you feel happier. Dogs give us love and care, which boosts our minds in a positive way. This kind of bond helps to ease feelings of sadness or stress that we may have.

Emotional support dogs also help calm us down when we feel anxious or scared. The simple act of stroking a dog can bring immediate relief from these feelings. This is why emotional support dogs are great for our mental health.

Reduction of anxiety and stress

Having an emotional support dog can bring calm to your life. These dogs help stop fear and worry from getting too big. They do this just by being there for you all the time. They give love that does not judge or ask for anything back.

This love helps people with mental health issues feel safe and cared for. It makes them less lonely and nervous. In fact, many studies show that a dog’s company is great for overall mental well-being!

Decreased feelings of isolation and loneliness

Having an emotional support dog can help with feeling alone. These dogs bring love and care that is always there for you. This kind of pet helps people feel less lonely. They give steady love and are good friends who do not judge or leave.

A study from the Anxiety and Depression Association says taking care of a dog can make you feel less alone. Feeling loved by a dog can make your mood better. 

It makes us happy to know we have someone to share our days with, even if it’s just our pets! Having this bond lets us talk more with others about our pets, adding joy into our lives at home or when we go out.

What is an Emotional Support Dog?

An Emotional Support Dog (ESD) is a pet that provides comfort, companionship, and stress relief to individuals facing mental or emotional disabilities. Unlike service dogs or therapy dogs, ESDs don’t require specific training in task-performing skills.

Definition and role

An emotional support dog gives love and friendship. It helps people who are sad, worried, or scared. These dogs are not the same as service dogs. They do not learn special tasks like a service dog does.

People with mental health issues find great help in these animals. Emotional support dogs offer comfort when dealing with hard feelings or fear. Remember—they don’t have to do certain jobs to be valuable! Their main job is to be there for you and make you feel good.

You may also hear them called therapy dogs, mental health support animals, or comfort animals. Even if they have different names, their role stays the same: bringing joy and peace into your life!

Differences from service and therapy dogs

Emotional support dogs serve a unique function that sets them apart from service dogs and therapy dogs. Here’s how they compare:

Animal TypeRoleTraining or Licensing Required
Emotional Support DogsThese animals provide comfort and companionship to individuals experiencing emotional or mental health issues.No, there is no specific training or licensing required for emotional support dogs.
Service DogsService dogs are trained to perform specific tasks that aid individuals with physical or mental disabilities.Yes, service dogs must undergo rigorous training to qualify. They are trained for specific tasks related to the handler’s disability.
Therapy DogsTherapy dogs are trained to provide comfort and emotional support at institutional settings like hospitals, schools, or nursing homes.Yes, therapy dogs are typically trained and certified by an organization to ensure their behavior in various public settings is acceptable.

How to Qualify for an Emotional Support Dog?

To qualify for an emotional support dog, securing an ESA letter from a licensed mental health professional is essential, along with assessing personal requirements and exploring training possibilities.

Obtaining an ESA letter

You need an ESA letter to get an emotional support dog. A mental health pro writes this letter for you. It has a date and signature on it. The letter says that you need help from a pet for your health.

Be careful of scams. Some people may try to fool you with fake letters or tricks online. You want the real thing, so make sure to follow the right steps and laws. This way, no one can say your dog is not a true support animal.

Identifying personal needs and preferences

Knowing your own needs and likes is key in choosing the right emotional support dog. Think about what you want from a pet. Some may need a calm, quiet dog, while others prefer an active, playful one.

Size also matters. Smaller dogs could be easier to handle, but big dogs can offer more comfort.

The type of dog matters too! Breeds have different traits – some are friendly, some are protective. Find out which fits best with your lifestyle and mental health needs. Making this match will help you feel loved and at ease with your new friend.

Considering training options

Training your emotional support dog is very important. It helps the dog behave well and listen to you better. Good ways to train include canine obedience training and behavioral reinforcement.

You can also take them out to meet other dogs. This helps the dog know how to act around others. If you have a puppy, start teaching them early on with sit, stay and come commands.

Emotional Support Dog Adoption
How To Adopt An Emotional Support Dog

Where to Find an Emotional Support Dog?

You have several avenues to find an Emotional Support Dog, including adoption from animal shelters or rescue organizations, applying through assistance dog programs, or purchasing from private breeders.

Adoption from shelters or rescue organizations

Shelters and rescue groups are great places to find an emotional support dog. They have many dogs that need a home. Some of these dogs might even be failed service animals that still make good emotional support pets.

Most shelters and rescue organizations list their animals online. Each dog has a bio, so you can learn about them before you visit the shelter in person. To bring one home, fill out a Reasonable Accommodation Request, or RAR form, just as you would at any animal adoption center.

Adopting from these places also helps give needy animals new homes and saves lives! It’s both a kind act and a way to find your perfect pet match!

Assistance dog programs

Assistance dog programs train dogs to help people. These programs are good places to find emotional support animals. Assistance Dog International (ADI) is one such place. They guide people to the right program.

But, it’s important to know ADI does not see emotional support dogs as service animals. This means they don’t give these dogs special training for tasks like guiding blind people. But these dogs can still help with moods and feelings of stress or loneliness.

That makes them great helpers in day-to-day life.

Private breeders or sellers

You can find emotional support dogs at private breeders or sellers. They have many types of dog breeds that are good for this role. But, they often ask for more money to adopt these dogs.

If you want to adopt from them, know what they need from you first. Be sure to pick a breeder or seller who is known to be good and fair.

The Importance of Adopting Rather Than Buying

Adopting an emotional support dog not only supports the cause of animal welfare, but it can also be a more cost-effective option. By choosing to adopt, you may also foster a closer bond with your new pet, as rescue animals often show immense gratitude and loyalty towards their rescuers.

This step aims to enlighten potential pet owners about why adoption is preferred over purchasing from breeders or sellers.

Support for animal welfare

Choosing to adopt a pet helps animal welfare. Taking a dog from a shelter or rescue group lowers the number of homeless pets. Also, buying an emotional support dog may cost more than adopting one.

This makes adoption an affordable choice for many people. Shelter staff know their animals well and can tell you about each dog’s personality traits. This means fewer surprises in your new friend’s behavior at home.

You get to save money, know what type of pet you’re getting, and help out a needy animal all at once!

Cost considerations

Adopting a dog from a shelter is not free, but it costs less than buying. You might pay between $50 to $500 for pet adoption. The cost can change based on things like the breed or how many pets are in the shelter.

At the Animal Humane Society, you may have to pay between $39 and $317.

Buying a pet from a breeder could be much pricier. Some dogs can even cost thousands of dollars! Adopting instead of buying saves money and gives an animal in need a fresh start at life.

The potential for a closer bond with a rescue animal

Adopting a rescue pet can build a deep bond. These pets often show extra love to their new owners. Their past may be hard, but they know you saved them. You feel good because you gave them a safe home.

This bond helps both of you feel happy and loved. It is also good for your health in many ways, like feeling less sad or worried.

Understanding Emotional Support Dog Training

Training an Emotional Support Dog (ESA) is vital to ensure they can provide the comfort and aid you need. Explore different training options, learn how to help your ESA cope with separation anxiety, and delve into the difference that proper training can make in strengthening your bond with your pet.

The importance of proper training for ESAs

Proper training is very important for emotional support animals (ESAs). They need to learn good behavior. This way, they can be calm and helpful. Training methods must be used right away.

Basic commands like sit, stay, and come are key skills to teach your ESA. Training helps the dog fit in with people and other pets. It allows them to behave well at home or out in public places – for this reason, you might need help from a professional trainer who knows how to work with ESAs correctly.

Training options for adopters

You have many choices to train your new emotional support dog. Obedience classes are good starting points. They help your dog act well and make friends with other dogs. These classes also help your dog listen to you better.

Some people want their emotional support dog to be a therapy dog too. You can find resources that teach you how to do this. Training programs for dogs boost good behavior. 

If your pet is already behaving well, it could be an emotional support animal! Unlike service dogs, they don’t need specific tasks or goals training by ADA rules.

Helping your ESA with separation anxiety

Your emotional support dog may feel scared when you’re not around. This is called separation anxiety. To help your dog, you can sign him up for obedience classes. These classes teach your dog how to be calm and good even when you’re gone.

Training from a young age can make this easier. Your emotional support animal needs to know they are safe and loved, even if you’re not there all the time. The right training makes your bond strong and helps them feel less alone.

How to adopt an Emotional Support Dog
How To Adopt An Emotional Support Dog

Do You Need to Certify Your Emotional Support Dog?

While certification for emotional support dogs is not a legal requirement, understanding its validity and the process of obtaining legitimate ESA identification can help protect your rights as an owner.

The legality of certifications

Getting a paper that says your dog is an emotional support animal (ESA) can be false. It’s not always real or legal. Selling these papers is often a trick to get money from people who don’t know better.

You don’t need special training or papers for an ESA dog. They’re not like service dogs, who must have training. Schools can’t ask for these papers either. What makes an ESA real is if you have a letter from a mental health professional saying you need one.

This kind of letter is the only thing needed to show your pet is an emotional support animal.

Recognizing legitimate ESA identification

Real ESA letters come from a licensed mental health professional. This person must be able to say you have a need for an emotional support dog. They put this in writing. So, the first thing is to make sure your letter comes from such a person.

Next, know that registering your dog as an ESA is not legally necessary. Some people think it’s helpful, but it’s not required. If someone tells you that you need your dog certified or registered as an ESA, they might not tell the truth.

The Rights and Protections for Emotional Support Animals

ESAs are granted legal protections under American federal laws, specifically the Fair Housing Act (FHA) and the Air Carrier Access Act (ACAA). 

Owners of emotional support dogs have rights not provided to regular pet owners such as housing accommodations without pet restrictions or travel aboard commercial flights.

However, public spaces’ accessibility rights differ from service animals’, highlighting the need for ESA owners to familiarize themselves with their rights and responsibilities.

Understanding the Fair Housing Act

The Fair Housing Act keeps you safe in your home. It says people with disabilities can’t face housing discrimination. You have a right to live with an emotional support animal if it helps you.

Your landlord must let the pet live there, even if their rule book says “No Pets”. There is one rule though, your pet must not be dangerous or cause health problems for others. The law also works in New York City under NYC Human Rights Law.

So, landlords need to follow these rules to keep everyone happy and safe.

Traveling with an ESA

Traveling with an Emotional Support Animal (ESA) can make trips less stressful. Laws protect these animals because they help people with mental health issues. They are not like service dogs that do tasks for people with disabilities.

To bring an ESA on a trip, you need to show a document called an “ESA letter”. This letter says you need your ESA to be with you. But the rights of ESAs are different from those of service dogs under the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA).

So, it is good to know about these rules before you travel.

Rights in public spaces

Emotional support dogs can go to many public places. Places like restaurants, stores, and schools must let them in. This rule comes from the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA). The ADA talks about how emotional support animals have rights.

But there is more to know. Emotional support dogs are not pets, they are helpers. So their owners get special rights too. For example, these dogs can live in houses that don’t usually allow pets because of the Fair Housing Act (FHA).

Let’s not forget about travel! Dogs that help with feelings can even go on planes for free!


Adopting an emotional support dog can change your life. You have to get an ESA letter first. Then, you can pick a dog that fits your needs. Remember, it’s important to give them proper training for the best bond with you.

Adopt an Emotional Support Dog
How To Adopt An Emotional Support Dog


1. What Breeds Make Good Emotional Support Dogs?

Good ESA breeds are often labs, retrievers, or mix-breeds with friendly, calm temperaments like Cavalier King Charles Spaniels and French Bulldogs.

2. How Do I Find An ESA  To Adopt?

Look at animal shelters, breed-specific rescues, and reputable breeders. Avoid pet stores. Be sure to ask about health and temperament.

3. What Documentation Do I Need To Adopt An ESA ?

You’ll need a letter from your mental health provider stating you have a need for an ESA. Bring this to show the shelter or breeder.

4. What Questions Should I Ask About An ESA  I’m Adopting? 

Ask about any behavioral issues, medical conditions, training background, and how they are with people and other animals. 

5. What Supplies Do I Need For My New ESA ?

You’ll need food and water bowls, collar, leash, ID tag, food, treats, bed, toys, grooming tools, and veterinary necessities.

6. How Much Exercise Does An ESA  Need?

Most ESAs need 30-60 minutes of daily exercise plus mental stimulation like training, puzzles, and play time.

7. Can An ESA Live In A “No Pets” Apartment? 

Yes, ESA owners have rights for housing accommodations despite no pet policies. Notify your landlord.

8. Should I Crate Train My New ESA ?

Crate training is highly recommended to help your ESA adjust to your schedule and lifestyle.

9. What Vet Care Does An ESA  Need?

ESAs need regular vet visits, vaccines, heartworm/flea prevention, dental care, grooming, and any necessary medical treatment.

10. How Do I Introduce An ESA To Current Pets?

Slowly and safely introduce the ESA to other pets. Keep them separated at first and supervise all interactions.

Author Profile

Aritra Sen
Aritra SenSite Owner And Planning Specialist
Aritra, the founder of, is a lifelong dog lover whose passion ignited for Labradors for their loyalty and intelligence. With extensive research and personal experiences, Aritra has become a Labrador expert, offering a rich resource on the breed. provides reliable, timely, and evidence-based information, including Labrador-specific product reviews, training techniques, and care tips. was born out of Aritra's passion and his desire to share his profound knowledge about the breed. The site serves as a comprehensive resource, offering a wealth of up-to-date information for Labrador owners and enthusiasts alike