Before You Own an Emotional Support Dog: What to Consider?

an emotional owner with her dog
  • Emotional support and service dogs are two categories of dogs that provide different services.
  • Key legal considerations include the Fair Housing Act, Air Carrier Access Act, and other laws in your locality.
  • When owning an emotional support dog, one is responsible for caring for their pet’s health, hygiene, training, and exercise needs.
  • Owning an emotional support dog can have physical, social, and mental health benefits.

Emotional support animals can be a great source of comfort and companionship for those who struggle with mental health issues like anxiety, depression, PTSD, and more. These animals, including dogs, cats, and other species, offer a sense of security and comfort that can be invaluable for many people.

However, before you decide to bring an emotional support dog into your life, you should consider some important things. This blog post will address some essential factors to keep in mind.

Emotional Support Dogs vs. Service Dogs

Emotional support dogs and service dogs are two categories of dogs that provide unique assistance and services to humans, but they differ in their areas of service and legal recognition.

What are Emotional Support Dogs?

Emotional support dogs offer emotional and psychological support to individuals, mainly those facing mental health conditions such as anxiety, depression, and post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD).

Unlike service dogs, they do not undergo training for specific tasks or duties, but their presence alone provides emotional assistance to their owners. Emotional support dogs do not have public access rights and are only allowed to be in housing with their owners.

What are Service Dogs?

an owner in wheelchair with a dog

On the other hand, service dogs are trained to perform specific tasks or duties to help people with disabilities. They help to mitigate the effects of their owner’s disability, such as physical, sensory, or psychiatric disabilities.

Some common examples of service dogs are guide dogs, hearing dogs, mobility assistance dogs, and psychiatric service dogs. Service dogs are legally recognized and have public access rights, enabling them to go anywhere in public places, accompany their owner on public transport, or stay in housing that may not allow pets.

Housing and Transportation Laws

Another important consideration is the legal rights of owning an emotional support dog. The Fair Housing Act allows emotional support animals to live with their owners, even in housing units without pet policies.

The Air Carrier Access Act also protects emotional support animals traveling on airplanes. However, it’s important to note that these laws only apply to emotional support dogs that are properly documented and meet specific qualifications.


Owning an emotional support dog comes with significant responsibility. You are responsible for the animal’s well-being, including health, food, hygiene, training, and exercise.

One of the most important responsibilities is to take your pet to professional dog grooming services at least once a month. This will help keep their coat, nails, teeth, and other grooming needs healthy and in good condition. Proper grooming is also essential for keeping your pet’s skin and coat free from parasites, infections, and other health issues.

Potential Impact on Your Life

While emotional support dogs can offer numerous benefits, they can also significantly impact your life. Here are a few ways they can affect you:

Physical Health Benefits

Owning an emotional support dog can have physical health benefits, such as lowering blood pressure, heart rate, and cholesterol levels. Taking your dog for walks can also increase your daily exercise, keeping you physically healthy. Owning a dog may even help improve your immune system, reducing the risk of allergies and infections.

Social Life Benefits

owner with his dog outdoor

Emotional support dogs can provide their owners with a better social life. Dogs can give individuals access to new social circles, like dog parks or clubs. They can also improve the quality of social interactions, enhancing self-esteem. Emotional support dogs can also help individuals with social anxiety by providing a buffer that can help lessen the fear of judgment.

Mental Health Benefits

One of the most significant potential impacts of owning an emotional support dog is on your mental health. According to research, owning a dog can reduce anxiety and depression symptoms. The companionship offered by emotional support dogs can lessen loneliness and increase positive emotions. Emotional support dogs can also help individuals with post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) by reducing hyperarousal and helping manage symptoms.

In conclusion, owning an emotional support dog can be immensely rewarding for people with mental health issues. However, before deciding to adopt one, it’s essential to consider the legal requirements, financial costs, responsibility, and potential impact on your life. By considering all these factors, you can decide whether owning an emotional support dog is the right choice for you.

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