Emotional Support Dogs

Emotional Support Dogs vs Service Dogs. What’s The Difference? Leave a comment

A Dog Is The Only Thing On earth That Loves You More Than You Love Yourself – Josh Billings

Dogs are lovable and loyal creatures.  They are commonly kept pet animals and have a tendency to easily create bonds with human beings. Since their domestication more than 30,000 years ago, dogs have played a brilliant role in the evolution of mankind. In addition to that, dogs have assisted humans with so many tasks including herding, hunting, and protection.

 In the current era, psychological troubles such as anxiety, depression are increasing in humans. To cope with these complicated conditions, there are various animals that are being used for the emotional support of an individual under the supervision of experts. Dogs are one of the commonly used support animals in psychotherapy processes.

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Here we will discuss some important things regarding the emotion support dogs and dog-assisted human therapy under the light of scientific literature.

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What Are Dog-Assisted Psychotherapy And Emotional Support Dog?

Dog-assisted psychotherapy refers to the use of animals in treating a number of psychological ailments in humans. Basically, in such interventions human-animal bond/interaction is manipulated to give positive mental (psychological) and physical benefits to human beings.

AAP is a vast subject matter, in which a wide range of animals is used. Properly trained dogs and horses are commonly used animals in these procedures.

               Dogs Are Commonly Used In Animal-Assisted Therapy

On the other hand, canine/dog assisted-psychotherapy is specifically related to the use of well-trained dogs in therapeutics.

According to American Veterinary Medical Association, animal-assisted therapy supports the mental health of human beings, improves the person’s quality of life, and keeps humans motivated.

Note: In dog-assisted therapy, highly trained service dogs are used to assist patients with mental and emotional problems.

Emotional Support Dog:

These are special dogs that have the capability to give lots of emotional and mental health benefits to the patients through their affection and companionship.

Note: Keep in mind that, the emotional support dogs are pets, not service dogs. Also remember, emotional support dogs are prescribed by the doctors/psychiatrists/psychologist to disabled individuals with mental and emotional complications under the law.

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What Are Key Benefits Of Emotional Support Dogs?

There are a number of mental and physical benefits which can be acquired with the help of emotional support dogs. Some important benefits have been enlisted below:

1)    Interaction with dogs reduces stress and anxiety.
2)    Significant amount of good hormones such as serotonin, oxytocin, prolactin release in the human body, which have positive effects on human mood.
3)    Interaction with dogs decreases the sense of being a loner and boosts up self-esteem, trust, and patience.
4)    It has a valuable impact on reducing rage, aggression, and hostility.
5)    This therapy improves the sense of being socialized (helps humans in building strong social interactions) and stimulates the mind (aids in recapping the past memories and also helps patients with head injuries or chronic mental diseases such as Alzheimer’s disease). In other words, it improves the socio-economic, behavioral, and cognitive functioning of
6)    It also helps in improving cardiac health and lowering blood pressure. Moreover, this therapy has a lot of beneficial impacts on restoring the children with autism (helps them in developing better social interactions.
7)    This therapy reduces the relay of patients on medications.

What Is The Difference Between Service Dogs And Emotional Support Dogs?

Emotional support dogs provide support to the patient through companionship. They are basically pets that help in easing depression and anxiety. They are not trained at all.

On the other hand, service dogs are allowed anywhere in the public. They are basically trained dogs unlike the emotional support dogs to perform specific tasks (As to help the people with disabilities and conduct particular tasks).

Are Emotional Support Dogs Similar To Psychiatric Service Dogs?

Not. As we have discussed before, the function of both dogs is almost the same. But the emotional support dogs are not trained to do a particular task just like psychiatric service dogs.

Are Emotional Support Dogs Suitable For All Ages?

Yes, this has been documented that people of any age can get benefit from emotion support dogs under the law.  For instance, with the help of ES dogs, general life skills, writing skills, encouragement to work in teams can be promoted in children.

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Which Dogs Breeds Are Best For Emotional Support?

There are various dog breeds that are best suited for emotional support. Here we are going to discuss some breeds with their details.

  • Gold retriever

This breed of dog is considered the most popular with respect to emotional support. They are the best family pets. All along with that, they have friendly nature which makes them best suited for individuals with health issues.

  • Yorkshire terrier

This dog is incredible and small-sized which makes it better for travel. All along with that, this breed of dog expects lots of attention from the owner and gives tenfold more in the return. Last but not least, they can easily accept any change in the environment.

  • Labrador retriever

This breed is also a suitable candidate for being an emotional support dog. By natural default, they are friendly and gentle. Over and above, they are most commonly used in emotional support therapy.

  • Corgi

They are active dogs. This breed of dog is famous because of its friendly nature and intelligence. They can easily get frank with humans of all ages. These qualities make them a suitable emotional support dog.

  • Collie

This is also an awesome dog breed. They have an instinctive habit to make sure that their flock or humans in the family are happy. Because of this quality, they are suitable as an emotional support dog

Other Breeds:

Other breeds which can be kept as emotional support dogs are German shepherd American Staffordshire terrier and Irish wolfhound.

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Are Emotional Support Dogs Allowed In Flights?

This thing totally depends upon the airlines. However, some airlines consider emotional support animals as pets and allow them to travel with the patient.

 In addition to that, children with low confidence (unable to express their emotional or physical needs) can also get a lot of benefits from this therapy. This therapy helps in sharpening their quality traits such as acceptance, assertiveness, and responsibility.

In elderly people, this therapy reminds them of the feeling of love, sympathy, and care especially in those who used to have dogs in their past but can’t take care of their own animals anymore.

Researchers also threw light on the positive emotional progress in the hospitalized patients with severe cardiac, anxiety, and other psychological issues. A highly trained dog was allowed to lie on the patient’s bed (so that the patient could touch the dog and interact with it).

After a few minutes of this interaction, various blood parameters were monitored by the team of health specialists. It was found that patients showed positive responses to the interaction with dogs and lower levels of stress hormones (epinephrine & nor-epinephrine) were found in the blood.

It was concluded that dog exposure gives a lot of psychological and physical benefits to sick patients but still, there is a great need to make research in this particular area to reveal more facts.

Recommended Read: Psychological Benefits Of Owning Pets-Things You Need To Know

Important Considerations

Emotional support animals help to assist a patient with anxiety and other mental complications.  All along with a number of health benefits of canine-assisted emotional therapy, it possesses a few potential drawbacks as well. Some people show allergic responses to dogs, so this type of intervention can make their situation more complicated.

This is always better to get recommendations/suggestions from a registered medical practitioner/animal-assisted therapy expert. So, this is mandatory to carry out such interventions only under highly professional settings.


Banks, M. R., & Banks, W. A. (2002). The effects of animal-assisted therapy on loneliness in an elderly population in long-term care facilities. The Journals of Gerontology Series A: Biological Sciences and Medical Sciences, 57(7), M428-M432

Schuck SE, Emmerson NA, Fine AH, Lakes KD. Canine-assisted therapy for children with ADHD: Preliminary findings from The Positive Assertive Cooperative Kids Study. Journal of Attention Disorders. 2015;19(2):125–137

Carroll, J.D., Mohlenhoff, B.S., Kersten, C.M., McNiel, D.E. and Binder, R.L., 2020. Laws and Ethics Related to Emotional Support Animals. The journal of the American Academy of Psychiatry and the Law.

Younggren, J.N., Boisvert, J.A. and Boness, C.L., 2016. Examining emotional support animals and role conflicts in professional psychology. Professional Psychology: Research and Practice47(4), p.255.

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