Since the number of reported mental health issues is on the rise, it is no surprise that adopting and training emotional support dogs to assist with such needs as anxiety, stress, and depression is more popular than ever before. This is because the affection and companionship provided by emotional support animals (ESAs) can produce an extensive array of therapeutic benefits. But, before you adopt an ESA, keep these few important traits in mind to help you find the best fit for your mental health needs.

What is an ESA?
An emotional support animal (ESA) is essentially any pet that makes you feel loved and gives you the calming relief you need from mental health concerns like high levels of anxiety, stress, or depression. However, with a little public behavior training and an ESA letter, you can enjoy spending time with your ESA dog while out and about in most places, such as many stores that would otherwise be off-limits to the average pet.

5 Traits to Look for When Adopting Your Emotional Support Dog

1. Calm Energy Level
One of the most important traits of an emotional support dog is that they’re supposed to radiate a calm and happy energy. If you’re already struggling with mental health, having an aggressive, hyper, or nervous dog can worsen your condition. Instead, look for a more subdued dog who is just as content sleeping on the couch as he or she is touring a hardware store or taking a nature walk with friends.

2. Low Anxiety in Public Settings
In addition to forming a bond with you, your emotional support dog also needs to be social and easygoing in public settings. With an ESA letter, you can take your dog to a lot of places. However, dogs who quickly become overly excited around new people or other animals might not be able to offer you the required support you need in those moments. Then again, perhaps the distraction and training techniques are just what you need in order to take your mind off of your own anxiety or fears. In other words, while dogs with lower levels of anxiety around lots of new sounds, smells, and experiences may be adding stress for some dog owners, it could be just what the doctor ordered for others. Generally speaking, however, you will probably lean towards a more laid-back personality when meeting new people and animals to prevent undue stress.

3. No Signs of Sensitive Areas
Just like humans, dogs can also suffer from a range of physical and mental health issues. We have already discussed how getting a happier dog is better for your mental health However, if using your adopted best friend as an emotional support dog, he or she should not have too many sensitive spots where he or she may feel protective or irritated easily.
In a different situation, adopting a dog that is injured or has sensitive areas he or she does not want to be touched could work out by avoiding petting those sensitive areas. However, when you’re already struggling with mental health and you need a dog who can go with you to public places, you should search for a dog who can handle the attention without getting upset.

4. No Signs of Aggression Over Food
Another area that should be tested before adopting is how possessive he or she is over food, treats, toys, and you. Try providing food or a toy and, if safe, taking it away to see how he or she reacts. This will help you make sure you can properly care for the dog without adding stress. A dog that shows no signs of aggression over food and other daily activities can be easier to handle both at home and while out-and-about.

5. Interested in What You’re Doing
An emotional support dog needs to be attentive to you, which means more curiosity about what you are doing than what’s going on around them. Please note, this characteristic needs to be fostered with a few minutes of consistent daily training in the beginning.

However, the dog you adopt should show signs of being more focused on getting to know you than what is happening in his or her environment. If the dog is constantly distracted, he or she may miss out on important clues of discomfort and anxiety that you may be exhibiting or worse, add to the already stressful situation. An attentive dog will be able to learn your signs of concerns and symptoms as time passes and you develop a trusting bond. Therefore, try to search for a dog who watches you as you walk on lead and thinks you are the most interesting thing around.

Where to Start Your Search
If you are trying to cope with high levels of anxiety, stress, or depression, consider getting an emotional support dog by adopting one of our loving furry friends waiting for their forever homes. They are eager to bring you soothing joy wherever you roam with just a little training, patience, and quality time together. Check out our adoption page and discover that special furry companion who will love you unconditionally.