Did you know almost any type of dog can improve your mental health?
Many studies have proven that just spending time with your dog and petting and cuddling them helps relieve anxiety, depression, stress, and even loneliness.
But sometimes we need a little more support. Our Dogs can help provide the emotional support you need no matter if we have anxiety, depression or just need a pick-me-up.
What are Emotional Support Animals and Psychiatric Service Dogs?
An emotional support animal (ESA) can relieve anxiety when you are out and about in the world, especially indoors and in crowded places. You’ve probably seen these fur babies pushed into shopping carts, on people’s laps on airplanes, into restaurants, and more. But due to the many complaints received, ESAs are no longer allowed on airplanes and it is at the discretion of other companies or venues to allow ESAs or not.
The only way to ensure that your dog can legally go anywhere with you is to have your pet be a trained Psychiatric Service Dog (PSD). Under the Americans With Disabilities Act, a dog handler must have a disability and the dog must be specially trained to help with that disability in order to qualify for a service dog. When someone has anxiety or depression it can be an impairment, but not being able to function at a basic level because of that condition is a disability.
“PSDs can help their caregivers function in a variety of situations,” says Jennifer Catt Ph.D., Executive Director, Medical Mutts Service Dogs, who trains rescued dogs and qualified domestic dogs to become service dogs. “You can help a person calm down when they become anxious by diverting their attention, using deep pressure therapy (the dog lies down on their lap), medication, or help.”
Related: What You Need to Know About Getting Emotional Support from an Animal
Determining which breeds of dogs can help with anxiety
If you already have a dog you love, you can have them trained to provide some or all of the extra psychological support you may need.
But if you’re looking for a new pet, find a dog with traits that make it more likely to help you with anxiety.
When Catts goes to a shelter to screen out potential PSDs, she looks for the following traits:
- trust. PSDs need to be able to work in all possible places and not have to worry.
- Socializing. The best PSDs are carefree, happy pooches who love being around people and other animals.
- Trainability. Catta and her team train each dog for 30 different behaviors.
These three traits can potentially be found in certain breeds, including mutts.
Large breeds of dogs that help with anxiety
Whether you’re getting your new dog from the shelter or from a breeder, here are Cattet’s picks for the best dog breeds to help people with anxiety.
1. English Labrador Retriever
“A lot of people don’t know that there are two types of Labradors,” says Catta. “They look similar, but they have very different personalities.” Many breeds have “work lines” that are bred to work and “show lines” that are bred to show in competitions, and often spend significant amounts of time training and new situations.
Unlike the “work line” of American Labrador Retrievers (consistently rated America’s favorite dog), who have high energy levels and were bred for hunting, the “Show Line” or English Labradors are more reserved and less fearful of new situations. Both lines are clever and loving, says Catta, and many American Labs can also make wonderful service dogs as well as helpers for anxious patients.
2. Golden Retriever
These family friendly pooches are sociable and eager to make great PSDs. If possible, look back for those who are from the show line. If you’re not sure which lineage they come from or if they are of a mixed breed, test their temperament. “We bring dogs out of the kennel to an outdoor run and see how quickly they want to interact with us,” says Catta. “Are you worried about us, do you need to warm up with us, or do you want to interact and be friends right away? We test how they react to different strange objects and what they do when they are afraid. Are you curious, timid, but curious, or do you recover quickly? Do you bark at the object, rush and bark and want to chase this creepy thing, or are you hiding behind it? ”Catt says the best choice for a potential PSD is one that is instantly friendly and when they encounter a strange object is presented, is concerned at first, but returns quickly. Dogs that stay away from interacting with people and do not recover from reacting to a new object usually fail to make it through PSD training.
3. Standard poodle or doodle
Unlike their smaller cousins, Standard Poodles are strong and intelligent. They’re great with families and generally easy to train. Doodles are breeds that are mixed with Poodles, such as Labradoodles and Goldendoodles. Catt says that in general, doodling is smart and easy to train. The biggest problem is that they can be a little scared when it comes to going out in public.
Related: 50 Best Small Breeds of Dogs to Use as Pets
Small breeds of dogs that help with emotional support can help
Here are some smaller dog breeds that Catt says have the greatest potential to aid you with emotional support:
4. Cavalier King Charles Spaniel
If you’re looking for a loving, gentle buddy, the Cavalier King Charles Spaniel is the place for you. Ready to adapt to the needs of their owners, they can be athletic or couch potatoes.
5. Bichon Frize
Are you allergic to dogs but want a dog that can help you with anxiety? You might want to consider this breed. The trademark Bichon Frize has a white hypoallergenic coat. These lovers train easily and find friends everywhere.
Connected: 25 adorable hypoallergenic dog breeds that don’t shed
6. Basset Hound
If you’re looking for an inconspicuous pooch, you’ve found it here. They’re not fast, but they are stable. Bassets are pleasant and very loyal dogs.
This “hot dog” pooch is intelligent and playful. Bred to be hunters, they are brave and vigilant. Her sweet manner and her unmistakable look win fans everywhere.
Do you want someone who loves you and only you? A Chihuahua can be a great choice for a dog for emotional support as they have a tendency to bond with only one person. Not good with strangers, this little buddy will stay with you, but he can bark at those he doesn’t know or like.
Linked: 15 Most Loving Dog Breeds That Will Give You Emotional Support (and Puppy Cuddles)
These cuties have a face only a pet mom or pet could love. They love to sit on your lap and give great emotional support to people with fear, but they are not very athletic. Since research shows that dogs help people relax, this relaxed dog is a great option.
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This rescue dog that you fall in love with could make a great anxiety reliever. Catte says: “With the right temperament and the right trainability, every dog can be the perfect companion for your emotional support.”
Next up: 7 Proven Strategies to Help You Deal With Anxiety