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Can Pitbulls Be Emotional Support Dogs? Behavior, Traits, Requirements & FAQ

Gregory Iacono

By Gregory Iacono

pitbull wearing dog collar

Pitbulls have a reputation for being vicious, which is truly unfair given that, when raised by a loving family and socialized well, a Pit can be an excellent companion and perfect dog. The problem is that many believe Pitbulls can’t be emotional support dogs thanks to this unjust rep. According to the Americans With Disabilities Act (ADA), Pitbulls can be emotional support dogs. The ADA states, “The decision to exclude a service animal must be based on actual behavior.” Pitbulls can’t be excluded from being emotional support dogs when their behavior is exemplary. More importantly, many believe Pitbulls make excellent emotional support dogs when socialized and trained by a loving owner.

Although Pitbulls can be emotional support dogs, you might have more questions about this fascinating subject. Do Pits make good support dogs, and can they sense depression? To get the answers to these intriguing questions and several more concerning Pitbulls as emotional support dogs, plus some tips and advice on the subject, read on!

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Are Pitbulls Good Emotional Support Dogs?

It might surprise you to know that, yes, Pitbulls do make good emotional support dogs. First and foremost, Pitbulls are devoted dogs who, once bonded with their owner, form deep attachments for life. Another reason is that a Pitbull raised in a loving, caring home will return that love and care in spades.

A strong emotional support dog can be incredibly helpful for those with emotional and mobility issues. A Pitbull can easily pull a wheelchair or help their owner get out of bed, giving them firm support when they do.

Another top reason that Pitbulls make great emotional support dogs is that, contrary to the stereotypes, they are happy-go-lucky dogs that get along well with everyone in their adoptive family. If you’re having a bad day, you can count on your faithful Pitbull to improve it with their attention, affection, and many ticklish dog kisses.

White pitbull sleeping in bed
Image by: Ivan5.0, Shutterstock

Do Pitbulls have Mental Problems?

Many folks are under the distinctly wrong impression that Pitbulls have “mental problems,” usually defined by stories about Pitbulls having a hair-trigger for anger and will attack at the slightest provocation. For 99% of Pitbulls, nothing could be further from the truth.

Like humans, a Pitbull raised by a loving, caring daily will almost always turn into a devoted, affectionate dog that loves its family more than anything. The ASPCA’s website describes the Pitbull breed this way; “A well-socialized and well-trained Pit Bull is one of the most delightful, intelligent, and gentle dogs imaginable.” We think you’ll agree; that’s a glowing recommendation.

Can a Pitbull have “mental problems”? If they’re raised in an uncaring or violent home by violent or heartless people who mistreat them, yes. However, the same can be said for any breed under those ugly circumstances. A Pitbull raised with love and care will become a wonderful, doting, and loyal pet. Any that don’t can usually be traced back to the person, or people, who raised them badly.

Can Pitbulls Sense Depression or Anxiety?

Pitbulls, like many breeds, can sense depression and anxiety in their owners. Technically speaking, a dog smells depression and anxiety thanks to the pheromones and other chemicals made by humans when we’re sad or anxious. How do you know your Pitbull senses you’re having a bad day?

Usually, they will come to you and comfort you even if you haven’t called them. They often lean into you, encouraging you to pet and cuddle with them. Some Pits will paw at you to let you know that they know you’re upset, and you might see their tail drooping down rather than the usual up and excited stance.

sad pitbull
Image by: dillondygert, Pixabay

What Percentage of Emotional Support Dogs Dogs are Pitbulls?

About 20% of the dog population in the United States is made up of dogs that fit the Pitbull description. Remember, they aren’t a definitive breed recognized by the AKC. How many Pitbulls are emotional support dogs? That’s very difficult to say since the United States has no national database of emotional support dogs. There are likely thousands of emotional support Pitbulls in the U.S., and many provide emotional support even if their owners don’t recognize it.

Can an Emotional Support Dog be Any Breed?

Yes, any breed can be trained as emotional support dogs. That includes Pitbulls and other large breeds like the Great Dane. However, the following 11 breeds make some of the best emotional support dogs.

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What, Exactly, Is an Emotional Support Dog?

According to UMass Medical School,  an emotional support animal, including a dog, is “an animal that provides a therapeutic benefit (e.g., emotional support, comfort, companionship) to a person with a mental health or psychiatric disability (such as a serious mental health condition).

UMass goes on to say that emotional support animals are different from service dogs in that they don’t provide or perform specific tasks, like helping a blind person see, or a deaf person hear that they’re receiving a phone call. Instead, emotional support animals, also known as ESAs, provide emotional assistance through the simple act of being there to help their owners.

Image by: pimnana, Pixabay

What’s the Difference Between an Emotional Support Dog and a Service Dog?

While some may think there’s no difference between an emotional support dog and a service dog, there are several critical differences you need to know. First, while almost any animal can be an ESA, only dogs (and, surprisingly, miniature horses) can be service animals. Second, while service dogs are trained to perform specific tasks, like assisting people with a seizure disorder, an emotional support dog doesn’t provide any specific or trained service other than being there for its owner to lean on during hard times.

Can Pitbulls be service dogs? Yes, they are incredibly capable service animals. Emotional support dogs, including Pitbulls, can’t lead a blind person on a walk like a guide dog or help them perform basic tasks like getting the daily mail. You should also note that while you can often adopt an emotional support dog for very little, it costs between $20,000 and $30,000 to train a service dog (or a miniature horse).

Image by: Makarand Sawant, Pexels

Do You Need Proof of an Emotional Issue to Have an Emotional Support Pitbull?

Anyone can own an emotional support animal, including a Pitbull, and rely on that animal for support during tough times. However, to get preferred treatment because you have an emotional support animal, you will need a letter written and signed by a licensed mental health professional. That “special treatment” includes, for example, bringing your emotional support dog on a plane, train, or bus. It also means that if you’re renting a home or apartment, claiming that your dog is an ESA doesn’t always guarantee you’ll be allowed to let them live with you if the rules are against it.

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Final Thoughts

Pitbulls can be emotional support dogs, and they make excellent ones. When raised in a loving home, the average Pitbull is affectionate, happy, and gentle and provides excellent emotional support to people going through difficult times, including depression, anxiety, and other mentally fatiguing issues. Many people across the United States rely on their Pitbulls for emotional support every day and get back a lot of love, affection, and sloppy dog kisses in return. If you love your Pitbull and treat them with care, kindness, and respect (and train them well), they will support you emotionally through even the toughest times.

  • https://clooper.com/blog/what-is-an-emotional-support-animal#:~:text=There%20are%20no%20laws%20that,a%20licensed%20mental%20health%20professional.
  • https://www.servicedogcertifications.org/can-a-pit-bull-be-a-service-dog/#:~:text=The%20American%20Pit%20Bull%20as,with%20balance%20or%20mobility%20issues.
  • https://www.akc.org/dog-breeds/american-staffordshire-terrier/
  • https://pets.webmd.com/dogs/features/pit-bulls-safety
  • https://wagwalking.com/sense/can-dogs-smell-depression
  • https://www.linkedin.com/pulse/can-pit-bull-quality-emotional-support-animal-my-esa-doctor?trk=pulse-article_more-articles_related-content-card
  • https://www.ada.gov/resources/service-animals-faqs/#:~:text=Can%20service%20animals%20be%20any,that%20can%20be%20service%20animals.
  • https://www.rd.com/article/best-emotional-support-dogs/
  • https://www.umassmed.edu/TransitionsACR/resources/emotional-support-animals-101/#:~:text=An%20Emotional%20Support%20Animal%20(ESA)%20is%20an%20animal%20that%20provides,a%20serious%20mental%20health%20condition).

Featured Image Credit: Lunja, Shutterstock

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