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Dogs are often considered "man's best friend". They stand out among the pets used in therapy as some of the most beloved and influential companions. Throughout history, dogs have faithfully accompanied humans and have been viewed as natural healers.

But what makes dogs so lovable? Well, one remarkable quality is their ability to reflect the emotions of the people around them. When you return home feeling down, your loyal poodle will instinctively snuggle up at your feet or on the couch, trying to uplift your spirits. Dogs are remarkably perceptive; they can sense when something isn't right. In fact, there are inspiring stories of dogs saving their owners from sudden medical emergencies by alerting others and seeking help.

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The unique connection between humans and dogs can provide critical support in challenging situations. So, let's explore the 10 best dog breeds for emotional support.

Picture of a men with his dog at the beach, with a beautiful sunset.

Here are the top ten breeds of dogs suitable as therapy dogs for those in need.

  1. Labrador Retriever

Photo of a Labrador dog and a little boy.

Labrador Retrievers are one of the most popular and beloved therapy dog breeds. Some consider them to be best emotional support dog. Here's why:

  • Friendly and Loving: Labrador Retrievers enjoy being around people and quickly build strong bonds with their owners. Their affectionate disposition makes them great companions for individuals needing emotional support.
  • Gentle Temperament: These dogs have a gentle and even-tempered nature, which is ideal for therapy work. They are patient and understanding, making them well-suited to provide comfort and emotional assistance to those in need.
  • Energetic Playfulness: Labs are playful and energetic, which can be uplifting for people who enjoy playful interactions. They love to play fetch, go for walks, and engage in various activities, providing physical and mental stimulation for their owners.
  • Emotional Support: Labrador Retrievers have an innate ability to sense their owner's emotions. They can offer comfort by simply being there, leaning on someone's lap, or snuggling close. Their presence alone can bring about feelings of contentment and security.
  • Trainability: Labs are highly trainable; many are used as service or therapy dogs. Their intelligence and eagerness to please make them adaptable to various situations and tasks, making them great candidates for therapy work.
  • Size and Appearance: Their size, often considered "big," can provide comfort when they are nearby. Their soft, thick coats and expressive eyes make them visually appealing and inviting for those seeking emotional support.
  1. German Shepherd

Photo of a German Shepherd dog in nature.

Among the best dog breeds for therapy, German Shepherds are a well-respected breed known for their versatility in various roles. Here's why they excel in therapy work:

  • Intelligence and Trainability: German Shepherds are brilliant dogs. Their ability to learn quickly and understand complex commands makes them well-suited for therapy work. They can be trained to perform specific tasks and provide emotional support.
  • Protective Nature: While German Shepherds are known for their protective instincts, they can also use these traits in a therapeutic context. Their protective nature can be comforting for people who may feel vulnerable or anxious. They create a sense of safety and security for their owners.
  • Versatility: German Shepherds have a history of being bred as service dogs, which includes roles like guide dogs for blind people, search and rescue dogs, and police dogs. This versatility means they can be adapted to various therapy situations, making them highly valuable in offering emotional support.
  • Loyalty: This exceptional loyalty to their owners fosters a strong bond, providing a consistent source of emotional comfort and companionship. They often thrive on being close to their humans.
  • Physical Fitness: Their physical strength and endurance can benefit therapy work. They can accompany individuals on walks, offer stability support, or engage in physical activities to promote well-being and exercise.

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  • Calming Presence: German Shepherds’ steady character and focused attention can help alleviate stress and anxiety in those seeking therapy. Their companionship can be a source of soothe and relaxation.
  1. Greyhound

Photo of a Greyhound dog with a Reindeer headband with a little boy in the hospital.

Despite their reputation as racing dogs, Greyhounds can also make excellent therapy dogs, especially for those with trouble sleeping. Here's why they are great companions for this purpose:

  • Gentle and Quiet: Greyhounds are known for being calm and composed. This makes them ideal for situations where individuals need a patient and understanding companion, such as in therapy settings. Their serene presence creates a peaceful atmosphere.
  • Affectionate Companionship: Greyhounds are very affectionate and enjoy spending time with their owners. They often form strong bonds and provide comfort and companionship, which is especially beneficial for people who may feel lonely or need emotional support.
  • Laid-Back Disposition: Greyhounds are not overly energetic and are content with lounging and lying down, making them excellent for those with trouble sleeping. Their relaxed attitude can help ease anxiety and promote restful sleep.
  • Sleek Appearance: Their sleek and elegant appearance is visually appealing and can be comforting to have by your side. Their lean and graceful physique adds to their calming effect on their owners.
  • Good Listeners: While they may not provide verbal feedback, Greyhounds are good listeners. They attentively stay with their owners, which can be therapeutic for those who need someone to be present and listen without judgment.
  1. Beagle 

Photo of a Beagle dog with a vest to identify that he is a therapy dog.

Beagles are excellent therapy dogs, often characterized by their small size and friendly nature. Here's why they make great companions for therapy:

  • Friendly and Sociable: Beagles tend to get along well with people and other animals, a valuable trait in therapy dogs. Their pleasant disposition can put individuals at ease and create a warm, welcoming atmosphere.
  • Small and Manageable Size: Beagles are a smaller breed, making them more manageable in therapy settings. Their size suits sitting on laps, being held, or being close to individuals needing comfort. Their compact size makes them easy to bring to various places.
  • Active and Playful: Beagles’ energy and enthusiasm can be contagious, helping to engage individuals in therapeutic activities. Playtime and interaction with a lively Beagle can lift spirits and promote well-being.

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  • Cuddly and Affectionate: Beagles are affectionate dogs that enjoy cuddling and physical contact. Their snuggling and warm character can be exceptionally comforting for individuals seeking emotional support, and cuddling can reduce stress and anxiety.
  • Good Temperament: Beagles are generally patient, even-tempered, and easygoing. This makes them adaptable to various therapy situations, whether offering emotional support, participating in structured activities, or simply being a calming presence.
  • History of Companionship: Beagles have a history of being companions to humans, including hunting and as family pets. This lineage of companionship demonstrates their suitability for providing emotional support and comfort.
  1. Rottweiler

Photo of a Rottweiler therapy dog wearing a watermelon-print cap.

Rottweilers, often perceived as strong and protective, can also make excellent therapy dogs thanks to their unique traits:

  • Calm Character: Rottweilers’ steady and confident presence can have a calming effect on individuals seeking therapy, especially those dealing with anxiety or stress.
  • Intelligence: Their intelligence makes them receptive to training and adaptable to various therapy situations. They can learn specific tasks and commands that are beneficial for therapy work.
  • Loyal and Protective: While these traits are often associated with guarding, they can be beneficial in therapy settings, providing a sense of safety and security to individuals needing emotional support.
  • Gentle Giants: Despite their robust appearance, Rottweilers can be gentle giants. They are often very gentle with children and adults alike. Their physical strength can reassure people who need stability or assistance in certain situations.
  • Reputation as Working Dogs: Rottweilers have a reputation as working dogs, often used in roles like search and rescue, police work, and as service animals. This background attests to their ability to handle responsibility and provide assistance, including emotional support.
  • Prey Subduing Instinct: Rottweilers were historically bred as cattle herders and guard dogs. They have a unique instinct for subduing prey without causing harm. This quality can benefit therapy situations, as Rottweilers can be gentle and understanding while offering support.
  1. Saint Bernard 
Photo of a Saint Bernard therapy dog, in a library with a little girl.

Saint Bernards are indeed big, furry, and lovable dogs, and they possess several qualities that make them excellent therapy dogs:

  • Gentle and Patient: This quality is valuable when working with children or individuals who may have special needs. Their tolerance and calm disposition make them a comforting presence for those in therapy.
  • Affectionate and Loving: Saint Bernards enjoy being close to their owners and are quick to offer comfort through physical contact, such as snuggling or leaning against individuals. Their loving nature fosters solid emotional bonds.
  • Furry and Cuddly: Their fluffy and cuddly appearance is visually appealing and soothing, providing warmth and security.
  • Great with Children: Saint Bernards’ patience and understanding nature make them ideal companions for kids, even when children may handle them roughly. This trait is essential in therapy situations where children may be involved.
  • Size for Comfort: Their large size can be physically comforting for some individuals, as they offer protection and stability.
  • Adaptability: Saint Bernards can adapt well to various environments and therapy settings. Their easygoing nature and ability to remain calm in different situations make them versatile therapy dogs.
  1. Pomeranian 
Photo of a Pomeranian therapy dog, in a hospital with a little girl.

Despite their small size, Pomeranians can be excellent therapy dogs, particularly for elderly individuals who seek companionship and affection. Here's why they are a great choice:

  • Compact Size: Pomeranians are a small breed, which makes them well-suited for those who don’t have a lot of space or live in apartments. Their size allows them to comfortably sit on laps and be close to their owners.
  • Affectionate and Cuddly: Pomeranians enjoy being close to their owners and are known for their love of cuddling, which can be emotionally comforting and alleviate stress.
  • Low Activity Level: Pomeranians do not require a lot of physical activity, making them suitable for individuals with limited mobility or those who prefer a more sedentary lifestyle. This is ideal for elderly individuals who cannot engage in active play.
  • Great Companions: Pomeranians are loyal and thrive on human interaction, offering emotional support through their presence and attentiveness.
  • Low Maintenance: Their small size means they are relatively low-maintenance in grooming and exercise, making them a practical choice for seniors with limitations in caring for a larger dog.
  1. Poodle
Photo of a Poodle therapy dog, wearing a vest that says "emotional support"

Poodles are intelligent and hypoallergenic dogs, making them excellent choices for therapy work. Here's why they are well-suited as therapy dogs:

  • Hypoallergenic Coat: Poodles have a hypoallergenic coat, producing fewer allergenic proteins in their skin and saliva. This quality makes them an ideal choice for individuals with allergies, as they are less likely to trigger allergic reactions.
  • Intelligence and Trainability: Poodles are among the most intelligent dog breeds. Their sharp minds and eagerness to learn make them highly trainable. This intelligence allows them to adapt to therapy situations and perform various tasks, including emotional support.
  • Versatile Working Dogs: Poodles have a history of being working dogs. They were initially bred for waterfowl hunting, demonstrating their adaptability to different tasks. This background makes them versatile in therapy settings, where they can be trained for specific activities or provide companionship.
  • Alert and Attentive: Poodles can quickly pick up on changes in their owner's emotional state and respond accordingly. Their ability to be in tune with human emotions makes them valuable in emotional support.
  • Well-Mannered: Poodles’ good behavior and social nature can make them pleasant to be around, both for the owner and those receiving therapy.
  • Size Variability: Poodles come in various sizes, including standard, miniature, and toy. This size variability allows individuals to choose a Poodle that fits their living situation and personal preferences.
  1. Pug
Photo of a Pug dog with a bandana saying "Pets as Therapy. Visiting PAT dog."

Pugs, known for their charming and funny personalities, are excellent therapy dogs because of several charming qualities:

  • Small and Manageable Size: Pugs are a small breed, making them suitable for various living situations, including apartments. Their compact size allows them to be close to their owners and comfortably fit on laps, which is particularly important in therapy settings.
  • Friendly and People-Pleasing: Pugs love to make people happy and quickly form strong bonds with both young and old alike. Their friendly disposition makes them well-received and comforting in therapy situations. Also, their desire to make people happy can be valuable in therapy work, contributing to their trainability and willingness to engage in therapeutic activities.
  • Playful and Amusing: Pugs have a playful and amusing personality. Their quirky antics and expressive faces can bring joy and laughter to therapy sessions, helping to uplift spirits and reduce stress.
  • Companionship: Pugs enjoy being close to their owners and offer a sense of warmth and connection. Their affectionate nature is especially beneficial for individuals who may feel lonely or need emotional support.
  1. French Bulldog

Photo of a French Bulldog dog going to a woman's lap, and the woman is laughing.

French Bulldogs, with their adorable appearance and gentle disposition, are well-suited as therapy dogs for various reasons:

  • Cuteness and Charm: French Bulldogs are often considered one of the cutest dog breeds, with short legs and distinctive bat-like ears. Their charming appearance can bring joy and comfort to therapy sessions, making them appealing to individuals seeking emotional support.
  • Curious and Inquisitive: French Bulldogs’ interest in their surroundings and interactions can engage individuals in therapy, fostering a sense of connection and mental stimulation.
  • Non-Confrontational Nature: French Bulldogs are unlikely to become aggressive or act confrontational, making them safe and reassuring companions for those needing emotional support.

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  • Lap Dogs: French Bulldogs are often described as "lap dogs" because they love to be close to their owners. This quality is valuable in therapy settings, where their presence on a person's lap can provide physical and emotional comfort.
  • Low Activity Level: They have a relatively low activity level, which can benefit individuals who may not be able to engage in active play. Their calm character and ability to remain still can be soothing for people needing therapy.
  • Easygoing and Friendly: French Bulldogs are easygoing and friendly dogs. They tend to get along well with people of all ages and personalities, making them versatile therapy dogs.

Photo of a dog with a superhero cape in nature with a beautiful sunset.

The Bottom Line

Are you searching for the perfect dog companion for a pet therapy program? These ten dog breeds are your four-legged heroes for pet therapy! They are ready to step up and provide the support, comfort, healing, and love you need! With their unique qualities and gentle natures, they are some of the best dogs to have. They have the power to positively impact the lives of those seeking emotional support.

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