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7 Best Emotional Support Dogs (Complete Guide!)




Reviewed By: Dr. Joel Roberston

7 Best Emotional Support Dogs



Dr. Joel Robertson

Veterinarian, BMT

The information in this article is current and up-to-date in accordance with the latest veterinarian research

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Emotional support dogs are becoming increasingly popular for their ability to provide comfort and companionship to individuals facing emotional or mental health challenges.

These remarkable animals offer unconditional love and help alleviate stress, anxiety, and depression, improving the lives of their owners in various ways.

In this article, we will explore the world of emotional support dogs, including the best breeds for providing emotional support, essential information for future owners, and inspiring real-life stories of how these special canines have made a difference.

Key Takeaway

Key Takeaway7 Best Emotional Support Dogs (Complete Guide!)
IntroductionCertain breeds are particularly well-suited for emotional support due to their temperament, size, and adaptability.
1. Golden Retriever– Friendly and Affectionate – Intelligent and Trainable – Empathetic – Active – Patient and Tolerant – Reliable
2. Labrador Retriever– Friendly and Affectionate – Intelligent and Trainable – Empathetic – Active and Energetic – Adaptable – Gentle and Patient
3. Cavalier King Charles Spaniel– Affectionate and Gentle – Social and Friendly – Adaptable – Intuitive and Empathetic – Active but Not Overly Energetic – Calm and Quiet
4. Poodle– Intelligent and Highly Trainable – Empathetic and Intuitive – Active and Energetic – Adaptable – Hypoallergenic – Friendly and Sociable – Loyal and Devoted
5. Yorkshire Terrier– Affectionate and Loyal – Compact Size – Alertness and Perceptiveness – Low Exercise Needs – Adaptable – Portability – Good for Allergy Sufferers
6. Beagle– Gentle and Calm Demeanor – Happy-Go-Lucky Attitude – Excellent Companionship – Good with Children and Other Pets – Curiosity and Playfulness – Adaptable – Scent-Hound Abilities
7. Chihuahua– Loyal and Devoted – Portable Size – Alertness and Sensitivity – Affectionate and Cuddly – Low Exercise Requirements – Adaptable to Various Living Situations – Reduced Space Requirements

What Are Emotional Support Dogs

7 Best Emotional Support Dogs

Emotional support dogs are companion animals that provide comfort, companionship, and emotional support to individuals who experience emotional or mental health challenges.

They do not require specialized training like service dogs, but their presence helps alleviate symptoms of anxiety, depression, PTSD, and other mental health disorders.

Emotional support dogs form strong bonds with their owners and offer unconditional love, helping them cope with daily challenges and improve their overall well-being.

It’s important to note that emotional support dogs are different from service dogs and therapy dogs, which have specific roles and training requirements.

7 Best Emotional Support Dogs (Complete Guide!)

7 Best Emotional Support Dogs

While any dog can potentially provide emotional support, certain breeds are particularly well-suited due to their temperament, size, and adaptability.

Some of the best breeds for emotional support include:

1. Golden Retriever

Golden Retrievers are one of the most popular breeds chosen as emotional support animals and for good reason.

They are known for their kind, gentle, and trustworthy nature. Below are some reasons why this breed stands out as an excellent choice for an emotional support dog:

  1. Friendly and Affectionate: Golden Retrievers are highly affectionate dogs who thrive on human companionship. They are friendly to almost everyone they meet, including strangers and other animals. Their loving nature and constant desire for affection make them excellent emotional support animals, providing their owners with a consistent source of comfort and companionship.
  2. Intelligent and Trainable: Golden Retrievers are known for their intelligence and willingness to please, making them highly trainable. This is crucial for emotional support dogs as they need to behave well in a variety of environments. Golden Retrievers can easily adapt to the emotional needs of their human companions, helping to alleviate feelings of anxiety, depression, and stress.
  3. Empathetic: Golden Retrievers are naturally empathetic breeds that are attuned to human emotions. They have an uncanny ability to sense when their owners are feeling down and will often respond with increased affection and companionship during these times. This deep level of understanding and empathy makes them exceptional emotional support animals.
  4. Active: Golden Retrievers are an active and playful breed. They enjoy a good amount of physical activity each day. This can be beneficial for their owners too, as regular exercise has been shown to help reduce feelings of anxiety and improve mood.
  5. Patient and Tolerant: Golden Retrievers are notably patient and tolerant, which makes them particularly well-suited to individuals who struggle with mental health issues. Their calm demeanor can provide a reassuring presence during difficult moments.

2. Labrador Retriever

Labrador Retrievers are another breed often chosen as emotional support animals, and they have a variety of traits that make them particularly well-suited to this role.

Here’s why Labrador Retrievers make excellent emotional support dogs:

  1. Friendly and Affectionate: Like Golden Retrievers, Labradors are extremely friendly and affectionate dogs. They are known for their outgoing and amiable nature, making them great companions. They tend to get along well with everybody, including children, adults, and other animals, which makes them versatile emotional support dogs.
  2. Intelligent and Trainable: Labrador Retrievers are very intelligent, which makes them highly trainable. They are eager to please, which means they respond well to positive reinforcement training methods. Their trainability allows them to adapt well to different environments and situations, crucial for an emotional support animal.
  3. Empathetic: Labrador Retrievers are often very attuned to their owners’ emotional states and can provide comfort and companionship when their owners are struggling. They have a keen sense of understanding when it comes to human emotions and often know just how to provide comfort when it’s needed most.
  4. Active and Energetic: Labradors are an energetic breed that requires plenty of exercise. Regular physical activity, such as walks or playtime, can have positive effects on mental health, including reduced stress and improved mood. Having a Labrador Retriever as an emotional support animal can encourage a healthier, more active lifestyle.
  5. Adaptable: Labrador Retrievers are highly adaptable and can be comfortable in a variety of living situations, whether it’s an apartment in the city or a house with a big yard in the countryside. Their adaptability also extends to their ability to handle different social situations, making them reliable companions for individuals with varying needs.

3. Cavalier King Charles Spaniel

The Cavalier King Charles Spaniel, despite being a smaller breed, can have a big impact as an emotional support dog.

Here are the reasons why this breed is particularly well-suited to serve as an emotional support animal:

  1. Affectionate and Gentle: Cavaliers are incredibly affectionate dogs, often referred to as “love sponges” because of their desire for human attention and affection. They thrive on companionship and are happiest when they are with their owners. This makes them a great source of emotional support, providing constant love and affection.
  2. Social and Friendly: Cavaliers are known for their friendly and sociable nature. They usually get along well with both humans and other animals. Their openness to social interaction can help their owners form connections with other people and alleviate feelings of loneliness or isolation.
  3. Adaptable: Cavaliers are highly adaptable dogs. They are as comfortable living in a small apartment as they are in a large house. This adaptability extends to their behavior as well; they are generally comfortable in a range of situations, making them a reliable emotional support companion.
  4. Intuitive and Empathetic: Cavaliers have a reputation for being intuitive and can often sense when their owner is feeling down. Their sensitivity to human emotion allows them to provide comfort and support when their owners need it most.
  5. Active but Not Overly Energetic: While Cavaliers enjoy regular walks and playtime, they are not as high-energy as some other breeds. This can be beneficial for those looking for a dog that requires moderate exercise, which can help stimulate mental health positively, but not a breed that demands intense physical activity.

4. Poodle

Poodles are another popular breed for emotional support animals, thanks to their intelligent and friendly nature. Here’s why Poodles are great choices for emotional support dogs:

  1. Intelligent and Highly Trainable: Poodles are often considered one of the smartest dog breeds. Their high intelligence makes them very trainable, and they quickly pick up on commands and cues. This makes them reliable and predictable, which is helpful for those seeking emotional support.
  2. Empathetic and Intuitive: Poodles are sensitive and attuned to their owners’ emotional states, allowing them to provide comfort when it’s needed. They are known to sense when their owners are feeling stressed or anxious and will often respond with comforting behaviors.
  3. Active and Energetic: Poodles are active dogs that require regular physical exercise, promoting a healthy lifestyle for their owners. This regular activity can aid in reducing symptoms of depression and anxiety.
  4. Adaptable: Poodles come in various sizes – standard, miniature, and toy – which means they can adapt to different living situations, from apartment living to a large house with a backyard. This makes them suitable for a variety of owners.
  5. Hypoallergenic: One of the standout features of Poodles is their hypoallergenic fur. For individuals with allergies who need an emotional support animal, a Poodle can be an excellent choice.
  6. Friendly and Sociable: Poodles are friendly and sociable dogs. They are generally good with other animals and people, which can lead to increased social interactions for their owners, helping combat feelings of loneliness.
  7. Loyal and Devoted: Poodles are known for their loyalty and devotion to their owners. They form strong bonds with their family members, providing consistent emotional support.

5. Yorkshire Terrier

Yorkshire Terriers, or Yorkies, may be small in size, but they have a big heart and a personality that makes them well-suited for emotional support roles.

Here are some reasons why Yorkshire Terriers are great as emotional support dogs:

  1. Affectionate and Loyal: Yorkies are known for their deep affection and loyalty towards their owners. They form strong bonds and are devoted companions, always eager to provide comfort and support to their human counterparts.
  2. Compact Size: The small size of Yorkies makes them portable and easy to bring along to various environments. This portability can be advantageous for individuals who need emotional support while on the go or for those living in smaller spaces.
  3. Alertness and Perceptiveness: Despite their small stature, Yorkies are keenly observant and often have a heightened sense of awareness. They can quickly pick up on changes in their owner’s behavior or emotional state, offering solace and a comforting presence.
  4. Low Exercise Needs: Yorkies have moderate exercise requirements, making them suitable for individuals with less active lifestyles or limited physical capabilities. A short daily walk or playtime indoors is usually sufficient to meet their exercise needs.
  5. Adaptable: Yorkies are adaptable and can adjust well to different living situations. Whether residing in an apartment or a house, they can comfortably adapt to their surroundings and provide emotional support in various environments.
  6. Portability: Due to their small size, Yorkies are highly portable. This allows them to accompany their owners to various places, such as offices, shops, or public spaces, which can be especially beneficial for individuals who require emotional support throughout the day.
  7. Good for Allergy Sufferers: Yorkies are considered hypoallergenic, as they have hair instead of fur, which produces less dander. This makes them a suitable choice for individuals with allergies or sensitivities.

6. Beagle

Beagles are well known for their friendly and amiable nature, making them excellent candidates for emotional support roles.

Here are several reasons why Beagles are well-suited to be emotional support dogs:

  1. Gentle and Calm Demeanor: Beagles have a naturally gentle and calm disposition, which can have a soothing effect on their owners. Their relaxed nature can help alleviate stress and create a sense of tranquility.
  2. Happy-Go-Lucky Attitude: Beagles are known for their cheerful and friendly demeanor. Their happy-go-lucky attitude can bring a sense of joy and positivity to their owners, helping to improve their mood and overall well-being.
  3. Excellent Companionship: Beagles thrive on companionship and enjoy being around their human family. They form strong bonds with their owners and are highly devoted to them. Their constant companionship provides emotional support and a source of comfort.
  4. Good with Children and Other Pets: Beagles are generally good with children and get along well with other pets. Their sociable nature makes them suitable for families or individuals seeking emotional support within a multi-pet household.
  5. Curiosity and Playfulness: Beagles have an innate curiosity and playful spirit. Their energetic nature can bring a sense of enthusiasm and liveliness to their owners’ lives, helping to uplift their spirits and provide a source of entertainment.
  6. Adaptable: Beagles are adaptable to various living environments. They can thrive in both urban and rural settings, as long as their exercise and mental stimulation needs are met. This adaptability makes them suitable for a wide range of owners.
  7. Scent-Hound Abilities: Beagles have a keen sense of smell and are often used in scent-related activities, such as search and rescue or tracking. Engaging in activities that tap into their natural abilities can provide mental stimulation and a sense of purpose for both the dog and the owner.

7. Chihuahua

Chihuahuas may be small in size, but they possess a big personality and unique qualities that make them well-suited for emotional support roles.

Here are some reasons why Chihuahuas can excel as emotional support dogs:

  1. Loyal and Devoted: Chihuahuas are known for their strong loyalty and devotion to their owners. They often form deep bonds and become fiercely protective of their loved ones. Their unwavering loyalty can provide a constant source of emotional support and companionship.
  2. Portable Size: Due to their small size, Chihuahuas are highly portable and easy to bring along to various places. This portability allows them to provide emotional support in different environments, making them an ideal choice for individuals who require continuous support throughout their day.
  3. Alertness and Sensitivity: Chihuahuas are naturally alert and highly sensitive to their owner’s emotions. They can pick up on subtle changes in mood and respond with comforting behaviors. Their attentiveness makes them intuitive and responsive emotional support companions.
  4. Affectionate and Cuddly: Chihuahuas have a reputation for being affectionate and loving. They often enjoy being close to their owners and seek physical contact, whether through cuddling or sitting in laps. Their affectionate nature can offer comfort and a sense of warmth.
  5. Low Exercise Requirements: Chihuahuas have relatively low exercise needs compared to larger breeds. While they still benefit from daily walks and playtime, their exercise requirements are more manageable for individuals with limited mobility or those who prefer a less active lifestyle.
  6. Adaptable to Various Living Situations: Chihuahuas can adapt well to different living situations. Whether living in an apartment or a house, they can comfortably adjust to their surroundings. This adaptability makes them suitable emotional support companions for a variety of owners.

What You Need To Know Before Getting an Emotional Support Dog

Understanding the legal rights and requirements surrounding emotional support animals is crucial. Research and familiarize yourself with the laws and regulations pertaining to emotional support animals in your country, state, or region.

Determine the necessary documentation, such as an emotional support animal letter from a licensed mental health professional, that may be required for accessing accommodations or exemptions.

2. Suitability for Your Needs

Assess your own needs and determine if an emotional support dog is the right fit for you. Consider factors such as your lifestyle, living situation, and any specific requirements or limitations you may have.

It’s important to ensure that you have the time, resources, and commitment necessary to care for and meet the needs of a dog.

3. Breed Selection

Research and choose a breed that aligns with your lifestyle, activity level, and preferences. Different breeds have different temperaments, exercise requirements, and care needs.

Consider factors such as size, energy level, grooming needs, and compatibility with any allergies or sensitivities you may have.

4. Training and Socialization

Plan for proper training and socialization for your emotional support dog.

While emotional support animals are not required to undergo specialized training like service dogs, basic obedience training and socialization are important for their well-being and the comfort of those around them.

It’s essential to provide your dog with the necessary skills and manners to navigate various situations.

5. Healthcare and Well-being

Ensure that you can provide for your emotional support dog’s healthcare needs. This includes regular veterinary check-ups, vaccinations, preventive care, and potential treatment for any health issues that may arise.

Consider the costs associated with food, grooming, toys, and other necessary supplies to ensure your dog’s overall well-being.

6. Exercise and Mental Stimulation

Understand the exercise requirements of the chosen breed and ensure that you can meet those needs. Dogs need regular physical exercise and mental stimulation to thrive.

Be prepared to engage in daily walks, play sessions, and activities that cater to your dog’s energy level and breed traits. Providing adequate exercise and mental stimulation is vital for their physical and mental health.

7. Financial Responsibility

Owning a dog comes with financial responsibilities. Factor in the costs of food, grooming, veterinary care, vaccinations, medications, supplies, and potential unforeseen expenses.

It’s important to have a budget in place to ensure you can provide for your emotional support dog’s needs and address any unexpected situations that may arise.

8. Emotional Commitment

Recognize that owning an emotional support dog involves an emotional commitment. Dogs thrive on love, attention, and consistent care.

Be prepared to offer emotional support, companionship, and a stable environment for your dog. Consider the time and effort required to develop and maintain a strong bond with your emotional support dog.

9. Self-Care and Personal Boundaries

While emotional support dogs can provide tremendous benefits, it’s important to establish personal boundaries and self-care practices.

Consider your own needs for downtime, privacy, and personal space. Ensure that you have a plan in place to maintain a healthy balance between caring for your emotional support dog and taking care of yourself.

10. Consultation with Professionals

Seek guidance from professionals such as mental health professionals, veterinarians, and dog trainers. They can provide insights, support, and assistance in navigating the responsibilities and challenges associated with owning an emotional support dog.

Consulting with professionals ensures that you have the necessary resources and expert advice to make informed decisions regarding your emotional support dog’s well-being and your own.

In Conclusion

Emotional support dogs can make a significant difference in the lives of those struggling with mental health challenges.

By providing comfort, companionship, and unconditional love, these remarkable animals can help their owners navigate through difficult times.

If you’re considering an emotional support dog, research your options and consult with a mental health professional to determine if this is the right choice for you.

With the right breed, training, and care, an emotional support dog can become an invaluable companion on your emotional journey.

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