The Best Emotional Support Dog Breeds
It's been proven by science — dogs are good for your mental health.
In separate studies recently conducted by the Journal of Psychiatric Research and the Journal of Applied Developmental Science,”= researchers found that owning a dog not only made people suffering from mental health issues feel better, but it also made them more likely to help others. Additional research has shown that dog ownership also lowers blood pressure, elevates serotonin and dopamine in the brain, and even lowers triglycerides and cholesterol.
If you're already a dog owner, some of these things may already be a given. You know what it means to have a dog and how it's impacted your life. But if you're still on the fence about dog ownership and are also experiencing mental health issues, dogs offer companionship and comfort, and can help ease loneliness, depression and anxiety. Check out our list of the best purebred and hybrid emotional support dog breeds. These loving friends will surely brighten your day.
Cavalier King Charles Spaniel
The Cavalier King Charles spaniel is on practically everyone's list as a great support dog because of its rep as a "cuddlebug." These super affectionate pups are true companion dogs and are quick to learn and eager to please.
Loving and gentle, the King Charles was a top dog in royal circles back in the day, but they don't have the attitude of a monarch; they're happy just to be in your presence, whether you're on a long walk or snuggling on a couch. They are excellent companions for those with depression or PTSD.
The "clowns" of the dog world, pugs delight nearly everyone they come across with their human-like facial expressions and friendly, fun demeanor. Pugs are extremely sociable and make great emotional support animals for almost any affliction.
These small, charming companions are well mannered, even tempered and do especially well with children.
These medium-sized, regal dogs are not just for show — they're smart, obedient, easy to train and are valued as a wonderful mental health companion. Standard poodles are working dogs that love a good challenge, physical activity and that thrive in any environment.
They are friendly and do well around humans and animal companions alike, but their top priority is their compassion and responsibility toward their owner.
The labrador retriever is an energetic, sturdy companion dog who lives up to the name "retriever" as that's what he was bred to do — find things, carry them and ultimately drop them at the feet of his cherished human.
The lab is smart and obedient with a calm demeanor, which makes for a top-notch emotional support animal for any mental health issue. Those with ADD or autism often feel more grounded and settled in the presence of a loving lab.
You'll see many Yorkies as service or support animals and there are several reasons as to why that is. Yorkies are small enough that they fall under most rental policies and they can be taken anywhere dogs are welcome, which, as the Psychiatric Service Dog Society claims, is vital to specific mental health issues.
Yorkies also rise to the occasion for lap duty, providing caregivers the opportunity to physically embrace them when needed. These tiny wonderdogs can also be taught myriad tasks, from pulling open cabinet doors to alerting their owners to specific sounds.
Breeds don't come much smarter than this! The border collie is a devoted, friendly companion that is easily trainable, affectionate and a people pleaser. A herding dog by nature, the border collie will motivate and inspire you to get moving even when you don't feel like it.
This trait makes them an excellent dog for those who deal with depression. Additionally, if you suffer from anxiety, this calm, content canine will provide plenty of grounding and physical comfort.
While their height makes them unsuited for some service dog jobs, Corgis were also bred for herding and make wonderful guide dogs. They have a strong instinct for picking up on their owners’ emotions and helping them accordingly. These energetic working dogs are smart, curious, eager and easy to train.
Corgis are also known for being aware of their surroundings at all times, which makes them perfect for people who need constant emotional support.
The vizsla is a lesser-known breed in the U.S. but is gaining popularity as a companion pet and emotional support animal. Bred for hunting, these Hungarian pointers are joyful and people-focused. Vizslas have a ton of energy and do need outdoor exercise, so if you're not a person that gets out much, this may not be the dog for you.
Vizslas are intelligent, quick learners that carry out any task put before them, and their cheerful disposition makes them an excellent choice of support dog. Like pugs, vizslas bond with nearly everyone and do well in a home with children.
The English bulldog is delightful emotional support companion that is perfect for apartment living and also for those who don't spend much time exercising or doing other outdoor activities. They are kind, affectionate dogs that are low key and offer a sense of calm to whoever they come in contact with.
If you're interested in a brachycephalic (short-nosed) breed as a companion animal, it's best if you don't travel by plane much. Many of them, particularly bulldogs, have been banned from flying as they can have breathing issues due to the change in air pressure.
Germans shepherds have strong protective instincts, which can lead to aggression if they are not carefully trained. If you are interested in this breed, make sure you have the upper hand in your dynamic. Germans are smart, responsible and love a good challenge — all of which makes them highly trainable for a variety of jobs.
They are also herders by nature and tend to lead the way, which is good for someone who needs a little motivation. The breed's size also lends itself to strength and physical support if needed.
Goldens are one of the most popular breeds around overall and are considered one of the best mental health support dogs out there. They are energetic, loving and comforting to those who need it, and are super social with other animals and people.
These intelligent, gentle giants are loyal companions that are easy to train and are willing to perform nearly any task put before them.
If socializing is imperative to your well-being, look no further than the bichon — this puffy white fluffball attracts attention wherever it goes! The bichon is loyal, affectionate and loving toward its owner and gets along well with other dogs.
Bichons can live in any space and undertake nearly any activity, but they are happiest to expend energy spending time at your side or cuddling in your lap.
The Havanese is intelligent and sociable and, like the bichon, is a wonderful lapdog that is made for cuddles and kisses. They are born entertainers that learn tricks quickly and love to show off for attention.
Havanese are also known for being attuned to your moods and offer their support to make you cheery when you're feeling down. Another bonus: The Havanese is also easy to maintain, as it does not shed.
This little dog has a warm disposition and is excellent for those suffering from with PTSD, depression or bipolar disorder. They, too, are "mood readers" and are known to "nudge" their owners toward the right course of action in certain situations.
Lhasa apsos are easily trainable, highly demonstrative and are perfect for individuals in need of uplifting companionship.
If you need to feel safe and secure, look no further than the ever stalwart Doberman pinscher. The Dobie is called a “velcro” dog because of its ability to bond very tightly with its human. The breed is content to remain close at hand all the time and is highly trainable and protective.
However, Dobies must have extensive socialization from a very young age, so as to not perceive every interaction as a possible threat.
With a maximum weight of only 7 pounds, the diminutive Pomeranian is big on personality and charm. These pleasant dogs have a lively and outgoing character and are friendly to everyone. Plus, their loyalty to their owners is steadfast and true.
Poms can thrive in virtually any setting, are intelligent and easily trainable and make great emotional support animals for anyone needing one.
If you remember the television show “Lassie,” you’ll remember the Collie that comes to the rescue of her family in every episode. Collies are known to make great support dogs for many mental health ailments, including PTSD, as they are highly intuitive to human feelings. They are extremely intelligent, easy to train and gentle, all of which are great qualities for an emotional support animal or psychiatric therapy dog.
Collies are also very protective of their families and have a large bark to prove it. The very act of petting a dog lowers stress hormones, and the Collie, with its soft and fluffy fur, seems to have been created just for this purpose.
Bernese Mountain Dog
The Bernese loves people but admittedly needs some coaxing out of its shell — early socialization is key for the Bernese. These dogs are loyal to their owners and friendly to everyone.
These qualities, combined with their great strength and work ethic, make them ideal therapy dogs.
While mini schnauzers may appear to have a regal air, their friendly temperament makes them a great mental health companion. They get along well with other dogs, children and strangers, and they readily accept being petted.
Minis are also highly intelligent, which makes them easy to train in a caregiving role.
Like the Bernese, the boxer must be socialized early to enjoy being around people and other animals. A properly trained boxer is a highly intelligent, strong companion animal that also offers security to those who need it.
Physical and mental exercise is important for the boxer. So, if you're a person that likes to rejuvenate in the great outdoors, this is the dog for you.
English Toy Spaniel
If you're looking for quiet, but not necessarily alone time, the English toy spaniel is a peaceful companion who is happy to lounge in your lap or take a long stroll in contemplation.
That doesn't mean they are opposed to playtime — a game of fetch with an English toy will put a smile on anyone's face. In other words, they strike a perfect balance for when you need quiet time or wish to socialize.
Beagles were bred to be hunters, but that doesn't mean they spend their lives on the prowl for game. Today’s beagles are low maintenance, loyal companion animals who greatly enjoy the company of their owners. Training is essential for the beagle, who may run at the slightest smell of prey.
But this is a happy-go-lucky breed that is quick to learn and does well in every situation — from a single-person household to a family with small children. Because of its hunting skills, the beagle is especially aware and in tune with your emotional support needs.
Known for its strength and guarding abilities, the rottie also makes for a great mental health support companion. A breed must have a good disposition and temperament, and be friendly, patient and at ease in all situations to be a psychiatric or emotional therapy dog. Rotties indeed fit this bill.
While some people believe rotties to be vicious, that is not the case at all. They are lovable cuddlers who are fiercely loyal to their owners. You can lean on a rottie for help, both figuratively and literally.
The Chihuahua proves you don't have to be big to be a loving, responsible support animal. These small dogs win big in intelligence and loyalty and are highly alert to verbal and visual cues and commands.
Like most smaller dogs, Chihuahuas can live or travel anywhere, and for those who have 24/7 emotional support and mental health needs, a Chihuahua will never need to leave your side. This breed can also live to 15 years old or longer.
Frenchies are cute, friendly clowns with happy dispositions who can tackle any mental health need from anxiety to depression, stress and emotional trauma. They are both a stress reliever and a shoulder to cry on for anyone needing a friend.
Frenchies are low maintenance, love people, are OK with being handled and have good manners. They are also especially loving toward kids. As with any brachycephalic breed, Frenchies don't do well in hot weather — so be sure to keep them cool!
This low-to-the-ground pup is one of the most adorable emotional support animals out there, but don't let the breed’s diminutive size fool you — it packs a punch in beating back the blues. Dachshunds are born hunters with a keen sense of smell and are emotionally intuitive. They are friendly, loyal and do exceptionally well with kids.
You can also prepare to have this loyal breed around for the long haul because they live, on average, about 15 years, sometimes even up to 20 years.
Coton de Tulear
"Sweet" is the word to best describe this lesser-known breed. The Coton is known as the “royal dog of Madagascar," but despite its lineage and dainty looks, the Coton is sturdy with muscular hind legs.
Cotons love their owners to a fault — and they are easily trainable, as they will do virtually anything to please. This is also the perfect dog for the therapeutic act of petting, as its fur is almost made for this purpose — it's abundant and feels like soft cotton.
There is no dog that's more expressive than the Brussels — we dare you to look at one and NOT crack a smile! This alert and inquisitive dog is extremely sensitive to human emotion and, unlike some other dogs that are bred for hunting, they are decidedly low key.
Brussels love nothing more than to sit in their owner's laps or play with kids.
Old English Sheepdog
It's natural to feel an urge to cuddle up to an Old English sheepdog. This friendly, shaggy pup hits all the marks when it comes to emotional support, as it excels in obedience training and is highly intelligent.
But it's not all work and no play for the sheepdog — they love to interact with everyone in the family and offer a wealth of support for those in need. If you are eyeing one as a pet or emotional support animal, be aware of their grooming needs, which can require about four hours each week.
Affens or "monkey dogs" were once hunters of small animals who also lived as royal companions. While they exhibit traits of both working and toy dogs, their role today is more of a clownish entertainer and family companion. If you are looking for a dog that offers security, they are alert to their surroundings, protective and pack a lot of bravado in their tiny frames.
They are highly intelligent, but their stubborn nature can make them tricky to train. So, if you're thinking of getting an Affen for your mental health needs, make sure they take obedience classes early on.
American Pit Bull Terrier
For various reasons, pitties have gotten a bad rap over the past few decades, but they were once labeled "nanny dogs," as they were (and still are) extremely lovable toward children. (This doesn't mean they — or ANY dog — should be left alone with them!)
Today, pitties are used in myriad ways by government and civilians alike for protection, rescue, therapy and emotional support. They are smart, loyal and friendly, but as with several dog breeds, they do need proper training from an early age.
If you're looking for calm, these gentle giants have it in spades, but they do need plenty of room to breathe! Wolfhounds offer both physical and mental support and a sense of protection.
They are smart, loyal, sensitive to human emotion and will put their life on the line for their families. But do be gentle with them in turn — they tend to shut down if they are treated too harshly.
Borzois have such a keen intellect, independent streak and protection instinct — so much so that they are one of the chosen breeds of the non-profit Operation Wolfhound. The organization places dogs with vets suffering from PTSD.
Borzois can live to the ripe old age of 15, and are quiet, loyal and able to physically support a person if needed. They, like Irish wolfhounds, are gentle giants and enjoy spending time at their owner's side. Remember, however, they need proper training and plenty of exercise to keep them well behaved and happy.
The fiercely independent Shiba can be a little tricky to train, but once you get over that hurdle, this breed's smaller size and overall laid-back vibe makes for a playful, happy companion.
The Shiba is not for the person who needs a cuddle buddy — think of them as a bit more catlike in personality. But that doesn't necessarily make them the wrong choice for a mental health companion. The Shiba's quiet reserve can bring down anxiety in moments of stress, especially if those moments include strangers.
Jack Russell Terrier
Highly trainable and whip-smart, Jack Russells are headstrong and need an owner who keeps them in check. They are highly curious dogs with infectious, loving personalities.
If you like to engage with an equal sparring partner who's always game, this is the dog for you. Jack Russell's are great with kids who need to expend energy as they can easily keep up for hours.
The Great Dane's larger size doesn't stop it from believing it's a lap dog. While the Great Dane is both massive and protective, it stands as an island of calm in times of stress.
Danes are friendly, loyal and work well with any member of the family. They are wonderful at putting nearly everyone at ease — people and other animals alike. A well-trained Dane makes for a well-mannered, loving and emotional support dog.
This mixed breed is a popular mental and physical therapy dog. It can answer to several different mental health needs, depending on the dog's personality.
Australian labradoodles are specifically bred for companionship and guidance. They have an even keel temperament and are loving and highly intelligent. Australians can "pick up" on human emotions and can answer your needs accordingly. They're happy, love to play and will bring a smile to just about any face.
You may not find a friendlier companion than the Yorkie poo. This relatively new breed of designer dog is perfect to travel just about anywhere and is comfortable — and comforting — in virtually any situation.
They've been around less than two decades, but have made quite an impact as emotional support and mental health companions. They are smart, eager to please and love to spend time with every member of the family.
Another great mixed breed for mental health support is the goldendoodle. These dogs are bred in a variety of sizes and can live comfortably in a variety of situations, from wide open, rural spaces to small urban apartments. These smart pups are loyal, happy and easy to train.
They socialize well and can focus on the person needing mental health support in busy or noisy environments. Just make sure to give them lots of love and attention, and they will reward you equally.