11 Breeds That Make the Best Emotional Support Dogs (with Photos)

The presence of emotional support animals (ESA) has become more prevalent in our society. The rise in popularity may be a result of recent studies that show ESAs successfully help people with PTSD, depression, anxiety, and other mental health issues.

In fact, recent studies suggest that within the first week of having an ESA, 82% of individuals with PTSD and other mental health ailments felt their symptoms were minimized

These adorable and supportive pets can be trained to cuddle, comfort on command, and be highly sociable. While any dog breed can be registered as an ESA, not every breed has the makings of a good emotional support animal (external article). I’ve compiled a list of the top 11 breeds that make for the best emotional support dogs.

best emotional support dogs
11 Breeds That Make the Best Emotional Support Dogs

What Is an Emotional Support Animal?

Any pet can be an emotional support animal, but dogs and cats are the most common. An emotional support dog should be intelligent, loving, devoted, obedient, easy-going, and social. A smart and dedicated dog makes training easier.

If you plan to bring your ESA out in public with you, you’ll want them to be sociable and behave well around others

Although most emotional support dogs have these characteristics, they still have their own personalities. Some breeds can be intelligent and affectionate but don’t take well to strangers. Others may befriend anyone around them but are prone to barking at everything.

It’s necessary to ensure the emotional support dog you choose fits into the parameters of your daily life.

owner hugging a puppy
An owner snuggling with her puppy.

Emotional Support Dog vs Service Dog

It’s important to note that emotional support dogs are not the same as service dogs. Service dogs are individually trained to work or perform tasks for people with disabilities. Emotional support dogs do not have the same accommodation rights as service dogs.

For example, this difference means business owners can deny access to emotional support dogs, but not service dogs.

emotional support and service dogs with their owners
Emotional support and service dogs with helping their owners.

Top 11 Emotional Support Dog Breeds

  • Beagle
  • Cavalier King Charles Spaniel
  • Chihuahua
  • Collie
  • Corgi
  • Golden Retriever
  • Havanese
  • Labrador Retriever
  • Pomeranian
  • Poodle
  • Pug


Beagles are terrific small-size dogs for emotional support animals. They are good with young children and other dogs and behave affectionately but not overly loving with family members. Beagles are easy to train but have a high energy level, so they’ll need plenty of mental stimulation to keep them from barking all day.

A Beagle in your house means you’ll get plenty of love and affection when you need it.

Recommended home size: Small house.

Pros: Intelligent, affectionate, easy to train.

Cons: High energy level, prone to barking.

old Beagle front shot
An old Beagle front view.

Cavalier King Charles Spaniel

If you live in an apartment or flat, consider finding a Cavalier King Charles Spaniel for your ESA. These dogs don’t need as much exercise as other breeds on our list and are comfortable in a smaller space. They’ll still need daily walks and stimulation, though!

Cavalier King Charles Spaniels are great with people and dogs and are easy to train. They enjoy playing but love to snuggle on the couch too.

Recommended home size: Flat/Apartment.

Pros: Sociable, easy to train.

Cons: Prone to barking.

Cavalier King Charles Spaniel tongue out
Cavalier King Charles Spaniel sitting in front of a camera while tongue is out.


Chihuahuas are considered one of the sassiest dog breeds, but that doesn’t mean they aren’t great support dogs. These small dogs are incredibly affectionate with their owners, love to play, and are eager to please when it comes to training.

Some Chihuahuas don’t get along with children, so keep this in mind when searching for an ESA. They also tend to be very vocal, meaning an apartment complex may not be the best place for a Chihuahua.

Recommended home size: Flat/Apartment.

Pros: Great personality, affectionate, playful.

Cons: Prone to barking, not great with kids.

Brown Chihuahua
Brown Chihuahua standing in front of a pink wall.


If you’re looking for a larger dog, consider a Collie. Collies can be found in two types of coats; rough and smooth. Smooth Collies have shorter fur, whereas Rough Collies have long fur. Collies are great with kids and affectionate with their families.

They’re herding dogs, so don’t be surprised if they try to herd your kids in the yard. Collies are easy to train and highly adaptable to changes in living conditions, weather, noise, and other day-to-day variations.

Border Collies can also be included on this list, but they have high energy levels and need mental stimulation to stay happy. They are practically effortless to train and love to please their owners.

Recommended home size: Small house.

Pros: Affectionate, intelligent, adaptable.

Cons: Large dog, high energy level.

friendly Border Collie
Border Collie being friendly!


The breed of Corgi we often see online is the Pembroke Welsh Corgi – their orange and white fur is a staple of cute Corgi videos. These Corgis are terrific support dogs due to their affectionate nature and high trainability level. Corgis need a job to keep their brains busy and can get fussy without one, so be sure to have plenty of training tools ready.

They also tend to shed a lot. It might be best to purchase some lint rollers in advance. 

Recommended home size: Small house.

Pros: Affectionate, easy to train, sociable.

Cons: Shedding, needs mental stimulation.

Corgi guards owner
Corgi sits and guards his owner.

Golden Retriever

Golden Retrievers are the picture-perfect family dog and for a good reason. They are adaptable, trainable, and affectionate with their owners and family members. Golden Retrievers love to play and think everyone is their best friend!

If you have the space for one to run, Golden Retrievers make fantastic emotional support dogs. They’ll be a comforting companion for years to come.

Recommended home size: Large house.

Pros: Adaptable, easy to train, affectionate. 

Cons: Large dog.

Golden Retriever and owner
Golden Retriever and owner taking a rest after a long run!


A Havanese can be your new best friend if you let them. They typically only need 30 minutes of exercise before becoming couch cuddle-bugs. This breed is excellent with kids and other dogs and is highly adaptable to life’s challenges.

They are easy to train and love meeting strangers. They tend to bark as a smaller dog breed, but as long as you tire them out, they’ll sleep soundlessly next to you.

Recommended home size: Flat/Apartment.

Pros: Adaptable, easy to train, sociable.

Cons: Prone to barking.

Havanese puppy
Havanese puppy sits comfortably.

Labrador Retriever

Similar to the Golden Retriever, Labrador Retrievers make great family pets. They are knowledgeable and easy to train and love practically anyone they meet. The most significant difference between these two types of retrievers is their energy levels.

Labrador Retrievers tend to have more energy and need more exercise to tire them out. Labrador Retrievers make great hiking and running buddies!

Recommended home size: Large house.

Pros: Intelligent, easy to train, sociable.

Cons: High energy level, large dog.

Labrador Retriever with owners
Labrador Retriever with the owners at the park.


Pomeranians are some of the fluffiest and cutest dogs out there, which adds to their great temperaments for being emotional support dogs. They don’t always get along with other dogs but are affectionate with their owners and don’t mind strangers. Pomeranians are adaptable and easily trainable, and they don’t have excessive energy.

You’ll most likely find yourself with a lapdog at the end of the day.

Recommended home size: Flat/Apartment.

Pros: Affectionate, adaptable, easy to train.

Cons: Not typically sociable with other dogs.

Pomeranian sits on lap
Pomeranian sits on his owner’s lap in a studio.


The Standard Poodle is among the best emotional support dogs because they are extremely intelligent. As a result, they are easy to train, and they adore their owners and families. They’re great with young children and strangers, although they’ll alert you if someone new is approaching.

Poodles tend to have high energy levels, so they’ll need up to an hour of exercise daily. Their beautiful fur also needs daily grooming to keep it from getting matted.

Recommended home size: Large house.

Pros: Intelligent, affectionate, sociable.

Cons: High energy level, large dog.

carrying white Poodle
Owner carrying heavy white Poodle in her shoulders.


Look no further than the Pug if you’re in the market for a couch potato. Pugs make great emotional support dogs because of their high adaptability, playfulness, and training levels. They’re highly affectionate towards everyone they meet and are typically great with other dogs.

Pugs tend to shed quite a bit but only require brushing weekly. Pugs can also have bursts of energy, so at least an hour of exercise a day is perfect for them.

Recommended home size: Flat/Apartment.

Pros: Adaptable, playful, affectionate.

Cons: Shedding.

combing Pug
The Pug is being combed.

In Conclusion

My list of the best emotional support dogs doesn’t include mixed dog breeds such as Labradoodles (Labrador Retriever and Poodle), Cheagles (Chihuahua and Beagle), and Gordies (Corgi and Golden Retriever). A mixture of two suitable dog breeds most likely means it would be an excellent emotional support dog. Before adopting, I recommend you research their personalities to be safe.

Plenty of dogs in the world can make great emotional support dogs. If you’re looking for a new companion, the breeds listed above have the characteristics that make a traditionally fantastic emotional support dog. That doesn’t mean you won’t find your new ESA in a shelter, though!

As long as you have a dog that’s easy to train, devoted, and social, you have the start of a wonderful, furry best friend.