There are a variety of emotional support dogs that people usually see around in public or at home, and they include dogs like poodles, French bulldogs, and even the golden retriever.
However, there is one breed that has not yet received the recognition that it deserves when it comes to being an emotional support dog. They are known for their striking blue eyes, their characteristic wagging tails, and friendly disposition.
I’m sure you know which breed I’m talking about. I’m talking about the Australian Shepherd.
Are Aussies Good Emotional Support Dogs?
Australian Shepherds, without a doubt, are some of the most outstanding therapy dogs. They’re one of the greatest ESA pets you could hope for. Not only are they incredible family pets, but their good nature and loving temperament make them a perfect fit for a person who needs help managing their emotional health.
Australian Shepherds are also known for using their intelligence well, which makes them excellent service dogs as well. They are good at learning new tricks, obeying commands, and retrieving objects for their owners.
Another thing to realize about Australian Shepherds is that they are very playful dogs. This might not seem like an important trait to have as a therapy dog, but it actually serves a very specific purpose.
Playing around with your Aussie is an excellent tool that you can use to help manage stress or just simply distract yourself from any emotional problems that you might be having at the moment.
Emotional Support Dog vs. Service Dogs
Many people are getting confused between emotional support dogs and service dogs. Although both of these special types of pets provide their owners with companionship and comfort, they also have a very significant difference between them that anyone should know about.
Emotional support dogs do not require any formal training to help their owners manage the symptoms related to any psychological disorder or mental illness. They simply serve as a comforting presence in the person’s life.
That said, do note that although all dogs offer their owners emotional connection, not all dogs are qualified as emotional support animals. To be qualified as an ESA, a mental health professional must determine that the presence of the dog is necessary to provide relief for the symptoms caused by a person’s condition.
For example, if you are suffering from depression, your therapist might determine that an emotional support dog is needed to help you manage your emotional struggles. If this determination is made, then you can have your dog registered as an ESA with the proper documentation to back it up.
On the other hand, service dogs must go through extensive training to learn how to perform various tasks that their owners cannot do on their own.
For example, these dogs are responsible for helping their owners with basic day-to-day tasks such as reminding them to take their medications, helping them with navigation, and even providing pressure relief to their owners when they are experiencing symptoms of a panic attack.
While several states have laws permitting people with disabilities to keep emotional support dogs, it must be noted that most Emotional Support Animals do NOT have public access. This means that, unlike service animals, ESA’s can NOT go anywhere their owners go, including restaurants, entertainment venues/locations, hotel rooms, and other public spaces.
Signs That Indicate You Need an Emotional Support Animal
If you are confused about whether or not you need an Emotional Support Animal, you can consider the following as indicators that you might be suffering from a mental health condition and could benefit from having an ESA to assist you in managing it.
You Have a Depression Disorder or PTSD
Just like having a physical health condition, if you have a major depressive disorder and it’s interfering with your quality of life, then getting an emotional support dog might be the thing you need to help you manage your symptoms.
Without an emotional support dog, you might resort to using drugs or alcohol to cope with your depression. But with an Emotional Support Dog, you will have a constant companion that will help improve your mood via unconditional love and support.
You Have a General Anxiety Disorder
One of the most common reasons why people get an Emotional Support Dog is because they have a general anxiety disorder. Anxiety sometimes is caused by an unresolved series of past experiences and, as a result, causes the person to be constantly anxious.
For example, you might have stressed yourself out when you were trying to prepare for your finals. As a result, even years later, you might still be suffering from anxiety due to this event because your brain can’t stop reminding you about your past experience.
By having an Emotional Support Dog, you will have a constant companion by your side to help you manage your anxiety and bring you comfort when needed. In addition, you can socialize with other dog owners while going on walks with your dog, which will further help you manage your symptoms.
You Experience Extreme Loneliness
Loneliness is a symptom that many people suffer from but fail to recognize as a mental health condition. Living alone or even losing someone you love can cause you to feel lonely. Without socialization with other people, your mental health can deteriorate because of this extreme loneliness and trigger more other mental emotions like depression or anxiety.
Having an Emotional Support Dog will provide you with the companionship that you need to help improve your mood and keep negative thoughts at bay. Caring, feeding, and cuddling can serve as a great source of comfort and therapeutic assistance.
You Have Experienced Traumatic Event
A sudden traumatic event can also cause you to feel overwhelmed and trigger other mental emotions. For example, if your loved one suddenly passed away due to unexpected causes, then your mind might not be able to cope with the sudden pain and sadness.
Having an Emotional Support Dog can help you distract your thought by providing you with something else to focus on while you are going through a hard time.
You Have Mood Swings
Mood swing is a situation when your mood drastically changes in a short period of time. For example, you might be happy one moment and then suddenly sad.
It can be caused by a hormonal change or a minor and bipolar depression. This condition occurs in men and women, but the latter tend to experience it more since certain hormonal changes during menstruation might trigger mood swings.
Mood swings can make you feel low, irritable, and upset. In such conditions, you might lash out at people around you because of your sudden mood swing. That is why having an emotional support dog can help channel these negative emotions into something else that isn’t destructive.
You can play and cuddle with your Emotional Support Dog when you’re feeling upset, and this will help in turning your negative emotions into something positive.
What Traits Make a Good Emotional Support Dog?
Every dog has its own temperament that will play a big part in how effective it is as an emotional support dog. Here are some traits that you want to see in your Aussie before you certify it as your emotional support dog:
- Calm and Patient: An Emotional Support Dog should also be calm and patient in order for you to feel comfortable around it. You don’t want a hyper dog that will start barking when someone rings the doorbell or jump on somebody when they walk through the front door.
- Loyal: Part of being a great emotional support dog is that they will always be loyal to you.
- Friendly: A dog that is friendly with both adults and children is a joy to be around. It will help improve your mood because you won’t feel stressed out or anxious when you are with it. Moreover, since you’ll be taking your dog for walks, this will give you great opportunities to socialize with other people.
- Obedient: An Emotional Support Dog must know the basic commands like sit, stay, and lay down. This will allow you to control your dog when you have to.
- Affectionate: A great Emotional Support Dog is one that loves to cuddle with its owner. Sometimes, all you might need is a good hug in order to make your day better, and an affectionate dog will be right there for you every step of the way.
- Attentive: A good Emotional Support Dog should also pay attention to your needs. For example, if you are feeling sad and your dog is too busy playing with its toys or chewing on a bone, then it’s not the right type of dog for you.
How Do You Certify Your Emotional Support Dog?
In the US, the only legitimate way to qualify your Australian shepherd as an Emotional Support Dog is to obtain a legitimate letter from a mental health professional.
To obtain this letter, a licensed professional will assess the symptoms that you are experiencing and provide a letter to prove your qualification. The letter must be signed by your mental health professional and has all relevant information that states that you have been diagnosed with a mental illness or condition.
To be clear, if you do obtain an ESA letter, you are not required to provide any documentation to anyone who asks for it or register your dog as an Emotional Support Dog on any official website.
Many official institutions do not recognize registrations or certifications of Emotional Support Animals.
An Australian Shepherd will make a great emotional support dog because it’s affectionate and friendly by nature and can easily adapt to new and different environments. It is also obedient enough for basic training to become an excellent emotional support dog you can depend on in tough times.