Dogs have proven themselves to be excellent companions and working partners. One of the fastest growing types of working dog is the Emotional Support Dog.
These dogs can help calm those with anxiety so that they can get through public interactions, such as flights and train rides. In any situation where nerves may come into play, emotional support dogs can help. Just petting a dog lowers your blood pressure and slows your heart rate and breathing.
What breeds are best suited for this job? Let’s find out!
Top Ten Best Emotional Support Dogs Breeds
- Labrador Retriever – They are a versatile breed; intelligent with a strong work ethic, the Labrador retriever has been used for service dog work, cadaver seeking dogs, arson detection, seeing-eye dogs, hunting, competition obedience, fly ball, frisbee sport, contraband detection at airports, and many other things. Now they are being used as emotional support dogs too.
Labradors are smart, gentle, forgiving and sturdy. They do well with children, enjoy being close to humans and bond very strongly with people. They are not a one-person dog as much as some other breeds. They tend to be friendly with everyone and relaxed in most situations as long as they’ve been properly socialized as puppies. Labrador retrievers can get along with all other animals as well, with proper training.
As puppies, they can be chewers but catch on very quickly as to what is not theirs to chew on. With proper supervision, they mature quickly and will keep you laughing with their antics. They grow into loving and loyal companions who seem to read your mind.
- Labradoodles – This is a mix of the amazing Labrador retriever talked about above, with a poodle. It can be a standard poodle or a smaller poodle. Either dog makes for a good mix. They are friendly, happy, extremely intelligent and tend to shed a bit less than a purebred Labrador retriever.
Labradoodles may not shed at all, or shed much less than a typical Labrador. They may not be hypoallergenic as a poodle. This is a happy, bouncy dog that is full of energy. They care about their owners, being very loyal like the Labrador, and intelligence is a trait of both breeds. The standard poodle is considered to be one of the most intelligent dogs in the world.
Being problem solvers, these can be challenges as puppies but grow into very amazing dogs that will learn anything you can teach them. They have a strong work ethic and a natural emotional connection with their owners, knowing when you need comfort.
- German Shepherds – This is a strong, hard-working, robust dog breed. They have a thick coat and shed badly once or twice per year, with moderate shedding year-round. The German Shepherd dog is keenly intelligent and known for their ability to reason and think for themselves. This has made them extremely successful as a military and police dog. GS dogs have also had great success in guiding the blind, sniffing narcotics, and being watchdogs.
This is a breed that isn’t for a weak personality, as they can get quite bossy. With proper training, they are incredible and will become very in tune with their owners. The GS dog has successfully learned how to detect seizures in owners with epilepsy. Not all dogs can do this but this breed seems to have a keen awareness that helps them understand when something is amiss. They make great emotional support dogs.
- Poodles – Poodles are intelligent dogs that don’t shed and have hypoallergenic fur. Many believe that this makes them the perfect dog. Poodles require regular groomings to keep their curly coat in check and unmatted. Daily brushing is a must for this breed.
Known for their intelligence, the standard poodle is considered a giant breed because of their height. A full-grown standard poodle can place their paws on your shoulders. They are capable of learning incredibly difficult tasks, which is why they’ve been used in the circus and in traveling dog entertainment shows. Poodles are generally well-mannered, good-natured, and loyal. Perceptive, they are aware when you are feeling anxiety.
- Golden Retriever – The Golden Retriever is the comedian. They have a sense of humor that is undeniable. They’re also incredibly intelligent, problem solvers, trainable, friendly, and rarely aggressive as a breed.
This dog has a medium length coat without an undercoat. They do well with daily brushings. Their coat will need occasional trimming around the tail and feet. They don’t require much maintenance in comparison to many other breeds.
Goldens have been used as seeing eye dogs, service dogs, therapy dogs, drug-sniffing dogs, contraband dogs, cadaver dogs, mobility assistance dogs and more. They have a willingness to learn and please, making them a great fit for emotional support as well. They bond very closely to their humans and have a loyalty that is strong.
- King Charles Cavalier – This is a small breed that was bred by their namesake, King Charles. This is a toy breed that is well-suited for providing emotional support as they will happily sit in your lap and allow you to pet them for as long as you need to lower your heart rate or breathing.
With a coat that is medium to long, they require regular brushing to avoid tangles and mats. They are an intelligent breed that is easily trainable to do simple tasks. They tend to be calm in demeanor and good with children.
- Pomeranian – The Pomeranian is a small breed of dog that has a very thick coat of fur that stands out away from the body. When bathed and brushed, they can take on a round appearance if their fur is blow-dried at a grooming salon. They require regular brushing and maintenance or they shed a great deal and will mat.
The Pom can be a bit barky, needing training early in life to ensure they do not develop bad behaviors such as this. They are bright-eyed, playful, and very family friendly dogs. The Pom can be a bit aloof, depending on the dog. They also will have definite preferences for one person they have bonded with. As an emotional support animal, this is actually beneficial.
- Beagle – The beagle is a small, energetic breed that is not suited to someone who isn’t high energy. This dog needs constant exercise in its early years. They are highly intelligent and have served as contraband detectors at airports and for customs agents. The beagle is loyal, loving and very much a cuddly dog.
Beagles have worked as therapy dogs, classroom support dogs and reading assistance dogs at libraries. They bond with owners very deeply and are known for letting diabetic owners know when their blood sugar is off, either high or low. This can also be taught to them. Beagles will do anything for food rewards.
Their coat is easy to maintain and sheds moderately throughout the year. Daily brushings will keep them looking nice. Beagles can have a pungent smell which is easy to avoid by using pet wipes rather than over-bathing them.
Beagles love attention and will happily chase a tennis ball in the back yard with you for hours if you are willing to play with them. They will also solve puzzle games and find treats in your home no matter where you hide them. Their nose is incredible and often finds them getting into trouble. The lovable beagle is highly trainable if you work with them.
- Goldadore – This is a combination of the Labrador and the Golden retrievers. You may have a short fur dog with the thicker consistency of the Labrador or the softer, longer fur of the Golden. Like both parents, these dogs are incredibly intelligent with amazing work ethic. This dog can keep going all day long. On the other hand, they are just as happy to lay with you and take a nap. Both lines they come from are happy to please, enjoy being with you no matter what you are doing. If it is a day at the lake, swimming, then they are really happy. If you are napping on the sofa, they’ll also be quite happy to cuddle and snore with you.
These are not the only breeds that make great Emotional Support dogs. This is a good idea of some types of dogs and mixes thereof that you might want to check into. Look for a breed that matches your energy and lifestyle. Seek a dog that has a coat you are happy to brush – or not brush. Meet dogs and wait for the one that speaks to you with his eyes and his actions. The dog for you is out there!
Dawn Greer is a passionate blogger and animal rights activist. She is a pet lover, certified dog trainer, behavior consultant, pet nutritionist, and former veterinary technician. She continues her work while writing blogs for pet lovers around the globe.