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Characteristics of Emotional Support Animals and Best Breeds


Pet owners are likely to have a strong bond with their pets, as they are a vital part of their lives. Owners enjoy the companionship that their four-legged friends provide and tend to feel calmer and happier with their pets around. Since pets make their owners/handlers feel better and improve their emotional state, can we say that all pets are emotional support animals?

What are Emotional Support Animals?

No, in order for a pet to be an emotional support animal, it needs to be prescribed by a doctor, psychiatrist or therapist to an individual who is dealing with a mental illness. However, we need to clarify that an ESA is not a service animal. Although an ESA relieves symptoms of depression or anxiety and provides a valuable companionship, the animal has not been trained to perform a specific task. A service animal according to the ADA regulations is:

Service animals are defined as dogs that are individually trained to do work or perform tasks for people with disabilities.

ESAs are not provided with the same accommodation rights as service dogs and business owners may deny access to these animals.

What Characteristics Should a Dog Have In Order to Become a Good Emotional Support Animal?

We need to mention, that there is no limitation of the species that can become an emotional support animal. Dogs are preferred by most people, due to their proven qualities. In general, a good emotional support animal should be intelligent, easy-going, able to learn, gentle, in a good shape and have an emotional stable temperament. It is important for the animal to be able to sense their handler’s emotions.

The perfect ESA should be:

Loving and devoted to their handler

This is important, so that a strong connection can be created between the animal and their handler/owner. The stronger the bond is, the better the dog can sense the changes in the emotional states of their handler.


You can train an intelligent animal easier. Moreover, it would be able to determine better the emotions and the behavior of their owner.

Obedient and able to learn

A good ESA should be obedient and easy to train. There are different approaches and techniques for emotional support and an ESA should manage to apply them when necessary. Quick reactions are important in cases when an emotional disorder occurs.

Easy-going and social

If you want to be supported by your ESA while in public, you may want it to behave properly with strange people.

Similar to service dogs, the most suitable breeds and sizes of an ESA are subjective. The choice depends on many factors like the size of the house/apartment, the lifestyle of the handler, their personality, and their particular needs.

As choosing the most suitable breed for an ESA could be challenging for some people, we would like to list some of the best breeds for an ESA.

Best Emotional Support Dog Breeds

Labrador Retriever

It is no surprise that this breed takes the first place. The Labrador Retrievers are very intelligent, loyal and easy to train, and they can be thought a lot of skills. Although the breed is large, its representatives are gentle, and they are giving their best to please their owners. The Labrador Retrievers are easy-going with children which makes them suitable for families with kids. Their temperament is very friendly, and they are able to sense the emotional state of their handlers very well. If you would like to have a Labrador Retriever as an ESA, you need to keep in mind, that these dogs need exercises, as they are energetic.

Golden Retrievers

This breed has a lot in common with the Labrador Retrievers. They have similar temperaments, as both breeds are friendly, affectionate, and really intelligent. Due to their nice personality they are usually accepted and welcomed in public spaces, which can be considered a big advantage.

A disadvantage of both breeds is that they shed a lot which makes them not suitable for people with allergies.

Yorkshire Terrier

One of the most popular and lovely breeds is the Yorkshire Terriers. These dogs provide wonderful companionship, as they tend to create a really strong bod with their owners. Although they are small, they are likely to have strong personalities. Their size can be considered an advantage, as they can be taken in many places, they are easy to handle and most people like them. You can train them easily in different tasks because they are intelligent, docile, and understand what you are expecting them to do. If you live in a small apartment, and you can not raise a large breed, a Yorkshire Terrier is a perfect choice!

Cavalier King Charles Spaniel 

These dogs are just lovely! Since they were bred to be lapdogs, they will enjoy the relaxing time spent on your lap. They are very gentle and are perfect to relieve symptoms of depression or anxiety through their companionship. They have a friendly and affectionate personality, they adapt fast, can be trained easily. Furthermore, they are able to recognize different emotional states and to react accordingly. Similar to the Yorkshire Terriers, their small size and lovely look make them welcomed in public premises.


Another small breed that can be a good emotional support animal is the Chihuahua. These dogs, when trained from a young age, are able to turn into great emotional support animals. They have a friendly personality, although they are popular with their barking. Because of their small size their handlers can raise them in an apartment and take them everywhere. Another advantage of this breed is that its representatives do not demand a lot of exercises. The Chihuahuas can provide an excellent emotional support when socialized properly.


One of the most intelligent and gentle breeds that can provide a great companionship are the Poodles. Choosing a dog of this breed has many advantages: poodles are very intelligent, they do not tend to shed, which makes them perfect for individuals with allergies to dog’s fur. They are very friendly, optimistic and adaptive to new situations. Although they do not shed a lot, we would recommend that you groom them at least once a week in order to avoid any allergies that may occur. Poodles can effectively relieve stress symptoms. As this breed comes in different sizes, you can choose the most suitable for you and your lifestyle. The larger representatives of the breed can be trained to perform even more difficult and demanding tasks.

Pembroke Welsh Corgi

The Pembroke Welsh Corgis are representatives of another lovely and intelligent breed, that is very suitable for an emotional support animal. The Corgis are devoted to their owners and can easily recognize their emotions and behavior changes. They are easy-going with adults and children and tend to enjoy cuddling and petting. Although their size is not considered large, they have a lot of energy and need exercises, which makes them perfect for houses or big apartments, but not suitable for small ones. The Corgis are considered independent and eager and skilled in reading the emotions of their handlers.

Bichon Frisé

This is one of the happiest and loveliest breeds! Very friendly, easy-going with people, as well as with other dogs, gentle and devoted to their handler, these furry friends can provide an ideal companionship. They are intelligent and are able to lighten up everyone’s mood very easily. Since these doggies are not large, they do not require a lot of space. Unfortunately, if you have chosen this fluffy dog to be your ESA, you need to consider regular visits by a groomer.

German Shepherd

Although the representatives of this breed are preferred as working dogs due to their large size, these dogs can be perfect emotional support animals as well. They engage with their handlers, and try to please them. They can be trained a variety of tasks, including strength demanding tasks. Furthermore, they learn very fast. Despite their size, they are friendly and affectionate and are considered one of the smartest dog breeds. When socialized they can provide support in public spaces. German Shepherds need a regular training and activities in order to stay fit, and we do not recommend that you raise these dogs in small apartments.


These canines can develop a really strong bond with their handlers, they are deemed very social and can provide perfect emotional support. Their expression is presented as almost human-like due to their large eyes and wrinkled forehead. They are friendly and easy-going with adults and children as well, have a stable temperament. These doggies are popular with their funny behavior, guaranteed to you make you laugh. These pups are very good at being emotional support animals.

American Staffordshire Terrier

Despite their look and reputation, these dogs are intelligent, they can be really friendly, and they tend to develop a strong connection with their handlers. You can train them different techniques for improving their emotional state. It would be a problem to be accompanied by a dog from this breed in public, as some people are biased towards the representatives of this breed and are likely to be less accommodating.

Irish Wolfhound

Irish Wolfhounds are loyal, reliable and easy-going. Although they are born protectors their nature is sensitive, and they can determine the feelings and the emotions of their owners. Unfortunately, they usually live approximately 6-10 years, which may cause emotional struggle to their owners.