Are Chihuahuas good emotional support dogs? Are you planning to enroll your Chi in classes or training sessions for therapy or emotional support animal (ESA)?
Perhaps you may be planning to buy/adopt a Chihuahua because you or a loved one needs emotional support.
The good news is that these small dogs indeed make great support animals for people with anxiety, depression, and other emotional/psychological issues. With the right training, your Chihuahua can learn how to support and help any individual having mental or emotional difficulties.
You see, Chihuahuas have many inherent qualities and personality traits that make them excellent support dogs or assistance dog. Naturally, they will need a lot of training and firm handling to specifically assist patients with emotional issues.
Let me tell you all about it.
Are Chihuahuas Good Emotional Support Dogs?
Yes. Most dogs are, in general, very loving, affectionate creatures. Small dogs are especially therapeutic because they are sweet, cuddly, and affectionate. Larger dogs too can be very protective, loyal, and of course they make excellent guard dogs.
The Chihuahua dog breed, like all dogs, has the innate ability to read a human being’s body language.
A Chi can sense its owner’s moods and decipher anxieties. It can easily understand when its human is feeling depressed or anxious.
Accordingly, a trained Chi can immediately cuddle or rub itself against the individual to provide warmth and comfort. Cuddling with an emotional support Chihuahua can make the affected individual feel better, less alone and supported.
While an ESA Chihuahua may not completely alleviate dark clouds of depression, it can certainly uplift the affected individual’s mood.
A Chihuahua’s warm, cuddly body can also make a depressed person stop shivering and crying. Hugging a Chihuahua helps release endorphins (feel good hormones), lowers cortisol (stress causing hormone), and releases oxytocin (the love hormone).
All these factors can be very helpful when a person is battling a psychological issue like anxiety, phobia, or depression.
In the next section, we will dive deeper into reasons why are Chihuahuas good emotional support dogs?
Why Are Chihuahuas Good Emotional Support Dogs?
The following factors help make Chihuahuas good emotional support dogs:
1. Their small size
A Chihuahua is a small dog, which means one can easily lift it on their lap or even into their bed. In the movie Legally Blonde, Reese Witherspoon’s character carries a Chihuahua (a Chi named Moonie in real life) in her purse for helping her tone down anxious thoughts.
The tiny dog is indeed very cute, cuddly, and it loves to snuggle with its humans. It also feels cold all the time, which is one of the reasons why it will gladly jump in your lap and make you smile.
Moreover, this small dog can easily ‘sit’ on the patient to provide warmth and comfort, and press the acupressure points to make the individual feel safe.
2. They are inherently affectionate
Chihuahuas are inherently affectionate and loving dogs. They love their humans and are also playful by nature. Their antics can bring a smile to anyone’s face. This is very useful for depressed patients.
Their loving and affectionate nature makes them great emotional support dogs for people who need that comfort.
3. They are fairly easy to train
Naturally, an emotional support dog needs to be fully house trained and it must have very good manners. After all, the patient will be taking the dog everywhere with them. The last thing one wants is bad behavior from the pet.
The good thing with Chihuahuas is that they are fairly easy to train. With consistent training, one can expect it to stay calm and also calm the patient when the situation arises.
4. They love being around people
A Chihuahua loves to be around people. This small dog does not like being left alone and might even suffer from separation anxiety. This quality makes them great therapy dogs since they love being with the person who needs their support.
Resultantly, it is good around kids and older people. The fact that they don’t need too much exercise makes them good for the elderly as well.
5. They are alert and intelligent
Chihuahuas are fairly smart dogs having an IQ of nearly 60. This means that a Chi needs to hear a single command about 60 times to pick it up. While this may not be as high as a Border collie’s, it is still a fairly intelligent dog breed.
This smart and intelligent dog can quickly assess a situation and also find out a solution for it. Moreover, it can sense the human’s body language and know what they are feeling. This helps them support their humans in good and bad times.
6. They are fairly easy to groom
The smooth coat Chihuahua or the short coat Chihuahua breed is easy to maintain and groom. This quality helps maintain its hygiene – a must-have quality for service animals that are always in public.
The last thing a patient would want is to worry about their dog’s hygiene and grooming. With a Chihuahua, that isn’t at all a problem as grooming a small dog is a lot faster than grooming a larger dog like Golden Retriever or German shepherd.
7. Relatively hardy and healthy breed
An individual with the need for an emotional support dog would naturally want their companion dog to live a long, healthy life. Chihuahuas are a relatively hardy, healthy breed. When you buy your Chi from a good breeder, you can rest assured that it won’t have any of the genetic health issues that are common in the breed.
Also, some breeders specifically breed psychiatric service dog parents that are well-mannered and temperamentally sound so that their pups also inherit the same calm Chihuahua temperament. All these factors can be very handy in an emotional support dog.
What Does an Emotional Support Chihuahua Do? What are the Benefits of Emotional Support Dogs?
An emotional support dog has the following duties:
1. Cuddle with anxious human
An ESA Chihuahua can help the individual feel more relaxed and less anxious. Simply petting a Chi can help release powerful endorphins which can calm the patient down.
ESA dogs are also trained to press certain points on the patient’s body or even sit on them to stop the individual from harming themselves.
2. Provide companionship
An emotional service Chi can accompany the patient everywhere. If it is certified as an ESA, it can even be taken on airplanes or in classrooms. The dog can help provide the individual with companionship without even saying a word. An ESA dog may not offer any advice but its mere presence can soothe nerves and calm frenzied thoughts.
3. Helps one feel independent and important
Since one has to take care of their ESA Chi (feed, groom, take it for walks, play with it), it gives the patient a purpose. It can help them feel important and independent. Playing with their emotional support dog and walking it twice/thrice a day is also good for the individual’s mental and physical health.
What is the Difference between Emotional Support Dog and Service Dog?
People often use the terms service dog, emotional support dog, and therapy dog. However, these are very different and they have different duties. They also undergo different kinds of training.
- Emotional service dogs are dogs that provide companionship to their owners having emotional issues like depression, anxiety, phobia, etc.
- Therapy dogs are trained to provide comfort to people who are undergoing or have undergone trauma (or illness) such as earthquakes, victims of violence, and patients in hospitals, and so on.
- Service dogs are trained to be of assistance to people with disabilities or limited abilities such as the blind, lame, mentally ill patients, patients having epilepsy, etc.
How Much Does it Cost to Train a Chihuahua to be an Emotional Support Dog?
You can either get a trained Chihuahua from an agency or train your Chi to become an emotional support dog.
If you are looking for an emotional service animal for yourself or a loved one, then it is better to get a trained dog from an agency. This can help you save time and energy on training the dog.
If you choose to get a well-trained Chi from the agency, your doctor can guide you regarding which agency to approach and the type of dog you’ll need.
Note that well-trained emotional support dogs are quite expensive and could cost anywhere between $15,000 and $50,000.
You can choose to train your Chi with the help of a trainer. A dog trainer or a canine behaviorist might charge $50 to $300 per session depending the training. You can also opt to buy package lessons costing about $600.
How to Train Your Chihuahua to Support you for Anxiety/Depression? – The Basics
If you or a loved one has an emotional or mental condition, then having an emotional support Chihuahua in your life can do wonders.
You or a family member can work with a dog trainer or a certified canine behaviorist to train your Chi to become an emotional support dog. You may even consider getting your Chi certified as an ESA or emotional support animal.
This certification has many benefits in that, your dog can assist you/patient on airplanes and even in hotels (despite having no-pet policy).
Here are the basics of training a Chihuahua puppy to be an emotional support dog:
1. Stick to one method
There are many different methods of training a Chi to be an emotional support dog. The key is to stick to one method only.
2. Be patient and consistent
All dog training, including basic commands like sit, stay, heel, etc. take time. The key is to be very patient and do it regularly. You may want to set aside time daily (at least 2 times a day for 20 minutes each) to train your pet.
Follow this regularly and you will soon see results.
3. Positive reinforcement
Use only positive methods of training. Avoid hitting, shouting, or punishing your Chi. This won’t help the situation and could even make matters worse.
4. Teach your Chi to hold one command for a longer duration
This is very handy in therapy dogs and emotional support dogs. Teach your Chi to hold one command for a period of time until you give another ‘desist’ command. Start slow and build up on this until your Chi can do one behavior/action for longer time.
5. Teach applying pressure on specific parts of body
Emotional support dogs need to learn how to apply pressure on certain parts of the patient’s body (head, heart, wrist, etc.) as it helps calm down the patient when they have anxiety attack.
Smaller dogs like Chihuahuas can also be taught to ‘sit’ on the patient (in appropriate location) to comfort the patient.
6. Teach them to call for help
Use certain ‘nudge’ words which the dog can understand – so it can call a responsible human for help should the need arise.
7. Train them to stay calm
It is important that your Chi remains calm when it’s human is stressed or has a meltdown. Some patients might benefit from the dog’s licking while others may need time to ‘cool’ off when they only need their Chi to stay by their side. Tweak your training accordingly.
8. Teach it jump in bed/sofa
The patient might be in bed or on a sofa so you’d need to teach your pet to get up on it by their side. Thankfully, Chihuahuas are excellent jumpers and this can come in handy. The dog can then apply pressure on the individual.
9. Train it to understand anxiety/panic attack
If your patient needs help due to frequent panic attacks, the trainer might have to mimic the behavior and get the Chi to assist the individual in the desired manner.
For more information on how to train a dog to be an ESA, click here.
Are Chihuahuas good emotional support dogs?
Yes, indeed this small dog breed is highly capable of being an emotional support dog or seizure alert dog with proper training. After all, it is inherently loving, affectionate, and fairly easy to train.
Being small in size, it can even be picked up with ease and carried around. Its tiny body can also apply pressure on an emotionally distraught individual to reduce panic attacks or comfort the patient.
We hope this brief guide helps you choose/train your ESA dog.