Our Pick of the Top 10 Dog Breeds for Emotional Support Animals (ESAs)

Written by: Loren Seldner



Time to read 7 min

Dogs, with their incredible companionship and vital assistance, hold a special place in our hearts, especially for individuals dealing with emotional and mental health issues.

Sadly, the increasing prevalence of mental health issues and the recognition of mental illness as the primary cause of disability-adjusted life years worldwide demands a collaborative endeavor to identify and allocate resources for the support of individuals facing mental health challenges. This is where our beloved furry friends come to our rescue!

In recent years, emotional support animals (ESAs) have soared in popularity, offering crucial therapy aid that can significantly improve well-being and enhance the quality of life for those facing challenges like anxiety and depression.

Although any pet can technically fulfill the role of an ESA, specific dog breeds stand out for excelling in this supportive position. If you're contemplating welcoming a new furry friend to be your ESA, consider these top 10 breeds ideally suited for the job:

1. Labrador Retriever

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Labradors are known for their friendly and outgoing temperament. They are social dogs that enjoy the company of humans and other animals. They are often described as being good-natured, kind, and gentle.

These energetic buddies are highly intelligent, and they learn quickly! That's why it is so easy to train them.


People love them because they are super energetic, and they develop special bonds with children thanks to their endless patience and tolerant nature.


Since they crave physical contact - and love cuddling! - they make excellent ESAs. They are also fantastic service dogs.


FUN FACT ABOUT THEM: As their name suggests, Labrador Retrievers have a natural instinct for retrieving objects - that's why they are terrific at playing catch. 

2. Golden Retriever

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Golden Retrievers are known for their friendly and gentle nature, making them excellent companions for individuals in need of emotional support. Their warm demeanor and affectionate disposition can offer comfort and solace.

They are known for their patience and tolerance, especially with children and other pets. Their gentle nature makes them suitable companions for families. No wonder why they are displayed as the iconic pet in many movies!

Golden Retrievers are remarkably empathetic and sensitive to their owner's emotions. They can detect emotional cues and respond with compassion, offering comfort and understanding. They have many outstanding qualities, but above them all is their unconditional love for their owners.

FUN FACT ABOUT THEM: Golden Retrievers are hard-working dogs! They are excellent service dogs, fantastic for search and rescue efforts, and a beloved breed for therapy purposes!

3. Yorkshire Terrier

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These small-sized dogs are easily transported and carried. They are super affectionate and love to spend time with their owners. They thrive on human companionship and form strong bonds with their families - that’s why they made it into this list. Don’t be fooled by their cuteness and size, they are quite fierce and protective of their loved ones.

Aside from liking being near their humans, Yorkshire Terriers are playful. They are quite smart and they excel in obedience activities. Yorkies' affectionate and loyal nature makes them exceptional emotional support animals. Their presence and unconditional love can provide comfort and companionship to individuals facing mental health challenges.

FUN FACT ABOUT THEM: These furry buddies have an astounding sense of hearing and are excellent watchdogs. Loyal, loving, and smart - what more could one ask in an ESA?

4. Corgi

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If you look for the word “Loyal” in a doggy dictionary, a photo of a Corgi will show up. These beautiful, playful dogs form deep connections and are devoted companions. They have a lot of energy and enjoy engaging in fun activities with their owners.

With their unique loaf-like appearance, little legs, and adorable fluffy butts, Corgis capture hearts wherever they go. Beyond their undeniable charm, they are known for their stable temperament and loyalty. Corgis are affectionate and love cuddling with their humans. Their loving nature provides comfort and emotional support.

FUN FACT ABOUT THEM: Originally bred as herding dogs, Corgis have a strong herding instinct; watching them display this behavior is quite a show!

5. Beagle

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These social creatures usually get along with other people and pets. In fact, this sociable nature makes them excellent companions for those suffering from feelings of loneliness. While beagles have a playful side, they also exhibit a calm and gentle demeanor. Their soothing presence can be comforting during times of stress or anxiety.

Beagles have a curious nature and a keen sense of smell, which sometimes leads them to exciting explorations. Their passion for adventure makes them easily distracted and excited. 

Beagles' friendly, affectionate, and gentle nature makes them ideal emotional support animals. Their unconditional love and companionship offer comfort and emotional stability, making challenging times easier to navigate.

FUN FACT ABOUT THEM: Beagles are known for their expressive faces and vocalizations. Their ability to communicate emotions may resonate with their owners, providing a sense of understanding and empathy. So, if you say you and your Beagle “talk”, we believe you!

6. Chihuahua

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What Chihuahuas lack in size, they compensate in love. Chihuahuas have big hearts filled with loyalty and devotion for their owners. They form strong bonds and thrive on human interaction. For those seeking constant support and companionship, these highly-portable furry buddies are an excellent choice.

These little dogs exude confidence and fearlessness, which can be empowering for their owners during challenging times. Chihuahuas are naturally alert and responsive to their environment, which can help their owners feel safe and protected. While they may not fit well into households with small children, they make excellent ESA choices for individuals seeking a close bond.

FUN FACT ABOUT THEM: Since they were bred for warm temperatures in Mexico, they are not the best at enduring the cold. Which gives their owners the perfect excuse to dress them in in the cutests warming outfits!

7. Pug

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One look at a pug's comical face is enough to brighten anyone's day. Pugs have an innate ability to tune into their owners' emotions and offer comfort. Their endearing behavior and cute mannerisms create an uplifting and joyful atmosphere. Pugs are known for their charming and affectionate nature. Their joyful antics and playful demeanor can lift the spirits of their owners and provide emotional comfort.

Pugs have a gentle and calm disposition, making them well-suited for providing emotional support to individuals facing stress or anxiety. They are fantastic as emotional support animals because of their remarkable ability to sense their owner's emotions and provide comfort when needed most. Their intuitive nature allows them to be attentive to their owner's feelings.

FUN FACT ABOUT THEM: Contrary to other breeds, Pugs actually require little exercise, but this trait is beneficial for those owners with mobility limitations.

8. Cavalier King Charles Spaniel

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With their gentle and calm demeanor, Cavaliers are well-suited to provide emotional comfort and support to individuals facing anxiety or stress. Surely, these cute dogs love to play, but they get their utmost satisfaction in pleasing their owners and making them happy. These charming dogs are social butterflies, getting along well with other pets and people alike. Their friendly nature makes them approachable and comforting in various social settings

Despite their mellow nature, they are great at adapting to different living situations, whether it's a bustling city apartment or a cozy suburban home. Their adaptability makes them ideal companions for a wide range of people.

FUN FACT ABOUT THEM: Cavaliers are great at detecting sadness in their owners, and they will do everything in their paws to provide them with solace and support!

9. Pomeranian

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Pomeranians are bundles of fluffy joy, perfect for snuggling and providing unwavering attention. Despite their small stature, Pomeranians are filled with energy and exuberance. Their playful nature can bring joy and lift spirits, making them excellent emotional support animals.

While Pomeranians may be small, they have big personalities and are sociable with both people and other pets. Their friendly demeanor can ease social interactions and foster a sense of well-being. They are also surprisingly perceptive and can sense their owner's emotions. They have an uncanny ability to offer comfort during times of stress or anxiety.

FUN FACT ABOUT THEM: Many Pomeranians change color as they age! But don’t worry, even if their appearance is not the same, their love for you will be!

10. Poodle

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Poodles possess a calm and composed temperament, which can have a soothing effect on their owners. Their tranquil presence can promote a sense of relaxation and emotional stability. These cuddly buddies are highly trainable and eager to please their owners. Their responsiveness to training makes them excellent at learning specific tasks to support their owner's emotional needs.

They come in various sizes, including standard, miniature, and toy. This versatility allows individuals to choose a size that best fits their living situation and lifestyle needs.

FUN FACT ABOUT THEM: The iconic Poodle cut may appear to be a fashionable choice for canines, but its primary purpose is functionality rather than mere fashion. By having less hair, Poodles can swim more efficiently, but it also exposes them to greater vulnerability in colder waters. No matter what kind of hairstyle they have, they are 100% devoted to their humans.

Emotional Support Dog Breeds - The Conclusion

Regardless of the breed you choose, incorporating an emotional support animal into your life can bring immeasurable comfort and support.

Remember to consider your own needs and lifestyle when selecting an ESA - think about your home, your exercise needs (high or low), and the other humans and animals in your household. With the right canine companion by your side, you can embark on a journey of improved mental health and well-being, knowing you have a loyal friend who loves you unconditionally and will always be there for you.

May your ESA provide unwavering support and love throughout your journey to improved mental health.

Want to certify your pet as an ESA? At Felicitails, we make it easy through our Free My Paws Emotional Support Animal Therapist Certification Program.  Click here to learn more!

Stay Pawsitive!