The 9 Best Dog Breeds For Emotional Support Animals
While any dog can be comforting to be around if you have a connection with them, there are a few breeds that make great emotional support dogs, due to their nurturing personalities. Some are also natural lapdogs, while others have a calm demeanor no matter the situation. So if you've been looking to adopt, take a look at the list below.
If you want, you can even see if your dog will qualify as an official Emotional Support Animal (ESA), with the help of your doctor or therapist. ESAs can be helpful for folks with depression, anxiety, or post traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), veterinarian Sara Ochoa, DVM, tells Bustle. But even with a designation, it doesn't necessarily mean your dog can go everywhere with you.
"Emotional support dogs can be confused with service dogs (e.g. a guide dog)," Lauren McDevitt, co-founder of Good Dog, tells Bustle. So before taking yours into certain situations — like onto public transportation — you'll want to talk with your doctor or therapist, and learn more about it.
That said, "there are many emotional and physical benefits associated with dog ownership — even if your dog isn't an official [ESA]," McDevitt says. "They bring true friendship to the table, along with a sense of security and, at times, a great deal of stress relief." Here are a few breeds to look into adopting, according to experts, especially if you're looking for emotional support.
1. Bernese Mountain Dogs
"Bernese Mountain Dogs dogs are quite large, but if you have the space for one, they make wonderful emotional support dogs," McDevitt says. "They have a loving disposition, and they're known for being gentle and easygoing." And those are all calming traits to be around, when you're looking for a little comfort.
2. Cavalier King Charles Spaniels
If you need to have a smaller dog, the Cavalier King Charles Spaniel can be a great choice. "They adore snuggling and being comfortable," McDevitt says. "[And] they're also very peaceful and well-mannered with nearly anyone they meet."
Originally bred as "comforter dogs," she says, they'll happily sit on your lap and relax with you, if that's what you need to do.
3. Golden Retrievers
"Golden Retrievers are an excellent choice for anyone looking into getting an Emotional Support Animal," McDevitt says. "They're highly trainable, loyal, eager, good-natured, and gentle," which is also why they're often chosen as service dogs. But even if you're just looking for a companion who's dependable and cheerful, McDevitt says, Golden Retrievers — and Retriever mixes — can be just the ticket.
4. Standard Poodles
Standard Poodles are another dog with the right personality for emotional support, since this breed "tends to bond strongly with their person," Sally A. Morgan, PT, CST, TTEAM, of Pet Behavior Solutions & Hands-On Healing, tells Bustle. They're also hypo-allergenic and athletic, she says, which may be two bonus traits to keep in mind when looking to adopt.
5. French Bulldogs
French Bulldogs may not spring to mind when you imagine an emotional support dog, but they just so happen to be really good at it. As Morgan says, "Their comical expressions and compact size make them easy to travel with and they are one of the most popular breeds at this time, which makes them a great choice if [you] would like to be approached by others and engage in conversations."
6. German Shepherds
German Shepherds are another breed that make great service dogs, but they can be provide emotional support, too. Since they're big and imposing, Morgan says they may be especially great if you're dealing with anxiety, since they can help you feel protected.
On the other end of the spectrum is the Chihuahua, who can be emotionally supportive in other ways. "They are very popular because of their small portable size," Morgan says. You may be able to take them to an outdoor brunch, for example, without much trouble. They're also cute, which Morgan says can be a nice distraction, especially if you find yourself wanting to protect them.
Due to a Pug's compact size, they may be a good breed to take with you into potentially stressful situations. They also feel much heavier than they look, Morgan says, which can be helpful if you don't feel grounded. The weight of a Pug in your lap can be surprisingly comforting during anxious moments.
"They are appealing and friendly to others as well," Morgan says, which can be really beneficial if you're feeling anxious or depressed, since others may want to stop by and say hi.
This breed has a long history of working with people, Morgan says, and as a result are becoming more common as emotional support dogs. They can either be inviting and sweet, or intimidating enough to help you feel safe, depending on the situation. And, as Morgan says, they are always confident.
Regardless of their breed, these are some traits to look for in an emotional support dog. How you bond with them will be important, too, since the connection you develop and how they make you feel, will be what's most helpful.