It cannot be easy to find emotional support sometimes. The people you turn to for support might not be available. Your friends are not always one call away. You might be away from your family. But, dog owners can fill the role of a new support system.
A dog’s presence can naturally provide emotional support for many people. Dogs are often naturally affectionate, loyal, and dedicated to their owners. If a doctor has recommended an emotional support animal (ESA) to you, you can train your dogs to be calmer and more responsive whenever you need them.
Dogs as Emotional Support
Some pups are too shy or irrepressible. They might need a little push to be more affectionate so that they may support or assist you during your bad days. The dog’s breed affects its characteristics. Some are idle, threatening, reserved, or overly excited. These qualities do not make dogs unworthy.
According to SpiritDog Training, dog training is important because a calm and responsible canine can begin training at the tender age of one. It is best to find breeds that are more outgoing, inquisitive, and eager. Popular breeds include Corgis, Yorkshire terriers, Golden Retrievers, Labrador Retrievers, Pomeranians, and German Shepherds.
Spending time with canines reduces the feeling of isolation and anxiety. Having a dog as a companion can relieve tension, boost your confidence, and increase security in social situations. They can act as a distraction from negative energy and thoughts.
A dog’s presence can help reduce stress because, over time, your body releases oxytocin and endorphins. Caring for them gives a sense of motivation and induces a routine. This encouraging routine can benefit people who live with depression.
Start with Basic Training
Once you are comfortable with your dog, train him/her early with basic training. This consists of basic commands like “sit,” “down,” “stay,” and “heel.” These lessons should begin immediately for smoother emotional support training later on.
Other than basic training, it is important to teach your dog outside the house. This includes preventing ruckus in social settings. Your dog should know not to bark, lunge, bite, or beg for food in front of others.
Calming Your Anxiety
After training your dog the basics, you can teach your dog a few methods to calm your anxiety. When your dog is trained correctly, the possibility of anxiety attacks is lessened. Deep Pressure Therapy (DPT) is a method that alleviates signs of stress, anxiety, self-harm tendencies, depression, and autism.
The premise of DPT is to put pressure on certain parts of your body known to relieve stress. In a suitable area, smaller dogs will rest on top of you. Larger dogs will lay their head and paws on you.
Step 1: “Paws up” and “Paws down/off” Commands
On the sofa or anywhere you can sit comfortably, you need to teach your dog to join you and get down. The commands for these actions are “paws up” and “paws down.” Tempt your dog with a treat while moving to the sofa. Say “paws up” and give the treat once you have reached the sofa.
Be patient with your dog. Continue doing this exercise until your dog understands what it means. All four paws should be on the sofa if you have a small dog. Larger dogs can lay their heads or front paws on the sofa.
Train your dogs to take their paws off the sofa when you say the command, “paws down” or “paws off.” Reward your dog with treats when they react correctly. Relieve giving treats halfway through and utilize verbal praise as a reward.
Step 2: Teaching Physical Pressure
Keep your dog beside you on the sofa. For smaller dogs, paws must be on your shoulders and the head beside yours. They can easily apply the right pressure. Larger dogs must have their paws on your legs or your lap while keeping their heads down while you are sitting. They will impulsively shift their weight to you.
Lie down, tap your chest, and give the “paws up” command. Your dog will be confused but be patient and offer a treat until they get comfortable with the idea. Reward them with a treat when they lie or sit beside you.
Then say, “paws down.” After a while, try substituting treats with verbal praise.
Once there is pressure on your body, teach them to stay on the position for a few minutes. It is important to maintain a calm disposition so that your dog can soothe you better. Show them the right position by using command words.
Repeat this process and stop giving treats halfway through. They will realize that they are completing a task and not playing a game. If you slowly become irritated, take a break and do easy commands, and try again later.
Over time, prolong the amount of time your dog lays on you by using treats, verbal praise, or prolonged petting.
Recognizing the Manifestations of Stress and Anxiety
After training your dog what to do when you are anxious, it is time to teach them how to detect your symptoms to provide the help you require. You will need to imitate your general habits when you are anxious.
When you imitate anxious behavior and use the commands on your dogs, develop a proper reward system. You can provide treats at first then practice without treats. During DPT, use physical cues like petting and give verbal praise as a reward.
Keep training your dog in these steps. And over time, your dog will recognize signs of anxiety and your commands.
Dogs are excellent Emotional Support Animals. You can reap benefits from an ESA if you are dealing with a difficult mental illness stronger than stress. When properly trained, they are commanded easily in stressful situations instead of being a pain to deal with.
Anyone can train their dogs to be an Emotional Support Animal. It only takes a little bit of time and patience. And, training them will only make your emotional bond stronger with each other.