Emotional Support Animals- they can be of such great benefit to us. Our pets are our companions, our family, our best friends. It only makes sense that sometimes their presence has the ability to calm and reassure us when we’re stressed, or in a panic. ESAs have been proven to help those with PTSD, clinical depression or anxiety, and many more conditions. Having that bond and relationship with an animal is a very special gift, but what about how they’re feeling in that moment?
Recently, (very recently; I’m on the plane now as I write,) I was at the airport and saw an ESA pitbull/bulldog mix. Beautiful, sweet dog. Unfortunately, she was stressed beyond belief. Panting perfusly, pacing while the owner stood still, and tugging on the leash harness like there’s no tomorrow. It’s hard to watch honestly because the thing is if you plan to register your dog as an ESA, you need to make sure YOU aren’t being selfish. Consider that the dog has no idea why it’s suddenly been taken from the house to this strange place with tons of voices, smells, sounds, and other seemingly scary stimuli.
What I’m saying guys, is if you truly need your pet there with you to feel calmed and reassured, then please don’t do it the injustice of not preparing them. Now, how do you prepare them to not be stressed and anxious? If they don’t have it already, start with strong leash/crate manners. If they know that you’re in control and have their safety in mind, they won’t feel the need to pull or be stressed. Once you have this under wraps, take them places, train in these places, get them really comfortable in all kinds of new environments and reinforce all the good! Heck- go to the airport even; you’ll still be able to practice and get ready for that big day of travel just from outside the security point!
If you need them to be there for you, then be there for them too. They’re thinking, breathing, feeling animals and they can have all the same feelings as you.
Happy Training (and travels)