What Is An Emotional Support Dog?


If you’re wondering ‘What is an emotional support dog?” you aren’t alone. And don’t worry if you find this all confusing, because it totally is.

There are so many types of working dogs. Dogs are amazing, and humans use them all over the world for a wide array of tasks. Read more: Meet 31 Purposely Bred Working Dogs. Opens in a new tab.

So it is naturally confusing to distinguish between these types of dogs. But, not to worry! We will ease the confusion right now.

what is an emotional support dog

So, What’s The Difference?

While both are dogs, Service Dogs and Emotional Support Dogs are simply different in their definitions. And different in what exactly they can do to assist us humans. These are not interchangeable.

An Emotional Support Dog is a dog that helps a person by comforting and offering affection. People do not specially train these dogs. They do not need to be trained at all.

They help people who are prone to emotional and/or mental conditions, by simply ‘being there.’ Awwww!

service dogs

Emotional Support vs. Service Dogs

Here’s the thing. Humans (Service Dog organizations, dog trainers, or owners themselves) train individual Service Dogs for a specific person.

For a specific reason. For a specific disability. People train the dog to perform a specific task or job(s) for that person.

The person is living with a disability, and the dog helps ease daily life in some specific way.

Service Dogs can help with mobility assistance, diabetes, autism, seizures, sight, turning on and off lights, picking up keys, even making phone calls, and much more.

People do not train Emotional Support Dogs in the same way, if at all. There is no ‘specific task for a specific person’ thing going on.

Emotional Support Dogs are doing their job simply by being present.

The ADA requires (by law) that Service Dogs be permitted into public places anywhere the general public is allowed to go.

Emotional Support Dogs aren’t, in the same way, invited into public areas in the same way that Service Dogs are.

ADA Americans with Disabilities Act

However, Emotional Support Dogs are allowed into housing situations where a ‘no pet’ policy is in place. Emotional Support Dogs are not pets; neither are Service Dogs.

The law protects people with their Service Dogs through the ADA: Americans with Disabilities Act.

Emotional Support Dogs aren’t supported in the same way, but are supported by the Fair Housing Act as well as the Air Carrier Access Act.

This means that someone can take their Emotional Support Dog onto the airplane with them if they need to fly somewhere.

Also note that Emotional Support Animals do not necessarily need to be dogs. There is a known Emotional Support Horse who indeed went flying on an airplane!

In the ADA, it says that a Service Animal must be a dog.

Read more: How To Make Your Dog An Emotional Support Dog

Read more about the different kinds of Service Dogs, Emotional Support Dogs, and Therapy Dogs.

Sam Amy Nelson

Sam Amy Nelson (she/her) is an advocate for people with disabilities and mental health.

Recent Posts