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Which Breeds Make the Cut as Emotional Support Dogs?

Any type of animal can count as an emotional support animal (ESA), but dogs are a popular choice. Unlike a service dog, an emotional support dog offers comfort through companionship. It isn’t trained to perform a specific task for its handler and does not have the same legal protections as a service dog.

But emotional support animals can be easier to get. If you or a loved one lives with a debilitating mental health condition, a mental health provider can prescribe an ESA. The one significant protection that ESAs come with is that you can bring home an emotional support dog even if you don’t live in a pet-friendly rental. That’s because emotional support animals qualify as assistance animals under the Fair Housing Act.

Emotional support dog breeds can vary. There are specific characteristics to look for when you’re searching for the right dog to bring home. So, which dog breeds make the best emotional support dogs?

Let’s find out.

The Best Emotional Support Dog Breeds

The best emotional support dog is a pup who can be calm, affectionate, and friendly. Most importantly, it’s a dog that bonds with the person who needs emotional support. Some breeds are better suited to this job than others.

Our two favorite emotional support dog breeds are Labrador Retrievers and Golden Retrievers.

No matter where you look, Labrador Retrievers consistently top the list as the number-one emotional support dog breed. They are playful, friendly, affectionate, eager to please, and good with young children also.

And while American Labradors tend to be energetic and excitable—especially when they’re young—English Labradors have a calmer demeanor, making them an excellent choice as well.

Golden Retrievers are high up on the list of the best emotional support dog breeds due to their loyalty and friendliness. They’re intelligent, devoted to their people, and happy to mingle with other people and dogs.

As with their English Labrador peers, English Golden Retrievers tend to be calmer and less hyperactive than American Golden Retrievers. They can readily provide the comforting cuddles that their person may need.

Other popular emotional support dog breeds are Cavalier King Charles Spaniels, English Springer Spaniels, Yorkshire Terriers, Poodles, and Great Danes. We think all of these dog breeds are excellent! But our favorites will always be Labs and Retrievers.

No matter whether you choose a Lab, Retriever, or other emotional support dog breed, you’re sure to get lots of snuggles and support from your emotional support dog.

Emotional Support Dogs for Anxiety and Depression

Emotional support dogs can help people with a range of mental health conditions, but they can be especially important for those with anxiety and depression. A comfort dog can ease loneliness for people with depression and provide the comforting touch that helps them get out of bed in the morning.

For those with anxiety, an emotional support dog can act as a warm, calm presence they can lean on when they’re feeling anxious. Studies show that the act of petting an animal can increase a person’s mood. 

And while some people may try to find a low-maintenance emotional support animal, others will benefit from caring for an emotional support dog. Our canine friends need exercise, cuddles, socialization, and play. When we give them what they need, we fulfill our needs, too. Exercise, physical touch, and play can help us feel better when we are anxious or depressed.

How to Train Your Emotional Support Dog

An emotional support dog needs the same basic training that any other dog needs. Using patience, positive reinforcement, and tasty treats, teach your dog how to:

  • Sit
  • Stay
  • Come
  • Refrain from barking
  • Go potty outside
  • Socialize with other dogs and people
  • Calmly sit with you on the couch or accompany you throughout the house

Since provider-prescribed emotional support dogs are allowed to live in no-pet apartments and homes, your dog must be well trained. Consider working toward a Canine Good Citizen certificate from the American Kennel Club (AKC). To become a Canine Good Citizen, a dog must be able to:

  • Comfortably interact with friendly strangers
  • Sit calmly to be petted
  • Be frequently bathed, brushed, and groomed
  • Walk on a loose leash
  • Walk through a crowd
  • Sit and stay
  • Come when they are called
  • Greet other dogs from a distance
  • Avoid panic or aggression when distracted
  • Stay on their best behavior when left with a trusted person for a few minutes

At Snowy Pines White Labs, we can train your new White Lab or English Cream Golden Retriever to be a certified Canine Good Citizen. Your dog will then be ready to act as your emotional support animal right from the start.

If you need a service dog instead, we have a training program for that, too!

Finding an Emotional Support Animal

Are you ready to bring home an emotional support animal? You can train any calm, gentle dog to be an ESA. If you’d like a trained White Labrador or English Cream Golden Retriever, we offer both of these kind-hearted breeds at Snowy Pines White Labs.

All of our dogs complete our first level of training so they can be good companions to their new families. With our highest level of training, you’ll receive a dog who is an AKC Canine Good Citizen ready to bring you the companionship and comfort your provider ordered. Contact us today to learn more—or feel free to drop by for a visit the next time you’re in the Missouri Ozarks!

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About the Author


Tom Massey

Tom Massey has owned and operated Snowy Pines Labradors for over a decade. They have become the leaders in English Labradors in the US. He and his team serve customers all over the US and Europe. They house their "dog family" in a state of the art facility on a large farm in the Ozark Mountains. With an obsession for genetics and temperament they raise and train dogs known across the globe for health and personality. Tom serves the pet industry in many forms campaigning for ethical breeding, training, and pet ownership.


Calm Tempered, AKC Purebred, and Certified Genetics.