Definition like in this wiki article. Basically animals that don't need any special training and are just there to comfort their owner with their presence.

The best I could come up with (which happens to also be the result of Google translate) is "Tier zur emotionalen Unterstützung". Sounds way too clunky to me though. Are there any better options?

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    This is not really a thing in Germany. I suggest you use the English term, possibly as an abbreviation, and explain it when you use it the first time.
    – Roland
    Oct 14 '21 at 11:01
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    A dog (or cat or ...) without any special training is a dog (or cat or ...). They are usually "just there to comfort their owner with their presence". What's the difference between an "emotional support animal" and a pet? If the owner has some kind of problems, you need to call the pet differently? Maybe we should call the spouse of emotionally challenged people their support spouse? ...
    – Olafant
    Oct 14 '21 at 14:58
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    @Olafant - There's a practical difference in that businesses aren't allowed to discriminate against people for having their ESAs with them. Just as a restaurant isn't allowed to prohibit guide dogs because that would discriminate against the blind, it's not allowed to prohibit ESAs because that would discriminate against people with psychiatric disabilities. In order to qualify the handler must qualify as "disabled" according to the Americans with Disabilities Act, so it's not applicable for a typical pet owner. (That's my understanding of it at least.)
    – RDBury
    Oct 14 '21 at 15:20
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    Unlike English, in German you're allowed to compose your own compounds on the fly if there's no appropriate term in existence. Perhaps something like Emotionalesassistenztier or Therapietier. If the idea catches on in Europe then I suppose some "official" term will be coined. There is already such a thing as a Blindenhund (guide dog), a Diabetikerwarnhund (diabetes alert dog) and a Epilepsiehund (seizure response dog).
    – RDBury
    Oct 14 '21 at 15:36
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    @RDBury I very much like "Therapietier", feel that's pretty much as close as it can get. If you wanna put it in an answer, I'll accept it.
    – MaxD
    Oct 14 '21 at 16:35

There are already some excellent answers and suggestions given, but per request I'm posting my own.

First, the idea of an emotional support animal (ESA) seems to have legal meaning in the USA only. The Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990 prohibits discrimination against people with disabilities, both mental and physical. This is similar to the Civil Rights Act of 1964 which prohibits discrimination because of race, religion, gender, national origin. Service animals, notably guide dogs, have been in use around the world for long time, and as a logical result, the ADA extends protection to these animals and exempts them from restrictions placed on "pets". The idea of service animal has been extended to include animals used to support with certain mental disabilities such as Autism, PTSD (PTBS), and acute anxiety, and these have come to be known as emotional support animals, especially when they require no specific training for this role. In recent years the lack of a specific definition and the fact that no training is necessary for these animals has lead to airlines accusing people of gaming the system and using the exemptions to carry exotic or even dangerous animals on planes, and the Trump administration put restrictions on what qualifies as an ESA.

A related idea is that of a therapy animal, meaning an animal which interacts with humans as a form of medical treatment. There doesn't seem to be a clear line between a therapy animal and an ESA; many service animals provide emotional support in addition to enabling mobility. But there does seem to be a difference, with animals used purely for treatment at one end of the spectrum and animals which serve purely to help people deal with a disability at the other end.

The lengthy preamble was to show that the whole idea of an ESA may be rather alien to German speakers, and that German speakers may be skeptical of the reasons for such a role for animals. (Many Americans are skeptical as well, but at least they are usually aware of the concept.) In general, you can create words for new concepts in German just by stringing words together. Here are some terms I found on German Wikipedia:

  • Tiergestützte Therapie - "Animal assisted therapy"
  • Therapietier - "Therapy animal"
  • For example Therapiehund - "Therapy dog"
  • Assistenzhund - "Assistance dog"
  • Blindenführhund - "Guide dog"
  • Signalhund - "Hearing dog"
  • Diabetikerwarnhund - "Diabetes alert dog"

As you can see, allowing for variations of phrasing, the German terms are just words strung together to produce the desired idea. For example Blindenführhund translates literally to "blind lead dog".

guidot suggested Schoßhund which translates to "lap dog". Certainly such a dog would provide emotional support, but to me it would considered a pet rather than a service animal, however loosely defined. Similarly Seelenhund was suggested by Paul Frost, but I'm not sure that the term distinguishes between an animal that simply makes you feel better and an animal that you need to have with you to avoid having a panic attack when an airplane takes off. Note also that the site linked in LаngLаngС's answer does not translate the English term at all. (Such phrases strike me as Denglish, but I'm not in a position to criticize.)

So, I think the upshot is that you're free to string together whatever combination of words you want if it conveys the meaning you have in mind. In the comments I suggested Emotionalesassistenztier since it's basically a literal translation of the English, or Therapietier since it's already used in Wikipedia, though I'm not certain the latter term would have exactly the same meaning as "emotional support animal".

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    Emotionaleassistenztier is a highly unusual compound for German. Usually, a compound consists of combinations of lexemes or bases: Diabetikerwarnhund consists of {Diabetiker}, {warn-} and {Hund}. Crucially, the elements are morphological in nature, not syntactic. In your suggestion, you're combining the lexeme {Tier} with the modified noun phrase [emotionale [Assistenz]]. While these constructions do exist occasionally (e.g. Gutenachtgeschichte), they may be considered lexicalized, and I'm not even sure if what you suggest is a productive way of compounding after all.
    – Schmuddi
    Oct 17 '21 at 9:05
  • @Schmuddi - I take your point. I'm not a native speaker so I'm not familiar with some of the subtleties of compound creation, and it's just my attempt at a literal translation. The English version is somewhat ambiguous as well; does it mean a support animal that's emotional or an animal that provides emotional support? But, ambiguous or not, the phrase "emotional support animal" is the term in English, and it's unlikely to be improved by translating directly to German.
    – RDBury
    Oct 17 '21 at 11:04
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    As pointed out above by Schmuddi already, "Emotionalesassistenztier" is odd because compound words should not include an adjective in finite form. "Emotionsassistenztier" sounds better. However, "emotionale Assistenz" etc. is a terrible translation for "emotional support" and almost impossible to understand if you don't recognize the anglicism. In German we would usually express concepts like this using words of the "Psyche" family. For instance, you might call it a "Psychotherapietier" (if you must) or "Psychologisches Hilfstier".
    – idmean
    Oct 17 '21 at 11:53
  • @idmean - Yes, as I mentioned, the original English phrase "emotional support" is also awkward and ambiguous, so it's hardly surprising that it doesn't really work when you translate it into German. The word Therapietier already has an accepted meaning and I don't think adding psycho- contributes anything to it. I have the impression that Hilfstier connotes farm animals such as horses or oxen, but it's possible that it works better here than Assistenztier. Separating it from Psychologisches seems problematic though; is Psychologisches Hilfstier a Hilfstier that's Psychologisch?
    – RDBury
    Oct 18 '21 at 11:49
  • @RDBury I didn't add "Psycho-" to "Therapietier" but rather "-tier" to "Psychotherapie", so admittedly this was a bit tongue in cheek. A horse or ox is called a "Arbeitstier". "Hilfstier" is a neologism and does not have any pre-established meaning. "Psychologisches Hilfstier" is inspired from words like "Psychologischer Notdienst" (crisis line) or "Psychologische Beratung" (counseling). "Psychologische Hilfe" is also used, see for example this site from the Austrian Ministry of Health: sozialministerium.at/Informationen-zum-Coronavirus/Coronavirus-–-Psychologische-Hilfe.html
    – idmean
    Oct 18 '21 at 11:59

The English original is already quite clunky?

But as the concept catches on slowly in the German speaking world, a direct import for this kind of Assistenzhund* is usually explained as:

Emotional Support Animal / Dog

Ein Emotional Support Dog (ESD = Unterstützerhund bei emotionalen Unsicherheiten) unterstützt seinen Menschen im Alltag in belastenden Situationen. Im Unterschied zum PTBS Assistenzhund lernt der ESD häufig keine „klassischen“ Assistenzleistungen.

But as the laws concerning these animals (i.e. dogs) were just very recently changed in Germany:

Mit in Kraft treten des neuen ASSISTENZHUNDEGESETZES (§§12e ff BGG) ÄNDERT sich für den ESA Dog und seinen Menschen einiges. So hat der ESA Dog, auch schon in der Vergangenheit meist nur geduldet KEINE Zutrittsrechte, Mitnahmerechte oder sonstige Sonderrechte! Ein ESA Dog ist, rein rechtlich ein gut ausgebildeter Familienhund, der „zufällig“ bei einem Menschen mit emotionalem oder psychischen Unterstützungsbedarf lebt.


So legally, these animals are defined as 'merely well-trained', and when regarded as conforming to these criteria of "emotional support animal", then the direct English wording is used, for convenience jsut as the abbrevation 'ESA dog', or 'ESAhunde', or 'ESD'. As these are uncommon as of now, there seems to be no solution available other than explaining what this concept is supposed to mean.

*: Note that others firmly deny that ESDs would be any form of Assistenzhunde…, but note how this as well is hanging on legal definitions:

ESAHunde helfen ihrem Besitzer auch, haben aber nicht so viele Rechte wie Assistenzhunde.

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    Meinung: ich finde ESD/ESA voll den unnötigen Anglizismus. "ESA Dog" erst recht. Unterstützungshund gefällt mir viel besser. Etwas holprig wäre "der für mich da"-Hund ;-) Oct 14 '21 at 13:22

I suggest


even when it is defined in DWDS more as recipient of extended caressing. I would consider it as implied, that there is some emotional benefit on the other side as well. The noun is quite focused on a dog, however, and I see no more generic noun with the same flavour.

It is also implied, that the dog is smallish, so it can conveniently reside on the lap.

  • "...so it can conveniently reside on the lap." Damn I absolutely love that wording <3 Schoßhund is a good suggestion actually, would've never thought of that but it's not that far off from the actual meaning.
    – MaxD
    Oct 14 '21 at 16:19
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    I can't agree with this one, because most Germans would not understand this (at least in my experience). At least if you describe a dog that is used in a context with diabled people. "Schoßhund" is quite a common word, but it just describes a dog that loves to sit on your lap and loves to be be stroked. You can find "Schoßhunde" in any household in Germany - the term has no assiciation with disabled people.
    – Micha
    Oct 15 '21 at 11:40
  • Even more, „Schoßhund“ originally described a dog that does not have any practical use for its owner as opposed to other dogs like „Hütehund“ (herding dog), „Wachhund“ (watch dog), „Jagdhund“ (hunting dog) and so on. Therefore, in the given context, it’s definitely not the correct word.
    – not2savvy
    Oct 17 '21 at 20:50

A common set phrase for "emotional support" in German is "emotionaler Beistand". Building on this, you could maybe use the phrase "Beistandshund" or "Beistandstier".

This is probably not a well-established word, but a quick search shows that it is at least occasionally used with the intended meaning. However, there are also uses in the more general sense of "support animal" (synonymous to "Assistenztier"). So it might be necessary to specify this further when first introducing it: "... ein Beistandstier zur emotionalen Unterstützung der Besitzerin/des Besitzers"

  • I agree this is not a common word, but the whole concept of an emotional support dog/animal is quite alien to Germans. "Assistenz" is legally reserved for specifically trained animals, and "Beistand" is a good translation for "Emotional support". So if the concept catches on in Germany, "Beistandshund" would be a good word if we want to avoid the anglicism "ESA/ESD". Oct 17 '21 at 12:32
  • I don't know if emotionaler Beistand is that common, but there do seem to be similar phrases that are: seelischer Beistand, moralischer Beistand, geistiger Beistand. So Beistand does seem to work better in this context than Assistenz. I'm tempted to propose something like Emotionalesbeistandstier, but Schmuddi's objection (in a comment to my answer) seems to apply.
    – RDBury
    Oct 18 '21 at 12:30

Although you ask for a German version of "ESA" which seems to have a therapeutical context, I suggest

Seelenhund (soul dog).

This is a dog being in harmony with a person's soul and making feel human beings better. It is not an official term appearing in legal documents, but I think it covers the idea.

  • 1
    I'm afraid that someone arguing at an airline counter that their dog is a "Seelenhund", which should fly with the owner instead of in the cargo space, would be seen as slightly crazy but, but not a disabled person who needs the dog for emotional support. Oct 17 '21 at 12:27

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