Emotional support animals provide their humans with therapeutic benefits, including anxiety relief and comfort in social settings, without any requisite training. While all dogs can offer support, certain breeds have traits that make them more likely to excel in the role. They tend to be gentle, laid-back, and sociable. These dog breeds also typically are highly trainable and want to please their humans.
Here are 10 dog breeds to consider if you're looking for an emotional support animal.
These dog breeds tend to include dogs that easily bond with their humans, which is an ideal trait for an emotional support animal. They’re the type of dog that’s in tune with its humans and can read their emotions versus a breed that’s more aloof. They respond well to training but don’t have the extreme smarts or energy levels that require an owner to put in lots of effort to tire out their dog mentally and physically. And, while they’re confident dogs, they’re generally not aggressive or headstrong.
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Pit bull-type dogs have been maligned for years—an unfortunate result of bad owners and bad PR. But these friendly, devoted canines are incredibly well-suited to serve as emotional support animals. With the proper training and socialization, breeds like the American Staffordshire terrier typically can get along with most people and in various situations.
Height: 17 to 19 inches
Weight: 40 to 70 pounds
Physical Characteristics: Muscular body; colors include black, blue, fawn, and more
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Golden retrievers have long reigned as one of the most popular dog breeds in the United States, both as emotional support animals and general family pets. Their patient demeanors and overt friendliness make them a good fit for people with health issues. And, as an added bonus, they are highly trainable.
Height: 22 to 24 inches
Weight: 55 to 75 pounds
Physical Characteristics: Straight or wavy coat; light to dark golden shades
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Search any list of the best emotional support, therapy, or service dogs, and you’ll likely see Labrador retrievers. Labs are gentle and friendly with a strong desire to please. They're good for people who need a companion out of their homes, as Labs tend to be comfortable exploring the world.
Height: 22 to 25 inches
Weight: 55 to 80 pounds
Physical Characteristics: Athletic build; short coat; colors include black, chocolate, and yellow
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Corgis are more than just the preferred breed of the queen of England. These affectionate dogs are typically good with humans of all ages, and their intelligence makes them excel in training. But corgis are fairly active dogs, so they're not right for every condition. They can be suitable for owners who prefer to take their dogs with them when out and about, as that will help channel the corgi's energy.
Height: 10 to 12 inches
Weight: Up to 30 pounds
Physical Characteristics: Low-set and long; colors include black and tan, fawn, red, and sable with white markingsContinue to 5 of 10 below.
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What Yorkies lack in size they make up for in confidence and affection. They expect lots of attention, but they give it back tenfold. They’re easy to travel with, which is good for people who require their emotional support animal to accompany them on trips. And they tend to adapt well to change.
Height: 7 to 8 inches
Weight: 7 pounds
Physical Characteristics: Compact body; silky coat; colors include black and tan, blue and tan, and more
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Irish wolfhounds are natural protectors. And their sensitive nature helps them tune into what their humans are feeling. But one factor to keep in mind is they have a relatively short lifespan—just six to eight years—which can be difficult for those who rely heavily on their emotional support animal.
Height: 30 inches and up
Weight: 105 to 120 pounds
Physical Characteristics: Tall, long body; rough coat; colors include black, blue, cream, gray, and more
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The Cavalier King Charles spaniel is like a living stuffed animal. These dogs love to cuddle and typically have a friendly temperament. They're often referred to as the “comforter spaniel.” They're usually just as happy to cozy up with their favorite humans as they are to join them for a pleasant walk.
Height: 12 to 13 inches
Weight: 13 to 18 pounds
Physical Characteristics: Medium-length, silky coat; colors include black and tan, black and white, and more
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Chihuahuas run the spectrum of temperament. But, with proper socialization at an early age, chihuahuas can develop loving personalities that translate well into emotional support. Like Yorkies, they travel easily for on-the-go companionship. They don’t require much exercise, and they're happy to keep their humans engaged with playtime and snuggles.
Height: 5 to 8 inches
Weight: Up to 6 pounds
Physical Characteristics: Alert expression; smooth or long coat; colors include black, tan, and moreContinue to 9 of 10 below.
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German shepherds prefer to have a job, which is why they’re often chosen as working dogs. Their intelligence and eagerness to please also make them strong contenders as emotional support animals. Most German shepherds love to engage with their humans, and, with sufficient training, they can become wonderful companions in public spaces.
Height: 22 to 26 inches
Weight: 50 to 90 pounds
Physical Characteristics: Muscular body; medium-length coat; colors include black and tan, black and red, solid black, and more
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As herding dogs, collies constantly check to ensure their flock—or family—is happy and secure. Most collies are skilled at picking up cues from their humans that something isn't right, and they're quick to swoop in to provide comfort. They do need ample exercise, which means they're good at getting their humans up and out of the house.
Height: 22 to 26 inches
Weight: 50 to 75 pounds
Physical Characteristics: Rough or smooth coat; colors include sable and white, blue merle, and more
Breeds to Avoid
While any individual dog, regardless of breed, can be the right fit to provide emotional support to a person, certain dog breeds are less likely to fit the role. For instance, while the Shar-Pei is a loyal and protective dog, it doesn't tend to be very loving and cuddly. Likewise, the Kerry blue terrier, Pekingese, Shiba Inu, and several other breeds are quite independent and often don’t need to share affection with their humans to be happy. So they're not likely contenders to provide support whenever it's needed.