Emotional support dog gives comfort.

These Smart and Friendly Dog Breeds Are Popular Emotional Support Animals


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Having a dog can be beneficial for your mental health, but some breeds are better suited to help you than others. Here are some of the best emotional support dog breeds.

"What's the secret to being happy? The first step is getting a dog." If you spend any time on Instagram, you might be familiar with this trending audio that shows up on popular dog accounts. Of course, it's meant to be a joke--but we don't disagree! There are proven health benefits that living with a dog (or any pet) can offer, and these benefits extend far beyond companionship, unconditional love, and sloppy kisses. Studies cited by the American Counseling Association have shown that frequent interaction with a pet can lower anxiety, alleviate loneliness, enhance social engagement, normalize blood pressure, reduce stress, and increase overall happiness. This explains why mental health professionals will sometimes recommend an Emotional Support Animal (ESA) to people who suffer from certain conditions like depression or anxiety.

According to the Americans with Disabilities Act, an ESA is any animal that "provides emotional support alleviating one or more symptoms or effects of a person's disability." Unlike a service animal, an ESA is not guaranteed entry to "all public accommodations" like hotels, restaurants, schools, hospitals, or airports, because these pets do not have special training to perform tasks that assist people with disabilities.

While ESAs can technically be any type of pet, dogs are the most common choice. Some breeds are better suited for the job than others because of their personality, size, or natural instincts. Here are 14 of the best emotional support dog breeds.

Best Emotional Support Dog Breeds

1. Cavalier King Charles Spaniel

cavalier King Charles spaniel sitting on a bed

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The ultimate companion dog, Cavaliers King Charles Spaniels have a super sweet temperament. They also really love to cuddle, making them one of the best emotional support dogs. They are very mellow, low-energy pups who don't take a lot of time and maintenance. Depending on your needs, this may be the perfect ESA if you don't have a lot of extra energy to spare.

2. Golden Retriever

golden retriever sits outside

Having long been one of the most popular dog breeds in the United States, Golden Retrievers are just a wonderful family pet all around. They are very loyal to their owners and will gladly cater to their needs. Although they have a moderate energy level and need a bit of exercise, as long as you can provide the appropriate activity level, they will be a perfect companion. Their high intelligence and gentle nature make these friendly dogs a great ESA.

3. Pug

Pug

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Considered the clowns of the dog world, pugs never fail to delight and charm anyone they meet, making these fun and sociable pups a really great fit for doing any sort of emotional support work. They are also fairly low-maintenance and easy to care for because they only need a moderate amount of exercise to stay healthy. The only thing to consider with these dogs is that they have a short noses, which can lead to breathing problems. Brachycephalic dogs are also not allowed on some airlines, so if you need your ESA dog to fly with you, a pug might not be the best choice.

4. Yorkshire Terrier

Yorkshire terrier lays on the couch

Yorkies are affectionate little dogs that are great ESAs because they are so easy to travel with. Their small size allows them to accompany their humans to most places, which is vital when it comes to needing mental support.

5. Corgi

corgi sits in a field

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Originally bred as a herding dog, corgis are affectionate dogs that have a strong instinct for picking up on their human's emotions, making them well-suited for emotional support work. They are also small enough to cuddle up on the couch, too!

6. Poodle

A white poodle sits in the grass

Ranked as the second smartest dog breed, the poodle is super intelligent and easy to train. Because of this, poodles can be wonderful companions when it comes to helping with mental health issues. Since they are easy to train, you don't have to worry about whether or not they will follow through with their ESA tasks. With the proper training, they will jump right in and reduce the stress in any situation.

7. Chihuahua

Chihuahua sits on the grass

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With proper early socialization, these small dogs can develop loving personalities that translate pretty well into being good emotional support dogs. Their tiny size also allows major portability and great snuggling time. They need a lot of attention, but if you have the time, an attention-seeking dog can be mutually beneficial when you are in need of comfort.

8. Labrador Retriever

Labrador retriever sits in a pile of leaves

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Labs make great emotional support dogs because of their calm and gentle nature. These dogs are also super friendly are smart, making them wonderful companions for exploring the world. They are a popular choice for service dogs and emotional support dogs, especially because they work well in families.

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9. Border Collie

Border collie sits in tall grass

Considered the most intelligent of all dog breeds, the Border Collie is known for picking up cues from their humans that something isn't right. While this affectionate dog is a good candidate for an ESA, they do need a lot of exercise and fit in best with an active household. Walks and playtime can be just the wellness boost you need!

10. Pomeranian

Pomeranian sits on a grey couch

With a maximum weight of only seven pounds, the tiny but mighty Pomeranian is a pleasant dog that is friendly to everyone, making it a solid choice for an ESA. They love hanging out with their humans and curling up in their laps, which is an important trait when you need a little comfort.

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11. Great Dane

Great Dane lays down

Even though these pups are very large, they think they're lap dogs. Great Danes have a shorter lifespan due to their size, but make excellent emotional support dogs and are often seen visiting senior homes and hospitals. There's a reason these sweet pups are known as gentle giants!

12. French Bulldog

French Bulldog

French bulldogs have a great personality and temperament for an emotional support dog or therapy dog. However, these pups do not make great service dogs.

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13. Pit Bulls

Pit bull lays down on a deck

One type of dog that is grossly mischaracterized is the Pit bull. These powerful pooches are big into cuddling and will instantly become your best friend. They have unconditional love for their owners and want to protect them.

14. German Shepherds

German Shepherd dog sits on the lawn

German Shepherds are another common service dog that would make an excellent ESA. They are smart, easy to train, and eager to learn. Even though they have high energy levels, they can still be valuable dogs for those who need emotional support. A lot of people with post-traumatic stress disorder turn to German Shepherds for the comfort they need.

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Just because a pup didn't make this list doesn't mean it can't be an emotional support dog! Many dogs can become valuable ESAs with the right training. Even rescue dogs can be trained to help people with needs such as anxiety disorder and depression. The bottom line? All pups make us happier.

Do you live with any of these dog breeds? Share your furry best friend with us on the Wide Open Pets Facebook page!

READ MORE: The San Francisco 49ers Have the NFL's First Emotional Support Dog

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