These Smart and Friendly Dog Breeds Are Popular Emotional Support Animals

Emotional support dogs have seen a rise in prevalence as of late. Despite this, however, there is still some confusion surrounding emotional service animals and their purpose. Well, allow us to explain! Emotional support dogs serve as a source of comfort for their owner, whether it is to be a calming presence in a stressful situation, or just to keep them company. Emotional support dogs are also often confused with service and therapy dogs. However, unlike these dogs, whose intelligence is prioritized because of the intensive training they undergo, the best emotional support dog breeds are ones that are incredibly affectionate and loyal. It should also come as no shock that many of these canines are considered the best breeds for first-time dog owners!

There is no specific look for an emotional support dog. Some are small, while others can be as large as they are loving. So, if you're looking through this list for your next four-legged friend, focus on finding a Rover whose personality best resonates with you!

1. Cavalier King Charles Spaniel

cavalier King Charles spaniel sitting on a bed

The ultimate companion dog, Cavaliers King Charles Spaniels have a super sweet temperament. They also really love to cuddle, making them one of the best emotional support dogs. They are very mellow, low-energy pups who don't take a lot of time and maintenance. Depending on your needs, this may be the perfect ESA if you don't have a lot of extra energy to spare.

2. Golden Retriever

golden retriever sits outside

Having long been one of the most popular dog breeds in the United States, Golden Retrievers are just a wonderful family pet all around. They are very loyal to their owners and will gladly cater to their needs. Although they have a moderate energy level and need a bit of exercise, as long as you can provide the appropriate activity level, they will be a perfect companion. Their high intelligence and gentle nature make these friendly dogs a great ESA.

3. Pug


Considered the clowns of the dog world, pugs never fail to delight and charm anyone they meet, making these fun and sociable pups a really great fit for doing any sort of emotional support work. They are also fairly low-maintenance and easy to care for because they only need a moderate amount of exercise to stay healthy. The only thing to consider with these dogs is that they have a short noses, which can lead to breathing problems. Brachycephalic dogs are also not allowed on some airlines, so if you need your ESA dog to fly with you, a pug might not be the best choice.

4. Yorkshire Terrier

Yorkshire terrier lays on the couch

One of the smallest dog breeds, Yorkies are affectionate, and portable little pups. Their small size allows them to accompany their humans to most places, such as social gatherings, to keep them company. At home, they're loving lapdogs who aren't afraid to lavish their owners with an affectionate lick or two. Also, while not big enough to be an imposing guard dog, they'll bark to alert you of anything they find suspicious, making them serve as great watch dogs.

5. Pembroke Welsh Corgi

Smiling corgi in field

Originally bred as a herding dog, corgis are affectionate dogs that have a strong instinct for picking up on their human's emotions, making them well-suited for emotional support work. They are also small enough to cuddle up on the couch, too!

6. Standard Poodle

Standard poodle laying down

Ranked as one of the smartest dog breeds, the poodle is super intelligent and easy to train. Because of this, poodles can be wonderful companions when it comes to helping with mental health issues. Since they are easy to train, you don't have to worry about whether or not they will follow through with their ESA tasks. With the proper training, they will jump right in and reduce the stress in any situation.

7. Chihuahua

Chihuahua sits on the grass

With proper early socialization, chihuahuas can develop loving personalities that translate pretty well into being good emotional support dogs. Their tiny size also allows major portability and great snuggling time. They need a lot of attention, but if you have the time, an attention-seeking dog can be mutually beneficial when you are in need of comfort.

8. Labrador Retriever

Labrador retriever sits in a pile of leaves

Labs make great emotional support dogs because of their calm and gentle nature. These dogs are also super friendly are smart, making them wonderful companions for exploring the world. They are a popular choice for service dogs and emotional support dogs, especially because they work well in families.

9. Border Collie

Border collie sits in tall grass

Considered the most intelligent of all dog breeds, the Border Collie is known for picking up cues from their humans that something isn't right. While this affectionate dog is a good candidate for an ESA, they do need a lot of exercise and fit in best with an active household. Walks and playtime can be just the wellness boost you need!

10. Pomeranian

Pomeranian sits on a grey couch

With a maximum weight of only seven pounds, the tiny but mighty Pomeranian is a pleasant pup that is friendly to everyone, making it a solid choice for an ESA. This fluffy dog breed loves hanging out with its humans and curling up in their laps like little pillow, which is not only adorable, but a good trait to have for those who may want a little extra comfort from their canine.

11. Great Dane

Great Dane lays in the grass.

Even though these pups are very large, they think they're lap dogs. Great Danes have a shorter lifespan due to their size, but make excellent emotional support dogs and are often seen visiting senior homes and hospitals. There's a reason these sweet pups are known as gentle giants!

12. French Bulldog

French Bulldog

French bulldogs have a great personality and temperament for an emotional support dog or therapy dog. They're said to be able to sense their owner's emotions, and can lend a sympathetic ear - of which this breed has two noticeably big ones.

13. Pit Bulls

Pit bull lays down on a deck

One type of dog that is grossly mischaracterized is the Pit bull. These powerful pooches are big into cuddling and will instantly become your best friend. They have unconditional love for, and desire to protect, their owners, and a smile that will melt your heart.

14. German Shepherd

German Shepherd dog sits on the lawn

German Shepherds are another common service dog that would make an excellent ESA. They are smart, easy to train, and eager to learn. Even though they have high energy levels, they can still be valuable dogs for those who need emotional support. A lot of people with post-traumatic stress disorder turn to German Shepherds for the comfort they need.

15. Havanese

Havanese puppy in a field

A fluffy, friendly, and calm canine, the Havanese is another dog that makes an amazing ESA. Often called "Velcro dogs," theses pups love to stick to their owner's side, and their constant companionship has made them a favorite of people with anxiety or depression. Their adaptability, tranquil temperament, and small size also make them the perfect pet to travel with, whether it be in the car or on a Fido-friendly airline.

Just because a pup didn't make this list doesn't mean it can't be an emotional support dog! Many dogs can become valuable ESAs with the right guidance. Even rescue dogs can be trained to help people with needs such as anxiety disorder and depression. The bottom line? Any pup is capable of becoming the best emotional support dog and bringing us happiness and the comfort we need.

Do you live with any of these dog breeds? Share your furry best friend with us on the Wide Open Pets Facebook page!

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