Moosh - ESA dog with owner

Got your pet designated as an emotional support animal (ESA)? If so, you should know your ESA dog should not only be a loyal companion but also a well-behaved pup that can accompany you without incident. Once you’ve gone through the process of making your dog an official ESA, your next step should be to evaluate if they need additional training to be a top-notch therapy animal.

It’s essential that you’re able to take your ESA out with you in public without any issues. Because ESAs are similar to service dogs, your dog will most likely wear a vest or have some sort of identification as an emotional support animal. Although ESAs are not currently permitted inside all businesses and retail locations, these places can potentially be more open to allowing your ESA to come inside if they can tell that they’re well-behaved and can follow simple commands. You’re also less likely to run into criticisms or judgments about having an emotional support animal if folks can see that your pet is trained.

If you think your ESA dog could brush up on some training (or could use a full-on beginner’s training course), consider signing up for obedience classes. These classes can teach your pup basic skills, like walking properly on a leash, learning to heel, leaving or dropping an object, interacting with other dogs, and staying by your side in busy situations. But it can be overwhelming if you’re not sure how to find the best obedience class for your ESA. Read on for some tips!

Moosh - group of dogs
Having a well-trained pooch is even more important if they’re an emotional support dog!

Evaluate what goals you have for your ESA

When you start your research for finding the right obedience class, it can be helpful for you to first determine which skills you’d like your ESA dog to learn. Setting goals for what you want to accomplish (whether that’s teaching them to sit and stay or to come when you call) will help you select the perfect obedience class for your needs.

Find classes in your area

To start looking for obedience classes near you, a simple Google search is often the only thing you’ll need to do. There might be some private companies in your area that offer classes. If you don’t find anything like this, try asking at your local pet store for recommendations. Also, many chain pet stores (like PetCo or PetSmart) offer classes right in the store, which can be pretty convenient. If you’re still having trouble locating a class, it’s always a smart idea to ask your local vet or pet groomer for suggestions. They’ll likely be able to recommend some good options for classes for your pet. Friends and family can also be great resources – ask around for where they’ve taken their own pets for training.

Make sure the instructor is the right fit

You’ll be able to tell if the class is going to work out by seeing how you feel about the instructor. An instructor should be able to provide you with references or customer reviews to demonstrate their experience and success rate. Most instructors will also be able to show you their credentials from organizations like the National Association of Dog Obedience, Association of Pet Dog Trainers, National K-9 Dog Trainers Association, or the International Association of Canine Professionals. It’s also always a good idea to ask them all of your questions ahead of the first class. Make sure they have experience training a variety of ages and breeds of dogs and that they understand your goals for working with your ESA.

Moosh - dog training
Through proper training, your ESA dog will learn good behaviors and obedience.

Sit in on a few classes

If you’re not sure which class your emotional support dog could benefit from, ask if you can sit in on a few different classes. This is a great way to get a feel for the classes that are being offered and the style of the instructor without making a commitment or shelling out money first.

Find out about each specific class

Ask the instructor plenty of questions about the specific class you’ll be attending so you can tell if it’s a good fit. Try to steer clear of classes that have more than 10-20 dogs in a session – there won’t be enough attention paid to your ESA if it’s a crowded class. You should also inquire about the particular techniques used in each class. It’s a huge red flag if an instructor uses yelling or hitting or other harsh behaviors as a way to work with the dogs.

Check your budget

Obedience classes are offered for all sorts of prices. Before you commit to a class, make sure you understand the fees involved and can evaluate whether the price fits into your budget. If you have a little bit more money to spend, consider whether a private training class might work best for you. They can be more pricey than doing a group class, but they could potentially be worth it for the individual attention and focus your emotional support dog could get from the trainer.

Once you’ve done your research about which obedience class would be right for your dog, you’ll be all set to have the best-trained ESA around!

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