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10 Best Dog Breeds for Emotional Support

Nicole Cosgrove

May 21, 2021

We know that our canine companions can us deal with trauma and ongoing emotional turmoil. While human experiences differ, the outcome is often the same: nightmares, the tendency to self-harm, isolation, trouble sleeping, depression, anger issues, shame, guilt, and anxiety.

More significant is how emotional disability affects “normal” life, leading you to avoid human company or rather lose friends who don’t comprehend your current state. Emotional support dogs are loyal and have quickly become a popular choice for people struggling with issues in their daily lives.

While all dogs offer an emotional connection with humans, not all can provide emotional support. Check out the benefits of emotional support dogs, and discover the right one for your mental needs.

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What Are Emotional Support Dogs?

a chihuahua lying on a man's lap
Image Credit: Free-Photos, Pixabay

People with mental or emotional issues have begun using dogs as their mental support companions because such pets help them remain functional throughout the day. These pooches provide unconditional love, acceptance, comfort, and a sense of structure for people whose lives may have been turned upside-down by trauma.

The dogs help them deal with the hardships that might otherwise compromise their quality of life. However, there are ways to formally and legally recognize an emotional support dog. According to the American Kennel Club, a dog can be an ESA animal if a licensed mental health practitioner prescribes the pet to the person struggling with a disabling mental problem.

A psychiatrist, therapist, or psychologist must evaluate you and conclude that a dog’s presence can help your mental health. The formal process allows you to get some fringe benefits such as getting a cabin on flights or accommodate the animal in a home or apartment with a “NO PET” policy.

There’s no limit to the dog’s age or breed, although certain species have traits that make them more suitable for the role.

 

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10 Best Emotional Support Dog Breeds

1. Vizsla

elderly woman hugging a Vizsla puppy
Image Credit: Henriet Haan, Pixabay
Lifespan: 10-15 years
Temperament: Sweet, energetic, loving, athletic, joyful, active
Color: Pale yellow, golden rust, golden, brown, dark mahogany red
Height: 21-24 inches
Weight: 45-65 pounds

Here’s your go-to canine companion if you need emotional support. Vizslas are sweet, cheerful, loving, and would do anything to spend time with their humans outdoors and curl up beside them in the evening.

They are very athletic and love to stay active, so be sure to have a great jogging and biking buddy to help keep you fit emotionally and physically. Plus, vizslas have cat-like grooming abilities, meaning that they don’t smell like other dogs, and you’ll have an easy time cleaning them.


2. Labrador Retriever

labrador eating a treat
Image Credit: Lenka Novotná, Pixabay
Lifespan: 10-12 years
Temperament: Energetic, passionate, loyal, loving, gentle, happy, people-pleaser, lively
Color: Black, chocolate, yellow
Height: 22-25 inches
Weight: 55-80 pounds

Labs are the most loyal emotional support, therapy, and service dogs you can ever get. The joyous, bright, and naturally gentle Labrador Retriever is positively infectious and serves big, sloppy kisses in abundance, regardless of your mood.

These pups have a strong desire to please and can flawlessly attune to your moods to share your best and lowest moments. You don’t have to worry about a straying Lab, because no other pup would rather curl up by your side at all times like a Lab.


3. Yorkshire Terrier

a middle age woman hugging a yorkie
Image Credit: lasha Darts, Pixabay
Lifespan: 13-16 years
Temperament: Intelligent, alert, confident, bold, curious, affectionate, brave
Color: Black, tab, blue, gold, silver
Height: 8-9 inches
Weight: 4-7 pounds

Yorkies have helped people emotionally and mentally for ages, including boosting soldiers’ morale when fighting in the trenches during WW1. These pups may be teeny tiny, but they make up for it in affection.

Don’t worry if you live in a small home; a Yorkshire Terrier can thrive in small living spaces, and you can easily carry them with you- a bonus for emotionally disabled people. A Yorkie would love nothing more than to perch on its owner’s laps, something you can use.


4. Pug

old man holding a pug
Image Credit: winterseitler, Pixabay
Lifespan: 12-15 years
Temperament: Playful, intelligent, loyal, affectionate, charming, mischievous, gentle
Color: Fawn, black, apricot
Height: 10-14 inches
Weight: 13-20 pounds

Behind the grumpy-looking face lies a happy emotional support pug that gives the best hugs. Pugs have the funniest temperaments with the most positive thinking minds. Their intuitions intertwine with their innate desire to make people feel better.

These dogs are brilliant, friendly, and can diligently attune into your emotions and touch your place of positivity and happiness. However, pugs may not be the best option if you often travel as most airlines don’t allow them to fly due to their short noses that cause breathing difficulties.


5. Cavalier King Charles’ Spaniel

cavalier king charles spaniel in the hands of his female owner
Image Credit: Nestor Rizhniak, Shutterstock
Lifespan: 9-15 years
Temperament: Friendly, playful, affectionate, loving, patient, fearless, eager to please
Color: Ruby, tri-color, black & tan, Blenheim
Height: 12-14 inches
Weight: 10-18 pounds

Cavalier King Charles’ Spaniel-the dog that is so good at loyal companionship that it acquired its name after its owner! These canines are the ultimate life companions and offer super emotional support because they’ve been domesticated for ages.

If you require profound love and affection, ‘comforter Spaniel’ won’t mind sharing some. These cuddle bugs are incredibly efficient at combating their owners’ depression thanks to their passion for snuggles.  They cuddle and love so much that owners refer to them as “Love Sponges.”


6. Brussels Griffon

Woman holding adorable Brussels Griffon puppy indoors
Image Credit: New Africa, Shutterstock
Lifespan: 10-15 years
Temperament: Cheerful, vocal, confident, stubborn, mischievous, playful, bold, alert, affectionate
Color: Black, brown, black & tan, blue, red, beige
Height: 7-8 inches
Weight: 7-12 pounds

One look at this “monkey-faced” pup, and you’d not resist a smile. The Brussels Griffon dog is alert, curious, cheerful, affectionate, and exceptionally sensitive to human feelings.

This dog is contentedly low-key, although “personal space” seems not to apply in its world. It’ll sit on your lap whenever it feels it should.


7. Golden Retriever

a woman hugging a golden retriever puppy
Image Credit: birgl, Pixabay
Lifespan: 10-12 years
Temperament: Intelligent, well-mannered, reliable, trustworthy, bold, kind
Color: Light golden, cream, golden, dark golden
Height: 21-24 inches
Weight: 55-65 pounds

These lovable and huggable giants have reigned long as the most loved dogs and the best emotional support dog breed.

Golden retrievers have patient attitudes and possess undisguised friendliness that makes them suitable for kids, adults, and people with health problems. They are famously well-mannered with infectious attitudes that make them great at combating mental symptoms in their guardians.


8. Corgi

corgi kissing a woman
Image Credit: Elena Rogulina, Pixabay
Lifespan: 12-15 years
Temperament: Active, bold, protective, intelligent, tenacious, loving, fun, happy, playful
Color: Red, fawn, tri-colored, black, sable
Height: 10-12 inches
Weight: Up to 30 pounds

People’s attributes and everything about the Corgis points to one thing-how great these dogs are for emotional support. You really can’t go wrong with this lightheaded, intelligent, and affectionate dog whose loving face and loyalty are enough to set the mood right.

A Corgi’s friendliness extends from humans to other canines and non-canines alike, and it can be such a love bug!

These dogs are pretty active, so they can be a life-saving choice for owners who also want physical fitness to supplement emotional support. You’ll be helping to channel your Corgi’s energy, you know!


9. Irish Wolfhound

irish wolfhound is standing on a green meadow
Image Credit: Tikhomirov Sergey, Shutterstock
Lifespan: 6-7 years
Temperament: Patient, loving, gentle, dignified, loyal, generous, sensitive, easygoing
Color: White, black, brindle, red, gray, fawn
Height: 30 inches and above
Weight: 105-120 pounds

It’s fitting to enlist the Irish Wolfhound among emotional support dogs because these canines are natural protectors, and everyone knows that. Irish Wolfhounds are outstandingly patient and so sensitive that they can attend to their human’s mood and make everything turn around.

Known as the “gentle giants” of the dog world, these hounds are enormous with an equally big heart, have lots of love to share, and enough space for the longest hug any emotionally disabled person can use. However, because of complications accompanying their enormous sizes, Irish Wolfhounds have a short lifespan-only 6 to 7 years-too soon and extremely hard for patients who count intensely on their emotional assistance.


10. Chihuahua

a woman holding a chihuahua
Image Credit: Pexels, Pixabay
Lifespan: 12-20 years
Temperament: Feisty, outgoing, alert, courageous, quick, confident, comical, loyal
Color: White, chocolate, black, cream, fawn, gold
Height: 5-9 inches
Weight: 4-6 pounds

Chihuahua is a micro-sized dog with tons of personalities jet-set to help anyone battling mental issues. Chi’s have the grit and character and are the type of dogs that will spend all their time wishing you were there.

Chihuahuas are small but tough pets, well-mannered, cuddly, and the reason you’ll want to go home early from work. Don’t worry if you have to travel away for days, though.

You can tote it in your fancy bag when traveling and allow it to treat your travel anxiety too. Chi’s make great stress-relievers, and they are travel-sized!

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Benefits of Emotional Support Dogs

Sleep Support

Emotional support dogs can come through for individuals who tend to have trouble sleeping and flashbacks like those battling issues like PTSD or complex PTSD. Sharing a bed and cuddling an emotional support dog can help provide a sense of security and safety at night and improve sleep quality in return.

These dogs can nudge, whine, and try to cuddle up closer whenever you experience flashbacks and nightmares. They redirect and soothe you after experiencing the undesired emotional arousal from your experience.

Emotion Regulation

An emotional support dog can also help you recognize and regulate your feelings whenever you feel engulfed, overwhelmed, or angry.

For example, the canine may whimper or pace back and forth when it senses your anger or voice increase. This helps you calm down through self-soothing techniques or grounding strategies.

labrador retriever in autumn
Image Credit: lelonka, Pixabay

Socialization

Emotional support dogs in therapy centers can help improve interactions between patients in the therapy groups. The ability to help people create human-to-human bonds like dog walkers and strangers is suitable for an individual’s long-term health.

Improve Daily Routine

Some people with mental disabilities tend to isolate themselves from humans as cautionary and self-protective measures.

Unfortunately, most emotionally struggling people who may have been victims of prolonged trauma (emotional or physical) or narcissistic abuse have a common theme: they find human interaction unsafe or threatening and tend to avoid it.

However, an emotional support dog can help “bridge” the gap and give you a new sense of purpose. Dogs require a daily dressing, showering, feeding, and walking schedule. So, these activities can help reintegrate someone back to society by caring for a dog.

How to Acquire an Emotional Support Dog

Have a Mental Disability

You qualify for an emotional support pet if you have a mental illness, whether obvious or invisible. However, the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual (DSM) must specify your condition.

Check out some of the specified diagnoses that warrant a person for an emotional support dog.
  • Learning disabilities
  • Attention Deficit Disorder (ADD)
  • Anxiety disorder
  • Depression
  • Intellectual Disability
  • Motor skill disorder
  • PTSD (Post-traumatic Stress Disorder)

Have a Therapy Pet Certification

You have to work with a recognized mental health professional to get the therapeutic benefits of an emotional support pup. The professional will write you a recommendation letter to qualify the pet under the Fair Housing Act and Air Carriers Access Act (ACAA).

After qualifying, you’ll get a certification that notifies landlords and airlines that you need the animal.

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Summary

When you are struggling emotionally and humans refrain from interacting with you, leaving you feeling lonely and unwelcomed, find an emotional support dog to help.

It feels good to have a pup that treats you with patience, showers you with sloppy kisses to lighten you up, and listens without judging. But still, seek help from therapists and psychologists to help where your dog can’t.

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Featured Image: Standret, Shutterstock

Nicole Cosgrove

Nicole is the proud mom of Baby, a Burmese cat and Rosa, a New Zealand Huntaway. A Canadian expat, Nicole now lives on a lush forest property with her Kiwi husband in New Zealand. She has a strong love for all animals of all shapes and sizes (and particularly loves a good interspecies friendship) and wants to share her animal knowledge and other experts' knowledge with pet lovers across the globe.

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