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15 Best Dog Breeds for Emotional Support

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By Nicole Cosgrove

friend emotional support

Dogs are man’s best friend. They can be affectionate, funny, hard-working, and silly, all wrapped up into one furry package.

Over the last decade, it has become more of the norm to use dogs as emotional support animals (ESA). As rates of anxiety and depression increase, the value of a dog in people’s lives does too.

More psychologists have begun to prescribe dog ownership as a method of treatment for emotional trauma. In general, dogs can help you cope, but you can also get a dog trained specifically. Here are the 15 best emotional support dogs:

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What Can a Dog Do?

Dogs don’t only “infect” you with their never-ending wells of enthusiasm. They have an impact on our hormones, decreasing the amount of cortisol in our systems. Cortisol is more commonly known as the “stress hormone.”

Part of the way this happens is because humans need physical contact, and your dog will always be willing to soak up extra love. You both greatly benefit from these interactions.

Not only does interacting with our pup decrease our stress levels, but it is also thought to trigger oxytocin development, or happy, relaxed emotions.

The direct impact of your dog is furthered by their indirect impact on our lives. Taking your pup out to exercise involves you getting time outdoors.

dog friendship
Image Credit: Lepale, Pixabay

Ecotherapy is a developing scientific field of study that demonstrates a strong connection between the amount of time that you spend in nature and reducing stress, depression, and anxiety.

Having a dog around, especially a medium or large breed pup, lends an extra sense of security to the owner. If any part of their anxiety is founded on feelings of loneliness or vulnerability, a dog’s mere presence can overpower it.

Characteristics of an ESA Dog Breed

Although all dogs have characteristic pros and cons, some are more suitable for being an ESA pup and some are not. Here are the personality traits to look for when seeking the best breed.

  • Patient
  • Gentle
  • Outgoing
  • Loyal
  • Affectionate
  • Confident
  • Calm

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The 15 Best Emotional Support Dogs:

1. Golden Retriever

golden retriever
Image Credit: Lunja, Shutterstock

Golden Retrievers are popular dogs all around, but they take the cake when it comes to emotional support. These pups are medium to large and have the perfect personalities for someone looking for unending love and support.

Since they are such popular ESAs, it is not challenging to find them specially trained for the task. They are patient, calm, and athletic dogs, great for long walks in the park or couch cuddles. These are some of the best dogs for emotional support that you can adopt today.

2. Great Danes

English Bulldog Great Dane mixed dog
Image Credit: Ross Stevenson, Shutterstock

The Great Dane is just that, a great big dog. They are considered a giant breed and can stand up to 3 feet high at their shoulder. Just because they are colossal, though, that doesn’t mean they don’t make a wonderful ESA.

These dogs, with their calm, confident behavior, are wonderful at reduction anxiety. They adapt well to different kinds of families and will safeguard them all. These dogs need plenty of exercise to stay healthy, but they are also commonly found on the list of the laziest dog breeds.

3. Pug

smiling pug
Image Credit: MishuHanda, Pixabay

A Pug is an apt choice for someone who needs a smaller dog. They are a toy breed. These little dogs can fill up your heart with their goofy faces, charming expressions, and uplifting antics.

Their looks might not be for everyone, but those that find them endearing are rewarded with a bottomless well of affection and entertainment.

4. Cavalier King Charles Spaniel

Beagle & Cavalier King Charles Spaniel Mix
Image Credit: pabloasc, Pixabay

It makes sense that a dog bred and born to be a lap dog would make a fitting ESA. Unlike most lapdogs through the ages, this elegant animal doesn’t come across as stuck up. Instead, they are loving and loyal, merely wanting to be near you.

These dogs are extremely low-maintenance, which is typically positive for someone who struggles with challenging emotions. They make good dogs for first-time owners. If left alone for too long, they struggle with separation anxiety. In other words, being close to them helps both of you.

5. Labrador Retriever

labrador retriever
Image Credit: Parilov, Shutterstock

Labrador Retrievers are the jack of all trades in the dog world. They are energetic and outgoing, with an everlasting fountain of love and affection. These pups are gentle, although sometimes their energy can be a bit overwhelming.

With training and plenty of exercise, you will find these dogs as trained ESAs almost anywhere you look.

6. German Shepherd

black and red german shepherd
Image Credit: Osetrik, Shutterstock

German Shepherds were bred to be as easy to train as possible. The combination of their lineage makes them prime for ESA work. Although they get a bad rap for aggression, it is almost always down to their breeding, training, and upbringing.

German Shepherds appreciate having a job to do. Getting one that is trained helps to guarantee their ability to interact well with you and other humans and animals. They are wonderful companions and are often used as guides for the blind as well.

7. Poodles

standard poodle at the beach
Image Credit: everydoghasastory, Shutterstock

Part of the allure of having a dog is how they relate to you — almost like humans, but better. The intelligence of a Poodle means that you can look into their eyes and make a connection, seeing their emotion.

Poodles are quirky dogs with a proclivity for optimism. They are also considered hypoallergenic and make a great pup for people who struggle with allergies.

8. American Pit Bull Terrier

white american pitbull terrier
Image Credit: Pxfuel

American Pit Bull Terriers is another breed that demonstrates how reputation doesn’t always stand true. Hundreds of years ago, these dogs were fighters. Now, they are more lovers than anything.

Pit Bulls want plenty of attention and are willing to give back just as much. They can also be excellent guard dogs, giving a sense of security. Although they look intimidating, their hearts are filled with love.

9. Yorkshire Terrier

Image Credit: shymar27, Shutterstock

Another option for small-dog people is a Yorkshire Terrier, or Yorkie. They are one of the smallest dogs, and seeing them as a puppy will melt anyone’s heart. These little pups don’t just want your attention; they demand it.

Yorkies bond strongly with their owners and want to be around them no matter where they go. Isn’t it convenient that they happen to fit into your bag?

10. Pembroke Welsh Corgi

Side view of little Pembroke Welsh Corgi puppy_Marvelous World_shutterstock
Image Credit: Marvelous World, Shutterstock

There are two types of Corgi: the Pembroke Welsh and the Cardigan. Although both breeds make lovely additions to the family, Pembroke Welsh Corgis tend to be the more affectionate of the two. These dogs are playful and goofy and a little clumsy on their shorter legs.

Part of what makes a Corgi so appealing is their appearance. With foxlike faces, stumpy legs, a long body, and a famous heart-shaped butt, they don’t have to work too hard to gain your heart.

11. Pomeranian

pomeranian dog lying on grass
Image Credit: Nick Stafford, Pixabay

Pomeranians are adorable balls of fluff. They want to be near you as much as possible, getting disgruntled and anxious when you are gone for too long. They are intelligent and will know the moment you are supposed to be home and the moment you are late.

These little pups are a bit harder to train than some others on this list. They are not fond of strangers and can be yappy if not appropriately trained from a young age.

12. Irish Wolfhound

Irish Wolfhound
Image Credit: DragoNika, shutterstock

Irish Wolfhounds might seem like a surprising addition to the list as they are not as popular a breed. However, these pups are known as gentle giants, so if you need a human-sized cuddler, they do the trick.

Irish Wolfhounds are shaggy and huge but also sensitive. They quickly sense when you might be feeling down and work to love it right out of you. They are graceful and love to run. It is best if you have an area where they can run free in for a while to satisfy their activity needs.

13. Chihuahua

Image Credit: ClaudiaWollesen, Pixabay

Chihuahuas have a saucy personality that hits well with multitudes of people. They are tiny, considered a toy breed, and perhaps the smallest dog on the list. Chihuahuas need plenty of attention and love. They are extremely easy to take around with you and will enjoy every moment they spend near you.

These little pups bond quickly with their favorite person, usually the one who spends the most time with them. They need to be socialized early, or they will be yappy and even aggressive to other people and animals.

14. Collie

Image Credit: Grigorita Ko, Shutterstock

Collies first became famous when the movie “Lassie” hit the big screen. They deserved the recognition well before that, though. They have calm personalities and beautiful coats. Their eyes speak to all the love and kindness that they have in store for you.

These dogs were bred as herding dogs, so they might need to be watched around children. They are devoted to their family, always on the alert and watching out for them.

15. English Bulldog

English Bulldog Sitting
Image Credit: dendoktoor, Pixabay

Finally, we have the English Bulldog. These charming, fat-looking pups have stubborn and sweet natures. They love to be lazy and can struggle with obesity from their self-imposed lack of movement.

These antics and devotion are what make them such a lovable animal, though. If facial rolls are your thing, consider one of these incredibly popular pups. They do well with children and often get along quite well with other pets.

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From big to small, there are emotional support dogs that will love you eternally. Inherently, dogs are social creatures with a need for attention. However, the dogs listed above have even greater capacities for emotional sensitivity and devotion.

If you are interested in getting an ESA, look into the licensed networks or talk to your doctor. You could also consider adopting one of these breeds from a shelter, but you have a higher guarantee of better behavior by adopting a trained animal.

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Featured Image Credit: Seaq68, Pixabay

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