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Companion Dogs - Everything You Need to Know

A companion dog, or emotional support dog, is a vital partner for individuals struggling with mental health. These dogs provide companionship and unconditional love that can have tremendous positive impacts on people struggling with their mental health.

Kristi Carignan
May 15, 2024
May 14, 2024
5 minute read
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May 14, 2024
August 18, 2021
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Companion dogs, also known as emotional support dogs, are faithful partners that stay by your side to support your mental health. Learn how to certify a companion dog today!

Companion dogs, also known as emotional support dogs, are more than simply a pet. What differentiates a companion dog from a normal pet is the benefits it has for an owner coping with a mental health disability. While dogs can be a positive influence in our lives, a companion dog or ESA is an essential form of therapy for a variety of mental health disabilities, ranging from anxiety to depression and many more.

A companion dog or ESA can be made official by obtaining a document from a licensed mental health professional called an ESA letter. This letter comes with a range of legal protections for you and your dog, especially under the Fair Housing Act.

What is a Companion Dog?

Companion dogs, often referred to as emotional support dogs, play a vital role in supporting individuals struggling with mental health conditions. They offer emotional support, comfort, and companionship to their owners, helping alleviate symptoms associated with anxiety, depression, PTSD, and other mental health disorders. These dogs are not trained to perform specific tasks like service dogs; their presence alone provides therapeutic benefits to their owners.

Companion Dogs vs. Service Dogs

It's important to distinguish between companion dogs and service dogs. While both provide assistance to individuals with disabilities, they serve different purposes. Service dogs undergo rigorous training to perform specific tasks that aid their disabled handlers, such as guiding individuals with visual impairments, alerting to seizures, or providing mobility assistance. On the other hand, companion dogs offer emotional support without the need for specialized training in tasks.

If you are looking for answers to common questions about service animals? Look no further than the ADA.

How to Get a Companion Dog

Adopt a Dog

One way to obtain a companion dog is through adoption from a shelter or rescue organization. Many dogs in shelters are well-suited for emotional support roles and need loving homes. By adopting, you not only gain a loyal companion but also provide a second chance to a deserving animal.

Get an ESA Letter

To qualify your dog as a companion animal, you'll need to obtain an Emotional Support Animal (ESA) letter from a licensed mental health professional (LMHP). This letter certifies that you have a mental health condition and that the presence of a companion dog is beneficial for your well-being. With this letter, you gain certain housing rights protected under federal law.

Who Needs a Companion Dog?

Companion dogs can benefit individuals struggling with a variety of mental health conditions, including but not limited to:

  • Anxiety disorders
  • Depression
  • Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD)
  • Bipolar disorder
  • Autism spectrum disorder
  • Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD)
  • Panic disorders

The unconditional love and support provided by companion dogs can help alleviate symptoms, promote relaxation, and improve overall mental well-being.

How to Qualify for a Companion Dog

To qualify for a companion dog, you must have a diagnosed mental health condition that significantly impacts your daily life. This condition must be certified by an LMHP, such as a psychiatrist, psychologist, or licensed therapist. Additionally, you must demonstrate that the presence of a companion dog alleviates symptoms of your mental health disorder.

Best Companion Dog Breeds

When choosing a companion dog, consider breeds known for their affectionate nature, adaptability, and gentle temperament. Here are five of the most popular best companion dog breeds:

  1. Golden Retriever: Known for their friendly disposition and loyalty, Golden Retrievers excel at providing emotional support and companionship.
  2. Labrador Retriever: Labs are highly social and affectionate dogs, making them great companions for individuals in need of emotional support.
  3. Cavalier King Charles Spaniel: These small, gentle dogs thrive on human companionship and are well-suited for individuals seeking comfort and affection.
  4. Poodle: Poodles are not only intelligent and trainable but also make excellent companion animals due to their loving nature and hypoallergenic coat.
  5. Beagle: Beagles are known for their playful personality and strong bond with their owners, making them ideal companions for those in need of emotional support.

Where Can Companion Dogs Go with Me?

Companion dogs are afforded certain rights under federal law, particularly in terms of housing accommodations. With an ESA letter from an LMHP, you are entitled to live with your companion dog in housing that may otherwise have pet restrictions or pet fees. However, it's essential to note that companion dogs do not have the same public access rights as service dogs and may not be permitted in certain public places.

Do I Need to Register My Companion Dog?

Unlike service dogs, companion dogs do not require formal registration or certification. However, having an ESA letter from an LMHP is necessary to qualify your dog as a companion animal and gain certain rights, such as housing accommodations. It's essential to keep this letter on hand in case you encounter any challenges regarding housing or accommodations for your companion dog.


Companion dogs play a vital role in providing emotional support and companionship to individuals struggling with mental health conditions. By understanding the qualifications and certifications associated with companion dogs, individuals can ensure they receive the necessary support and accommodations for their well-being. Whether through adoption or obtaining an ESA letter, companion dogs offer unconditional love and comfort to those in need. Let Pettable assist you on your journey to finding your perfect companion dog be filled with love, understanding, and the promise of a brighter tomorrow.

Meet the author:
Kristi Carignan

Kristi Carignan is a seasoned freelance writer with over 20 years of experience crafting copy for global agencies and brands. When she's not writing, she enjoys spending time with her furry companions, Sugar the PomChi and Rudy the Shiba Inu, and indulging in hobbies like crafting and home renovation.

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