Emotional support animals are gaining popularity among patients with mental health conditions, such as anxiety, depression, etc. With scientific evidence that pet therapy works, more medical professionals are considering it as a part of the treatments.

Related- 5 Mental Health Benefits of an Emotional Support Animal

If you have a pet, you can make it your emotional support animal to receive therapeutic benefits for managing your condition. For that, you require an ESA letter from certified doctor.

But, how to know whether you and your pet qualify for an emotional support animal letter or not? How to get the letter? How to train your animal to provide you emotional support? In this post, we are going to answer all these questions.

What Are Emotional Support Animals?

Emotional support animals are usually dogs, cats, etc. that provide therapeutic benefits to patients suffering from mental health conditions. ESAs are usually prescribed for easing anxiety, depression, PTSD, chronic stress, and learning disabilities.

Many people confused between emotional support animals with service animals. However, service dogs perform special functions or jobs for owner with physical or emotional disabilities. On the other hand, ESAs provide mental and emotional support. Unlike service animals, emotional support animals don’t require any specialized training. But, it’s good to train your ESA to behave well in public settings. 

Under federal laws, ESA handlers can legally live and fly with their support animals without paying extra pet deposits or travel fees. But as of January 11, 2021, ESA rules have changed, and now patients with ESA letters need to pay an extra fee for their pets to travel with them. The fee prices vary by airline, and to know about fee policies, you need to contact the airline helpdesk.

Do You Qualify For an ESA?

To get an emotional support animal letter, you must be diagnosed by an illness listed in the ESA qualifying conditions. The list includes-

Anxiety Disorders

These mental health conditions can interfere with patients’ ability to think, sleep, and perform. Common anxiety disorders are generalized anxiety disorder, panic disorder, social anxiety disorder, post-traumatic stress disorder, and obsessive-compulsive disorder. There are various anti-anxiety medications available, but they can cause certain side-effects.

Related- How Can an Emotional Support Animal Help You Get Off Anxiety?


A mental illness characterized by depressed mood, sleep problems, feeling helpless and guilty, loss of interest in daily activities, lack of focus & energy, and change in appetite. Common causes of depression are genes, life events, and conditions such as anxiety, ADHD & pain.

Learning Disabilities

These disabilities affect cognitive processes associated with learning. Patients with these conditions often have trouble reading, writing, speaking, and listening. Common learning disabilities that kids have in the classroom are dyslexia, dyscalculia, dysgraphia, and processing deficits. 

Attention Deficit Disorder

A neurological disorder that can lead to trouble in social interaction, completing tasks, focusing, and following instructions. Genetics and heredity are considered as the major causes of this condition. Scientists are discovering if specific genes, including the ones associated with dopamine, are responsible for developing ADD.

Motor Skill Disorder

It’s the delay of movement and posture that sets apart the patients from others of the same age & level of intelligence. The patients often experience difficulties in performing motor skills, such as catching subjects, riding a bike, lifting, kicking, etc.

If you suffer from any of the above-listed conditions, you qualify to get therapeutic benefits from your emotional support animal.

How to Get an ESA Letter for your Pet?

After you qualify for an ESA, you need to get verified by a licensed mental health professional. For an ESA letter, you can visit psychologists, psychiatrists, registered nurses, therapists, or other licensed professionals.

Related- Why do You Need an ESA Letter?

The best way to start with the process is to talk to a medical professional you know. Since they know your mental health history, you can have an open discussion regarding ESA registration. If your physician is approved to write an emotional support animal letter, you can proceed further. Your doctor will evaluate if you are eligible for an ESA letter. They will analyze whether your condition comes under the ESA qualifying conditions. If you meet the eligibility criteria, the doctor will write an emotional support animal letter for you.

If your physician isn’t licensed to write ESA letters, you can find a therapist online. Do complete research, check reviews and pricing, and compare services to choose a trusted doctor.

To save time and get an emotional support animal letter hassle-free, you can opt for telemedicine. This allows you to see a mental health professional online, thus eliminating the need of visiting them in the clinic. Here’s the complete process-

  • Sign up an account
  • Talk to a therapist through HIPAA-compliant software
  • Receive an ESA doctor letter Online in PDF format within 10 minutes

How to Train Your Emotional Support Animal?

An emotional support animal doesn’t require any training by law, but they must be well-behaved and under control in public. So, after getting an ESA letter, you must start training your dog with basic obedience techniques such as sit, down, come, etc. We recommend you to start the training course as soon as possible.

In addition to obedience training, you should take out your ESA regularly for socialization purposes. The objective is to help your pet avoid anti-social behavior, such as excessive barking, jumping, etc.

Training Your Dog to Help You Ease Anxiety

Medical studies say that emotional support animals can help patients ease anxiety, depression, autism, and stress. The most popular technique for fighting stressful situations is Deep Pressure Therapy. In this, the trained ESA applies pressure on the chest or other body parts of the owner who is in stressful events.

Here’s a step-wise-step guide to teach your emotional support animal Deep Pressure Therapy-

Paws Up on The Sofa

You should train your ESA to sit on the sofa if they aren’t used to it. The best way is to hold a treat in your hand and slightly lift it. Your pet will chase it and end up lifting their paws. While doing that, you can say your pet’s name followed by “paws up.” Give a treat for every success. 


Be patient if your ESA is taking longer to learn the “paws up” command. This usually happens with adult dogs. If you have a small pet, they will learn things quickly. Keep practicing until your pet learns the command completely.

Paws Off

It’s totally opposite to the previous command. The objective is to teach your ESA to move away from the sofa. Don’t forget to reward your dog every time they do things right.

Sitting on The Sofa

To help in stressful events, your ESA must apply pressure on your body. To train your support animal to do this, you can simply say “paws up.” Once their face comes closer to your lap or your head (depending on the ESA size), say “paws off.” After the task is accomplished, give a treat.

The next level of the training is to mimic the symptoms of stressful situations you experience and teach your ESA to help you.

Key Takeaways

Living with animals can help patients with anxiety, depression, etc. ease their symptoms. If you are considering making your pet an ESA, you must talk to a licensed mental health professional.

However, you must train your dog to follow your instructions and socialize. Along with that, it’s important to teach your dog with Deep Pressure Therapy. The basic steps of this training are—paws up, paws off, and sitting/laying on the sofa.

Get an ESA doctor letter to live with your support animal legally.