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Through their calming presence and unconditional love, emotional support dogs may reduce the symptoms of anxiety and depression. The structure of caring for an animal can also help. It gives people a sense of purpose and a reason to do things, like go for walks and socialize.

Emotional support dogs are not the same as service dogs. A service dog is specifically trained to do tasks that help with a particular disability, like guiding a visually impaired person around an obstacle. Different rules apply to emotional support dogs: for example, they generally aren’t allowed to accompany their owners into restaurants or shopping malls. However, housing rules such as pet bans or restrictions are waived for people who have a prescription for an emotional support dog, and they cannot be charged a pet deposit for that dog.

In order for a dog to be certified as an emotional support dog, the owner must get a prescription from a licensed mental health professional. There’s no formal training required. Look for a dog with a temperament that’s patient, gentle and affectionate. Learn more about how to find and train the right emotional support dog for you.