Getting an emotional support dog is a wonderful addition to the life of anyone suffering with a mental illness. It is also a big commitment, and preparing a home to properly accommodate a new ESA dog is essential.
When you decide to get an emotional support animal you are responsible for the life and wellbeing of your new companion, and your home is where your support pet will be spending a large majority of its life, so it has be comfortable and safe.
Have the right attitude
It is important to understand that you will need to work to prepare your home, and that settling your emotional support pet in its new home, training it, and getting it used to its new surroundings will be hard (but fun) work. The right attitude is key. You will be busy, and you may even have your patience tested (chewed up slippers, ‘presents’ behind the couch), so be prepared to be calm, forgiving, and to see the funny side. Your ESA dog, whether a puppy or an adult dog, will need house training – so be mentally prepared for that.
Read up on dog training. There are a wealth of good books on the market that will teach you how to train your ESA dog. Dog psychology is a fascinating field, so studying up will be fun, and arming yourself with this knowledge will allow you to best understand your dog’s motives and to train it most effectively.
Stock up on supplies and equipment
You will need to go to your local pet centre to purchase some crucial doggie supplies. You’ll need a dog crate for transporting your ESA home and for any excursions you two go on. You’ll need plastic food and water dishes, and easily washable and durable bedding, a collar (with ID tag for your contact details in case he gets lost) and lead for walkies, as well as some chewy toys, balls and playthings (these may end up saving your slippers!). It’s also important to get grooming supplies to keep your dog clean and comfortable. Last but not least some high-quality, healthy puppy or dog food. If there are places in your home that you do not want your ESA going, then a ‘baby gate’ for blocking doorways is also essential.
Get rid of hazardous objects
Puppies are intrepid and they will explore every nook and cranny that they can reach, and they will often try to eat any interesting object they find. This can be very dangerous for the dog as there is always a risk of choking, poisoning, electrocution etc. Hazardous and dangerous objects such as electrical cords, small hard objects like marbles and dinkies, and chocolate (which is bad for dogs) should all be put out of reach.
Put your valuable objects in a safe place
It’s also important that you put your valuables out of reach, because dogs adore chewing up valuable objects. Expensive rugs, fine three-piece suits, glamorous new Nike trainers – all exceedingly fun and chewable for dogs, so put them away in a safe place, or say goodbye! For objects that you can’t put away but you don’t want chewed to death, such as table legs, spray them with Bitter Apple spray, which is a non-toxic substance that tastes gross to your dog.
Prepare your yard
Make sure that the garden is free of hazardous objects. Also, check the perimeter fence for holes or weaknesses that the emotional pet could get through and wander off.
Make a schedule
Dogs acclimatize to a new environment best when they have a structured schedule. If playtime, walkies, and meals are at roughly the same time each day the dog will feel safe and secure. When your ESA dog understands that there is an ordered schedule and rules, he will tend to be much more calm, obedient and easy to housetrain. So write up a schedule and stick to it.
Decide on a place where your ESA dog’s bed will be
Again, dogs like order. So if your dog has a set place that it sleeps each night, and were it snoozes during the day, it will feel calm and secure. So decide on an area of the house (your bedroom, the kitchen or whatever) that is best for your ESA to sleep in, and put its bedding or basket there. The dog will get used to its place and will enjoy the predictability and comfort.
Set up a vet appointment
Bring your new ESA dog to the vet as soon as possible after he arrives. A complete checkup is crucial to make sure there are no underlying health issues. It’s good to familiarize the dog to your local vet, and vice versa. Some shots will probably be necessary, and a microchip ID implant is always a good idea.
So there you go, follow these tips and getting your dog settled in its new home should be easy!