Emotional support animals (ESAs) are animals that provide comfort and attention. They can be any animal in the animal kingdom. Dogs are the most common animal that fulfills this role. Dog-owners can create a sense of purpose by taking care of their dog. This can help distract from anxiety and other mental health problems. Even though dogs are not able to offer advice, they can listen and that is a huge help to those who wish to share their thoughts without feeling judged.
Are emotional support dogs really able to make a difference?
Dog lovers know that dogs can make people feel happier. Petting a dog brings a smile to your face, lowers blood pressure, and makes stress and anxiety disappear even if it is just for a moment.
It’s encouraging to learn that companion dogs have been shown to reduce anxiety and depression, and can improve mental health. BMC Psychiatry published a 2018 review that included 17 studies. It found measurable evidence relating the benefits and disadvantages of pet ownership, how people interact with their pets, the many ways companion animals can help with mental health, and the psychological effects of losing a companion dog. The review concluded that pets can provide mental health benefits for those suffering from mental disorders.
Recent research at the University of Toledo found that people who adopt companion animals had lower levels of loneliness, anxiety, and depression. Although more research is necessary, there are studies that show companion animals to be a benefit to human health and well being.
What breeds make a good emotional support dog?
Angela Logsdon Hoover, ABCDT, a certified trainer and behaviorist for dogs, says that the most important thing to remember is the relationship between the dog’s owner and their dog.
According to Logsdon-Hoover, the dog that the owner has is most suitable for an ESA. Logsdon-Hoover says that the dog already has a strong relationship and that the dog can pick up on stress triggers and provide comfort, security and calm. The connection factor is just as important if a person does not have a dog. The dog must be able to communicate well with people, dogs, and other dogs. Basic obedience training is an option if you don’t have basic obedience.
Emotional support dogs should be tuned in to their humans and respond accordingly to what they hear or do.
Our experts shared their top picks with us. This is not an exhaustive list. Any breed, or any mix of breeds, can be an emotional support dog.
Cavalier King Charles spaniel
Cavaliers were originally created as companion dogs. Their genes are warm-hearted comforters. These dogs are adorable, small, well-mannered, and very cute. They make great apartment dogs. Stacy Chocznski Johnson DVM says that the Cavalier King Charles spaniel is an excellent choice for people looking for companionship in a city. Dr Chocznki John says they are irresistible to be pet on the streets of cities. They are friendly with children and adults and love animals. They can be used to help you get over socially awkward situations, and they can also act as an icebreaker.
The Labrador Retriever is a beloved breed and it is no surprise that they are a great emotional support dog. They are happy and laid back, with little to no problems. They are reliable, trustworthy and will lick your face or ice cream cone. Nicole Ellis, a professional dog trainer certified in Nicole Ellis says that this breed is extremely food-motivated. It’s very easy to train them. You can teach them useful tasks like lying beside you, putting their head on your chest, and deep pressure therapy. This is used to reduce anxiety. Ellis says that you can achieve this by hugging and weighted blankets as well as by brushing your dog or placing a dog on your chest.
Dr Chocznski John says that “Corgis can be happy, playful and easygoing dogs. They are a great choice as an emotional support dog.” Watching Corgis play can bring joy and entertainment to everyone. You can smile when you see them wiggle around on their short legs and rotund hind end. The Cardigan has a slightly longer, bushier tail that resembles a fox and the Pembroke has a docked one. They share similar temperaments: playful, intelligent, affectionate, and a touch of boldness. They are herding dogs, and they have an instinct to protect their owners.
The Great Pyrenees
Dr Choczynski Johnson says, “If stress relief is found in repetitive motions such as hair brushing, then this breed is for you. They require a lot of grooming to maintain their luxurious, thick coat.” At 45 kg, this dog will shed a lot. If you don’t like heavy shedding or brushing, there are many other cute breeds of dog that shed less. The Great Pyrenees are calm and easygoing, making them an ideal choice for those who prefer a slow stroll to countless rounds and fetch.
The standard poodle, which weighs in at 22-27kg, is the largest of the three sizes. You might think a poodle looks too self-absorbed and floppy to be emotional support dogs if you have ever seen them in the show ring. They are incredibly loving and affectionate, eager to please you, and easy to be around. Poodles are able to grow their hair like humans when it comes down to grooming. These non-shedding dogs can be funny and cheerful, and will brighten up your day. Ellis says that poodles are smart and can often read their owners. Poodles live for many years if they are given the right care and nutrition.
With its impressive stature, the Great Dane is a striking sight. This is a great option for anyone who needs a four-legged buffer zone or bodyguard when interfacing with others. Although the Great Dane can be friendly, they are a guard dog breed and will always love you. They are often reserved with strangers, but they can be very friendly with their humans. Great Danes are gentle giants that I love. Ellis says that their love and compassion are endless and that a good cuddle can help with deep pressure therapy.
The Maltese is a pint-sized cuddle bug that’s silky white and expressive with big eyes. They are the life of any party when they’re not snuggling on your lap or chasing you around. Dr Choczynski-John says that the Maltese can be a great choice for one adult because they have a favorite person they are attached to. Although they can’t offer any therapeutic advice, they will comfort you with a lick and a muzzle snuggle. The Maltese can be an emotional support animal and is usually nearby.