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How to Buy an Emotional Support Dog

Victoria & Charles

San Diego, CA

Victoria discusses how having an ESA letter has changed her life


New York, NY

Beyonce addresses the ease of the ESA process at TheDOGtor.org

How It Works

Complete Online Exam

All individuals seeking an Emotional Support Animal prescription must complete an online medical examination consisting of 74 questions. It takes anywhere from 15 – 20 minutes to complete so please make sure that you are ready to fill it out and move forward, since you won't be able to save your exam and come back to it later. You can begin the exam by clicking on the “online medical exam”tab located in the main navigation menu or by clicking the “get started now” tab below.

Make Payment

Potential patients should keep in mind that if the evaluating medical doctor does not feel comfortable writing you a prescription for an emotional support animal, then you will receive a same-day refund. Refunds are granted only to those who are not approved by the evaluating physician. After completing your online exam you will be required to make a payment and choose a treatment plan that best applies to you. If you need an ESA letter for housing, please choose the housing plan. The entry level housing plan is called the “care plan” and is 159.00. If you need a letter only for travel, then please choose the travel plan for 149.00. If you need documentation for both, you will need to select the Compassion Plan for 199.00, which will cover both travel and housing. Regardless, you must submit payment at that time or your exam will not be processed.

The DOGtor Reviews Your Exam

The Dogtor reviews your exam & you'll receive a notification within 48 hours if approved or not. Approval is typically the same day on a normal work week. In the event that the Dogtor needs to do a further evaluation he may want to speak to you over Skype. However, it's very rare.

You've Been Approved!

All individuals who have submitted an online exam will hear back from the evaluating physician within 24-48 hours. The doctor will email you from this or her personal email address to the email address that you have on file, so please make sure to check spam folders and wait patiently for the correspondence from the M.D. A doctor may ask you more questions about your exam so please be prepared to provide further details if they want more info in order for them to make an informed decision. Usually these questions are about asking for more clarity or that you have been vague in answering a specific question. As stated in Step 3, if the doctor does not approve you, you will receive a same-day refund. However, in the event that you are approved, you will receive your emailed PDF copy of the prescription letter typically on the same day. You will also receive a courtesy hard copy that will be mailed to the address that you have on file when taking the online exam. The hard copy take a few business days to arrive, depending on where you are located in the USA.

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How to Buy an Emotional Support Dog

The only requirement of an emotional support dog (ESA dog) is that they provide you with support in the form of companionship and affection. So picking out an ESA dog is more about personality and disposition than it is about specific training.

If you already have a dog, it may fit the bill as your ESA dog, all you need to do is get a proper ESA letter to make it official. If you don’t already have a dog, there are some things to consider.

Traits of a Good ESA

Although every dog is unique, often specific breeds share certain traits that might make one breed a better choice for you than another.

For example, if you have anxiety, a dog that is quick to bark at random noises or has hyperactive tendencies should probably not be your first choice to be your emotional support dog. 

Before “shopping” for your new companion, list the traits that you want in your ESA dog, for example:

  • Relaxed in public
  • Mellow at home
  • Good with children
  • Protective

Size Matters

When considering an ESA make sure you choose a dog that is a size you can manage both on a leash in public and in regards to your living situation. It would be a mistake to pick a dog that could overpower you while walking or needs more exercise area — both inside and out — than your home offers.

Research Breeds

Once you have determined traits and size, research breeds that best match up to your requirements. 

The process starts with the elimination: if you want a dog that weighs between 15 and 25 pounds, you can immediately remove a number of large breeds, such as Golden Retriever, German Shepherd, and Saint Bernard. You can also eliminate a number of smaller breeds such as Yorkshire Terrier, Pomeranian, and Bichon Frise. 

Now that you’ve narrowed the field to dogs such as Dachshund, Cavalier King Charles Spaniel, Pug, and French Bulldog, you can start looking at breed traits. For example, Dachshunds are often very energetic, Cavalier King Charles Spaniels are typically very affectionate, Pugs are usually laid back, and French Bulldogs are commonly very social.

There are many websites that offer information on breed size and traits. You can also ask people you know with dogs, dog breeders, or veterinarians.

Where to Buy Your ESA Dog

If you are going to buy from a store or a breeder, consider checking with the Better Business Bureau and a local veterinarian to make sure that the seller is on the up-and-up.

As an alternative, you might consider getting a dog from a local animal shelter or breed-specific rescue group. Many people feel that adopting a dog that needs a home is a very positive and enriching experience. The Shelter Pet Project can help you find a great companion in your area.

ESA Dog Training

Your ESA dog is not required to have specific training. It is important, however, that you teach your companion how to behave well in public. Most dogs can pick up basic commands of sit, stay, and come in just a few weeks. It is also important that your ESA dog is well socialized so they don’t lunge, jump, or beg for food in public.

Although this type of training is quite simple, if you don’t think you are up to it, enlist the help of a dog-friendly friend or a professional trainer.

Once I Have My New Dog, How Do I Make Them an Official ESA Dog?

You need an official ESA letter to access your rights under the Fair Housing Act (FHA) and the Air Carrier Access Act (ACAA). You can get your ESA letter from a licensed mental health professional who is well-versed in the requirements and is supportive of emotional support animals.

Many people have found it simpler, faster, and less expensive to get the ESA letter from the DOGtor. Since we have accelerated thousands of letters and have a nationwide network of licensed mental health professionals, getting your official ESA letter through the DOGtor becomes an easy choice. We even offer a same day 100% guarantee if you don’t qualify, so there is no risk for you. 

Take our no-risk assessment today!


What is an Emotional Support Animal (ESA)?

What is The Fair Housing Amendment Act?

What is the difference between an ESA and a service dog?

If approved for an ESA, is my ESA allowed to be taken in the cabin of airplane when traveling?

Is my ESA allowed to be taken with me into public places?

I heard with an ESA, I am cleared from having to pay pet rent and pet deposit. Is that true?

If I use my primary care doctor to write an ESA prescription for me, will that work?

Does The OnlineDOGtor.com work with licensed professionals?

If approved, will my ESA letter come from the OnlineDOGtor.com?

If approved, can I and my ESA letter be easily verified?

Can I use my medical insurance?

How much do you charge?

How can I make payment?

Is the OnlineDOGtor.com on any social media?