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The type of training required for an ESA pet really depends on the species you pick. Because most ESA owners choose either dogs or cats and because cats require less training than dogs, we’re going to focus this article on training emotional support dogs. That, of course, doesn’t mean that there aren’t myriad options available to you for an emotional support companion. It’s possible to have birds, rabbits, and snakes as ESA pets; however, the most common choice has always been the ESA dog.

Do I Need To Do ESA Dog Training for My Dog to Get Certified?

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An ESA dog is far closer to a normal dog in terms of the training required.

Well, the real answer to this is that you do — and you don’t.

A lot of people confuse emotional support animals with service dogs and just normal pets. The training for each of these animals varies, but an ESA pet is far closer to a normal pet in terms of the training required than a service dog. Service dogs are typically expected to do months or even years of intense and focused training. Their job is to serve, aid and protect someone with a severe physical disability, typically deafness or blindness.

Normal pets are under no obligation to do any form of emotional support dog training, but owners should be smart and reasonable so that their pets are not antisocial.

For ESA dogs, this is a little different, and that all comes down to the two big legal advantages of owning an emotional support animal. Both of these rights are spelled out in the Americans with Disabilities Act, which allows ESA pets rights that normal pets aren’t allowed. These benefits include the ability to fly on a plane with your emotional support animal in the cabin without a cage free of charge under the Air Carrier Act and the ability to live with your pet in your house or apartment regardless of any of the rules of the building regarding pets under the Fair Housing Amendments Act.

These emotional support animal laws are amazing benefits for anyone who owns an emotional support dog, but because of them, an ESA pet is required to be a little more well-behaved than your average house dog. For dog owners, this means some ESA dog training is necessary.

What Basic ESA Training Does My Dog Need?

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An ESA dog is required to be a little more well-behaved than your average house dog.

If your emotional support dog is not trained with the following basic skill sets, you might have a few issues that can nullify your rights under a breach of the peace act. Don’t worry, though, we’re going to walk you through these required skills and offer a little advice on how you can train your dog to ensure they don’t break any of them.

Your Emotional Support Dog Is Required to be Toilet-Trained
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Make sure your ESA dog knows where it can and cannot relieve itself.

The reason that this is important should be obvious. An ESA dog that has the legal right to fly on a plane in the cabin uncaged with you free of charge shouldn’t be using the toilet in an inappropriate way on this plane. The same applies in regard to your living arrangement. Although this is one of the less serious issues facing ESA pets, it is important to show respect to others regarding your legal rights as an emotional support animal owner.

So, how do you toilet train your ESA dog? 

Different people have different techniques when it comes to toilet-training, but the method we have found the most effective is as follows: When training, keep the dog with you at all times. If you aren’t able to do this, consider crate training.

Take your dog outside hourly. This will help to establish a routine. Once your dog does use the toilet, reward them with a treat. Repeat this as often as possible until your dog understands the routine. After this, you can use a cue word such as “bathroom” or “toilet.”

What is most important is that you aren’t physical and don’t berate your ESA dog as this will not help the situation at all. If done right, successful toilet training can be completed in as little as two days!

Your ESA Dog Can’t Be Excessively Loud
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You ESA dog must be trained to not bark excessively.

Just like with humans, separation anxiety can be hard for dogs. If left in your apartment all day by themselves, they may be inclined to bark excessively and repeatedly. If your pet is allowed to live in a no-pet building because of your rights as an ESA letter holder, this can be particularly exasperating and frustrating for other tenants.

So how do you calm down your dog and stop excessive barking?

There are a number of reasons your dog may bark while in your presence, but for the purpose of this article, and because of beneficial ESA owner laws, we’re going to deal with issues that affect your dog barking while you’re out of the house. Each dog’s reasons may vary, but a few good tips to stop them from barking while you are out of the house include:

  • Take your dog out for long walks in the morning or throw a ball around with them to tire them out before you leave the house.
  • Teach your dog the quiet command, and tell your dog to be quiet as you leave your house. (You’d be surprised at how effective this can be.)
  • Use a squeaky toy. Dogs can get bored and upset if stuck in the house by themselves all day, so a squeaky toy can be a great distraction for a pet in an empty home.
  • Find out what makes your dog bark, and remove that stimulation. 
Your ESA Dog Can’t Be Aggressive or Violent

This is the most important emotional support dog training requirement. They must be good-natured and cannot be violent or aggressive in any way. This is obviously essential on an airplane, but it’s also important in all other parts of life. It’s important to note that if your dog is violent or aggressive, there is a possibility that they would have to be put down, regardless of your rights under the Americans with Disabilities Act.

So how do you deal with a violent or aggressive dog?

There are various tips on how to deal with a violent or aggressive pet, but due to the importance of ensuring that your dog behaves and you don’t lose your rights as an ESA letter holder, we’d strongly suggest seeking a professional dog trainer for this issue. This will not only protect you, but it will also protect your emotional support animal.

Follow these simple behavioral requirements for ESA dogs and make sure you have a valid emotional support animal letter, and you’ll live a happier, healthier, and more fulfilled life with your ESA dog.