I’m back re: ESAs

Get to know other Positively members here.

Moderators:emmabeth, BoardHost

Post Reply
Joined:Fri Apr 22, 2011 9:35 pm
I’m back re: ESAs

Post by rnor1120 » Sat Mar 30, 2019 3:08 pm

Hello! I’m back after a several years hiatus. We’ve been mostly good and have even added a few kitties (kit bulls) to our pack of pit bulls.

I’m mostly back to ask about opinions regarding dog-reactive dogs as ESA or service dogs. Long story short my dog Chance is reactive to other dogs. He’s mostly controlled by still goes into a panic if he sees another dog. He’s scared, not aggressive.

Two and a half years ago I was diagnosed as bipolar type 2. I really think that in many situations having Chance there would help my mental well being, but at the same time I’m cognizant that he does not like other dogs.

Would you risk having an ESA/service dog like Chance or would it just be too stressful? He’s good ignoring 98% other distractions and I can distract him with treats from other dogs.

Joined:Tue Jul 26, 2011 1:20 pm
Location:Dorset, UK

Re: I’m back re: ESAs

Post by JudyN » Sun Mar 31, 2019 1:46 am

Good to see you, rnor :D What are kit bulls?

What would an ESA be expected to do that Chance isn't doing now? Would he go more places with you, be allowed in shops, restaurants and the like? What extra training would it involve?

My feeling is if you wouldn't put him in a situation he might not cope well with now, then you shouldn't put him in that situation as an ESA. But I'm not an expert, particularly on service dogs.
Jasper, lurcher, born December 2009

User avatar
Joined:Sun Apr 13, 2008 1:40 pm

Re: I’m back re: ESAs

Post by Nettle » Sun Mar 31, 2019 3:36 am

Behaviour is what I do.

Giving humans emotional support is very hard on an animal. They are just not designed to do it. That some of them choose to support their human is wonderful, but it is a great stress on them, and I emphasise the 'choice' aspect because then they can opt out if they are having a less good day or have recently used up all their emotional energy on recent events. Many humans (I am generalising not being specific) constantly put their dogs in stressful situations without seeing the pressure the dog is under. This applies to ordinary pets not just dogs that are used for emotional support.

Therefore if a dog is to be used for human emotional support, that dog should already be calm and confident by nature. Dogs that are specifically bred for this would be the place to start. No amount of love can overcome fear and stress.
A dog is never bad or naughty - it is simply being a dog


Joined:Tue Mar 31, 2015 6:36 pm
Location:United States

Re: I’m back re: ESAs

Post by Herman » Sun Apr 07, 2019 12:04 pm

I struggle with bipolar disorder also and I know first hand the amazing, unconditional love a dog can share with humans. That said, I agree with Nettle. My heart dog, Herman, who’s since passed away, offered support but it was always on his terms. I never pushed him past his comfort zone. As much as I would’ve liked having him with me everywhere, he was dog reactive so he was unsuitable for ESA type assistance in public. I just think that putting our stress onto animals is iffy at best. Blessings :|

Joined:Fri Aug 05, 2011 9:35 pm
Location:North Carolina

Re: I’m back re: ESAs

Post by Erica » Tue Apr 09, 2019 10:52 pm

Reactive dogs are not suitable to be service dogs. It's a pretty universal opinion in service dog communities, though it is not part of the law (though if your dog is barking at another dog, you can be kicked out of establishments). It sounds like you can at least distract Chance, though.

Another thing to keep in mind is that the role of emotional support is not enough to qualify a dog as a service dog in the US. (I think you're in the US, right?) A service dog must be trained to do a task or tasks to mollify or mitigate the individual's disability.

In a service dog, you don't just want bomb-proof stability, you need it. It is very stressful to go out in public, and endure what the general public does to service dogs. Sadly, reports of children running up to and slapping dogs or pulling their tails are common. People will stare and bark at the service dog, or sneak up to pet them behind your back. People will yell, talk to the dog, make kissy noises, scream in fear for minutes at a time (especially with bully breed types), and do their darndest to get the dog to interact with them. It's hard for a dog to deal with all that, AND on top of that, be ready to task at any moment.

For a lot of people with mental health-related disabilities, the extra attention and aggression from the public negates any benefit of a service dog. It is something to think about.

That said, I can't give a firm answer without knowing Chance, but from his history and his dislike of other dogs, I would say he isn't an ideal prospect.

Emotional Support Animals, on the other hand, are not required to do anything but be themselves by law. They do not have public access rights, but getting housing can be easier with a note from a doctor recommending an ESA.

Delta is my ESA, as having an animal to care for keeps me on a schedule and forces me to be active even on my days off from work. This helps combat the relentless grey fog of my depression immensely. On top of that, he is a cuddler, and having him provide deep pressure therapy on my legs or chest helps when I am having a flare up of anxiety.

I'm gathering knowledge and understanding to start a business to help owner-trained service dogs in my area, so if you want to PM and talk, I would be happy to talk through more specifics!
Delta, standard poodle, born 6/30/14

Joined:Fri Apr 22, 2011 9:35 pm

Re: I’m back re: ESAs

Post by rnor1120 » Sun Apr 14, 2019 7:07 pm

Thank you all for your input! I will have a chat with my psychiatrist regarding Chance and will see what she thinks regarding ESA status.

Post Reply