aussie as an emotional support dog
Photo by Yasmine Duchesne .

Can an Australian Shepherd Be an Emotional Support Dog?

Perhaps you already have an Australian Shepherd and want to know if they can qualify as an emotional support animal (ESA). Or, maybe you would like to adopt this breed specifically for the purpose of emotional support. Either way, here is your guide to whether Australian Shepherds are suited to this role or not:

Are Australian Shepherds Suited to Being Emotional Support Companions?

As a breed, Australian Shepherds have many characteristics that make them good emotional support dogs. However, bear in mind that this doesn’t automatically mean that every dog is well-suited to this role.

As you are probably aware, each Australian Shepherd’s personality is different – no two dogs are alike. So, while one pooch may be ideal as an ESA another one may lack the necessary characteristics to take on such a responsibility.

To add to this, while Australian Shepherds are wonderful dogs, they aren’t necessarily the right breed for everyone, especially those who may be struggling with mental health issues.

What Makes an Australian Shepherds a Good Emotional Support Dog?

Here are the various traits of Australian Shepherds that can make them great ESAs:

Aussies Bond Easily to Humans

This breed is one of the most people-oriented and loyal out there. You will find that puppies and adults alike will easily bond to the humans in their family.

Once they have bonded to you, they will stick to you like glue. Wherever you go, they will follow. They will constantly seek out your companionship and ensure that you are always comforted and supported by them.

Australian Shepherds Are Intelligent

In addition to this, Australian Shepherds are also one of the most intelligent dog breeds. This means that they can often pick up on when you are unhappy and stressed out and will seek to comfort you in their own way.

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At the same time, such a trait allows you to train your Australian Shepherd to respond to a particular command or mood. In turn, this can help alleviate any mental health symptoms that you may be experiencing at that time.

Aussies Have Playful Personalities

Australian Shepherds are great at cheering you up. They have such playful personalities and are constantly looking to engage you.

Their many antics are also sure to keep you in stitches, even when you are feeling low.

Australian Shepherds Encourage an Active Lifestyle

People with certain mental health issues such as depression can often improve with frequent and strenuous exercise.

With an Australian Shepherd, you have the perfect encouragement to get outside every day. This is because this breed requires around 1 to 2 hours of physical activity a day.

So, whether you like it or not, you will find yourself forced to go outdoors. With time, this could help you feel healthier and happier.

How to Know if an Australian Shepherd is the Right Breed for You

It is a good idea to give some thought to whether or not an Australian Shepherd is the best ESA for you. Here are some things to consider first:

Aussies are Headstrong

Yes, Australian Shepherds are incredibly loving and loyal. However, these pups can be quite headstrong as well. It is important for you to show them exactly who is in charge.

It is especially important to take on a leadership role during training or your dog may not take yourself too seriously. If you aren’t able to establish yourself as the head of the house, you may find your dog taking advantage of you.

Your Aussie Will Need Constant Attention

It isn’t uncommon for Australian Shepherds to be known as “Velcro dogs” due to their tendency to stick to you. While this is certainly wonderful, it also means that this breed can’t be left alone for too long.

On average, you shouldn’t leave your pup alone for more than four to six hours at a time. Therefore, if you have a job that requires you to be away from the house for extended periods of time, then an Australian Shepherd may not be a good fit for you.

Australian Shepherds Require Physical and Mental Stimulation

Australian Shepherds are one of the most energetic dog breeds around. You will need to exercise them at least 1 to 2 hours a day.

In many cases, a simple walk isn’t enough. To truly tire them out, you will also have to include a game of fetch or some other activity.

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To add to this, these pups need to be mentally stimulated as well. This involves agility training, puzzles, and other ways to keep your pooch occupied.

As mentioned, this can be a great way to ensure that you are staying active and engaged as well. However, if you don’t have the time or inclination for such things, this breed will not be a good fit for you.

How to Get and Qualify an Australian Shepherd as an ESA

Here is what you need to know about finding and qualifying your Australian Shepherd as an ESA:

Finding an Australian Shepherd

If you don’t already have a dog, then your first order of business is to find an Australian Shepherd.

As you are looking for an emotional support animal, a puppy may not be your best option. Taking care of puppies is a great deal of work due to potty training and training in general. They may also not have all the characteristics that make up a great ESA just yet.

Due to this, it is best to find an adult Australian Shepherd. Thus, you can check out local or out-of-state shelters. They should have several dogs for you to choose from.

The benefit of adopting an adult dog is that you have a better idea of what their personality is like. It is easier to select a pooch who is well-suited to your own personality as well as any mental health issues that you may be dealing with.

Getting Your Australian Shepherd Qualified

If you already have an Australian Shepherd, then your only move is to get them qualified as an emotional support animal. In case you have adopted one, you may begin this process after the initial settling down period.

It should be noted that only your psychologist or psychiatrist may recommend an emotional support animal. These experts will provide a letter or a “prescription” that identifies your pet as an ESA.

As you are probably aware, there are limitations to your dog’s role as an emotional support dog. After all, they are different from service dogs or psychiatric support dogs and don’t enjoy the same benefits.

In most states, your dog will be accepted into most forms of housing as support animals do fall under the category of assistance animals.

However, this courtesy may not be extended to other public or private spaces. Due to this, you should know where you can and can’t take your Australian Shepherd.

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There are various agencies that claim to provide your ESA with certifications or licenses. However, legally, these documents don’t have any power. It isn’t necessary to get them. In most cases, your psychiatrist’s letter will serve as enough proof.

Training Your Australian Shepherd

Now, as an emotional support animal, your Australian Shepherd doesn’t require any special training.

Nevertheless, it is still important to ensure that your pooch is well-behaved in a variety of settings to ensure that they can support you as needed.

Socialize Your Dog Well

As an emotional support animal, your dog will need to accompany you to most places. Here, they are likely to meet and interact with various people and animals.

It is important for your Australian Shepherd to behave appropriately in such situations. They should be calm and friendly, and not react with any kind of aggression or apprehension in such situations.

This is especially true in crowds. The best way to guarantee this is to socialize your dog at an early age. They should meet lots of types of different people and be introduced to all kinds of dogs as well.

This socialization should continue later on as well, with your dog frequently meeting people and animals.

Get Your Aussie Used to Public Spaces

It is just as important that your dog knows how to behave in public spaces. This is especially true for indoor areas.

Your dog should know not to relieve themselves everywhere. They should also be trained out of the habit of boisterously running up to things or people. Sniffing should also be kept to a minimum.

Your pooch shouldn’t be startled by loud noises such as shouting, horns blaring, loud music, etc.

Train Your Aussie to Specific Commands

This isn’t a requirement for an emotional support animal, but is a great use of an Australian Shepherd’s intelligence and talents.

Is there a particular type of soothing mechanism that you are looking for when you are anxious or upset? It can be as simple as cuddling.

Whatever it is, teach your pooch the appropriate response to a command that can make you feel better. As an added bonus, the more tasks that your Australian Shepherd has to do, the happier they will be.

Australian Shepherds can be great emotional support dogs, but this does depend on both the pup as well as you.

Now that you have more background information about this, you can make a more informed decision.