How Do I Train My Emotional Support Dog for Anxiety?

A note before you start to train your pup. We want to clarify that there is a difference between an ESA and a Service Dog. Emotional Support Animals differ in that they don’t require any specific training. However, landlords and property managers can try and revoke your ESA’s status in a building if they are accused of or caught misbehaving. You need to ensure that alongside ESA training, that you train your pup in good behaviour too.

Training Your ESA to help with Your Anxiety 

There are all types of support animals for various conditions. One of the conditions that these animals can help with is anxiety. Anxiety is more than worry. With panic attacks and physical symptoms, this condition can be a full-body experience that prevents you from living life to the fullest. 

Fortunately, an emotional support dog can help.  

Most dogs can register as an emotional service animal or ESA dog. As long as they behave in public spaces, they can be companions who support their owner to deal with emotional issues. 

A properly trained pet can offer more personalized care for your illness. Here are some of the best ways to train your dog for anxiety.

Start with Research

Emotional support animals offer various benefits for wellness and mental health. 

When training your puppy, begin with research. Look into breeds that do the best with people and public spaces. 

You also want to find out the time commitment and make room for it in your schedule. 

Also, make sure you qualify to have your dog registered as an ESA. You’ll need to ask your licensed mental health professional about qualifying for a support animal. 

Once you’ve done the research and acquired approval, you’re ready to teach your support dog. Follow the steps below for emotional support dog training for anxiety.

Focus on Simple Commands to Improve Communication and Improve on Skills
 You may not think commands to “drop it,” “sit,” and “heel” would be that pertinent for your mental health. But these commands can build a relationship with your puppy.

How well your canine supports you hinges on their ability to listen to you for cues. Establishing simple commands makes it easier for them to read body language and listen to you in public places.

When you are teaching your dog basic commands, it isn’t about the commands themselves. It’s about teaching them how to listen.

A few key commands that you may want to start with include:

  • Sit
  • Lie down
  • Watch me
  • Come
  • Stay 

These obedience skills can be easy for an experienced pet owner to teach but perhaps more challenging for others. Below is a bit of information about how that process should look for you and your dog.

Follow These Tips for Stress-Free Basic Commands

Tip One

The most crucial thing to remember about working with your dog is that the instruction should draw on positive reinforcement.  

You should never need to punish or scold your dog to get results. It instills fear and distrust.

Positive reinforcement is mutually beneficial. The universally accepted method of positive reinforcement is with treats.

Tip Two

Use a combination of special occasion treats along with verbal praise and tone of voice. 

This combination strengthens the reinforcement you give your dog for completing the skill.

Tip Three

Don’t worry about instructing for too long at once. Give your dog little lessons in short 5-10-minute bursts. 

Give a treat each time the puppy gets it right. That way, it won’t get too confused about what behavior you’re rewarding.

Advance to Individual Response Training

One of the best ways an emotional support animal can assist someone with anxiety is to provide comfort and physical proximity during a panic attack. But how will the dog know when you have a panic attack?

This situation is where your dog’s strong listening skills are crucial. If you have taught your emotional support animal how to pay attention to you for commands, they will pick up on your panic attacks. 

A panic attack can cause immediate chemical changes in your body. Your dog may be able to recognize if they know to look for it.

There are ways to reinforce comforting behavior and to help your pets learn to read your biological signals. That way, they know when a panic attack is about to start.

Give your puppy a treat when you start to experience any symptoms of panic. Over time, this will help your pet understand that cuddles and physical affection are the right response to these chemical changes and symptoms you are experiencing.

Practice Public Behavior

With an ESA letter, your ESA can live with you peacefully in your apartment or rental.. However, it doesn’t mean your dog will immediately be comfortable around lots of noise, people, and excitement. 

If you want your dog to provide emotional support to you in stressful public spaces, the best thing you can do is practice. Get your dog used to being around other dogs, other people, machines, cars, and more.


Animals can play a vital role in reducing anxiety. Get a head start on training by getting the best advice from the professionals at ESA Registration.