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Dogs are possibly man’s greatest companion, and if you’re someone who has just received a companion dog certification — otherwise known as an emotional support animal certification — you’re likely only seeing sunshine and butterflies on the horizon.

However, in order to ensure that both ESA owner and ESA dog live together in perfect harmony, certain things must be put in place. In this article, we will be discussing what to do now that you have your companion dog certification.

Inform Your Landlord

Before any preparations can be made for your emotional support dog, it is important to inform your landlord of the changes and show them your ESA letter and companion dog certification as proof. If there are any refurbishments that must be made in order to accommodate your new emotional support animal, put these down in writing and give them to the landlord and keep a copy for yourself. The landlord is under legal obligation to perform necessary renovations within a reasonable period. If you want more information regarding this, check out our articles on ESA laws

Acclimate Your ESA Dog to Your Home

A dog is often much more demanding than new ESA owners expect. Starting off on the wrong foot can lead to many more hours than necessary — and much more stress that necessary — correcting bad behaviors. Therefore, preparation is paramount.

The first thing to do once you have your companion dog certification is to prepare your home for your new emotional support dog. You’ll need to puppy-proof your home for at least for the first few months while they’re teething and learning boundaries. So taping loose electrical cords to baseboards; making sure household chemicals, plants, rugs and breakables are all out of reach; setting up a crate; and installing gates are all essential.

From the start, consistency is important. Puppies often get away with things that adult dogs wouldn’t because of the cute factor. But remember, any bad behaviors you allow now will become stubborn issues in the future. So steel yourself against those puppy dog eyes!

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Once you get your companion dog certification, make sure you train your ESA dog.

Before the dog enters its new home, you should know where and when it will eat, where its water bowl will be kept, where it will sleep, where the designated potty spot is, what time of day and for how long will you play with and exercise it, etc.

As soon as your dog is in the house, take it to the toileting area immediately. Having structure from the start avoids confusion. If you let your dog sleep in your bed to begin with, don’t expect an easy transition if you then decide to change the dog’s sleeping spot.

Stock Up on Supplies

You’ll also need to stockpile pet supplies: food, leashes, toys, collars, ID tags, potty bags, etc. To begin with, keep feeding your dog whatever food they have been eating up until you bring it home so transitioning is easier and less stressful. After a couple of weeks, you can begin to slowly introduce whatever diet your vet thinks is best.

Train Your ESA Dog

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Train your ESA dog when it’s a puppy so it’s a well-behaved adult.

Another important aspect of raising a well-balanced dog is socializing it with other dogs, other animals and other people. There’s a period of your puppy’s growth — typically 6 to 12 weeks old — during which mental and social development is most readily achieved. If your pet isn’t socializing during that time, it’ll come back to bite you (hopefully not literally).

Possibly the most important facet of training is the setting of boundaries. If you fail to set boundaries ahead of time, you’ll likely make decisions on the fly that are inconsistent and led by emotions. This is a surefire way to confuse your dog. Will you allow you dog to jump on you? Are they allowed on the furniture? Can they bark when a stranger approaches? The boundaries will be different for each owner, so let your intuition guide you.

With regards to commands, once again, consistency is key. Each command must mean just one thing. Don’t use “Down” to get your dog to lie down and to get your dog to stop jumping. You can pick whatever words you like as long as you and your emotional support dog both know what you mean, but if you wish for others to be able to command your ESA dog, you ought to stick with the conventions. As long as you have the basics — sit, come, stay, heel, down — your dog will be considered well-behaved. 

By now you should have everything you need in order to guarantee the future with your companion dog is filled with only good experiences. Remember, you will need a companion dog certification and a letter from a medical practitioner. If you ever need more informed information regarding the rearing of your companion dog — or any other emotional support animal — then MooshMe is the place to be!