Emotional support dogs (ESDs) can significantly help individuals with mental health issues. From anxiety and depression to severe phobias and even post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), support dogs can ease the symptoms of a mental health condition, leading individuals to a happy, healthy, normal lifestyle.
ESDs are service dogs that help support their owner's mental and emotional health and well-being. Three service dogs can do this, but ESDs are the most popular in helping individuals' mental health.
The Bottom Line
- What Are Emotional Support Dogs?
- What to Look for in an Emotional Support Dog?
- What Hypoallergenic Breeds of Emotional Support Dogs Are There?
- FAQ About Emotional Support Dogs
What Are Emotional Support Dogs?
Emotional Support Dogs (ESDs) greatly benefit those with mental health disorders and illnesses. ESDs are usually very kind, loving, loyal, and protective dogs that help in an individual's day-to-day life.
There are different kinds of emotional support dogs to consider. However, they each have another defining characteristic to help clarify their confusion.
The first is psychiatric service dogs (PSDs). PSDs are not to be confused with emotional support or therapy dogs. The Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) legally recognizes psychiatric service dogs as federally protected dogs that may accompany their owners in public places and elsewhere that may not otherwise allow pets. PSDs are usually assigned to individuals with specific psychiatric needs, such as PTSD, or physical conditions, such as being blind or Deaf.
Therapy dogs are dogs typically found in nursing homes, hospitals, children's hospitals, etc. They offer plenty of people help and wellness in their day-to-day lives and offer a burst of enjoyment wherever they go for a short period. They are usually accompanied by a trainer or someone who explicitly owns them yet trains them to aid others.
However, an emotional support dog aids individuals and helps them bypass their mental health symptoms, such as applying deep pressure therapy during an anxiety attack or offering companionship during a bout of depression and loneliness.
What to Look for in an Emotional Support Dog
One of the most important things to look for for an emotional support dog is their trainability. If they cannot be trained, they will not make good support animals.
It is also essential to look at the support dog's friendliness, loyalty, playfulness, size, cuddliness, and attention to detail. If the support dog cannot meet these standards, it may not be a good fit for you.
While some dogs will make an excellent emotional support dog, others may not be the best for you. Some popular dog breeds may not make the best emotional support dogs. Read on for the best dog breeds for emotional support.
Hypoallergenic ESD Breeds
If you are looking for an emotional support dog but may be allergic to the fur or dandruff that comes with them, it may be best to look at a hypoallergenic breed. These breeds usually have little to no allergic reactions associated with them. They are best for those with severe allergies to other things, such as dandruff, pollen, or even long-haired fur on any animal. Hypoallergenic means they have less chance of causing an allergic reaction or allergy.
American Hairless Terrier
A short-haired, intelligent, curious breed of dog, an American Hairless Terrier is one of the most hypoallergenic dogs. They have a slight attitude but love playing with their owner.
They are very protective and make excellent watchdogs, trained initially as herding dogs. They may be helpful to someone who has PTSD or a mental health illness that makes them depressed or anxious. For someone who may have agoraphobia (fear of crowded or public spaces), the American Hairless Terrier is excellent for helping relieve some of those fears and is regarded as some of the best emotional support dogs.
- Height: 12-16 inches
- Weight: 12-16 lbs.
- Life Expectancy: 14-16 years
Confident, intelligent, and irresistible, Bichon Frise's are a popular hypoallergenic dog breed and are regarded as one of the best emotional support dogs. With white fur that is plush and soft and a curious personality, as well as being one of the most affectionate dogs, they make excellent emotional support dogs and service animals. They are smaller, so they may make a better fit for apartment life, but they love to be cuddled and shown affection, meaning they can help bring down blood pressure and are excellent companion dogs.
Bichon Frise's are little watchdogs and are very alert yet friendly and love to make friends with everyone they meet. Dog ownership of a Bichon Frise means they will help someone get out of the house daily and may help a mental disability be less severe.
- Height: 9.5 - 11.5 inches
- Weight: 12-18 lbs.
- Life Expectancy: 14-15 years
While the Maltese breed has longer hair, it is known as one of the best breeds for emotional support. They are easy to train to perform specific tasks, such as fetching medication and are a highly hypoallergenic breed. They typically weigh less than 7 lbs. and love to be groomed, and are affectionate with their family.
Maltese are typically fearless little watchdogs that make excellent service dog companions for those with mental health conditions. They can be stubborn but easy to train if rewards are involved.
- Height: 7-9 inches
- Weight: Under 7 lbs.
- Life Expectancy: 12-15 years
The smallest Schnauzer breed, the Miniature Schnauzer, is outgoing, robust, and rugged. Fearless when it comes to new adventures and easy to train, they are mini guard dogs who are very loyal and fun-loving. They are great for someone with mental health conditions, as they provide affection and, in the dog world, are regarded as easy to care for, even as working dogs.
- Height: 12-14 inches
- Weight: 11-20 lbs.
- Life Expectancy: 12-15 years
Poodles are very eager and intelligent, making them easy to train as emotional support dogs for mental illness or use as a service dogs. Owners can groom their fur into any design and are very agile, making them quick and able at a moment's notice to help their owners.
Poodles provide emotional support with their affectionate nature and ability to be great assistance animals for someone with disabilities such as general anxiety disorder. Generally speaking, the poodle's personality traits make them gentle giants with a sensitive nature that enjoys helping their owners.
- Height: 15+ inches
- Weight: 40-70 lbs.
- Life Expectancy: 10-18 years
Portuguese Water Dog
Low-shedding and robust, the Portuguese Water Dog is an intelligent breed initially bred to be a fisherman's helper on the pier. However, it has shown to be eager to please, making it an ideal emotional support dog.
Pet lovers who have a strong desire to have the motivation to get out of the house and perform tasks would do good to look into having a Portuguese Water Dog.
- Height: 17-23 inches
- Weight: 35-60 lbs.
- Life Expectancy: 11-13 years
Non-Hypoallergenic ESD Breeds
While hypoallergenic emotional support dog breeds are ideal for those who may be allergic to dogs or their fur, there are also some dogs to steer clear from if you don't want to be sneezing every time your emotional support pet is around.
However, mixed-breed dogs can be hypoallergenic for pet parents looking for a specific breed of service dog without allergies. Mixed breeds can be ideal for those looking for personal safety, such as pit bulls mixed with Labrador Retrievers or Golden Retrievers, which can lead to a support animal that offers safety, yet a cuddly nature.
If you are looking for an emotional support dog but have dog allergies, a Basset Hound may not be the best choice for you to be a pet parent. Bassets shed massive amounts, so being allergic to their fur may cause issues in training to be emotional support dogs. Pet ownership of a Basset Hound can lead to the fur being all over clothing and furniture, causing allergies to act up.
It is best to steer clear of Bulldogs for people allergic to dog saliva. Known for their cute yet sticky dog saliva and affinity for being affectionate, Bulldogs may kick up allergies among their pet parents, but following veterinary advice can help alleviate the slobbering.
Cavalier King Charles Spaniel
For those allergic to dog fur, it is best to steer clear of a Cavalier King Charles Spaniel. While these dogs are on the small side and are among the most popular dog breeds, they are notorious shedders with longer fur. While a vet can provide veterinary advice to help eliminate tangles and shedding, it can still kick up a person's allergies.
While a German Shepherd makes a good emotional support dog, it is best for those allergic to dog fur to avoid German Shepherds as emotional support animals. They are notorious shedders, especially long-haired ones, and are known to trigger bad allergic reactions in individuals with allergies. Even short-haired Shepherds have been known to cause allergic reactions.
Labrador Retriever / Golden Retriever
The Labrador Retriever's coat is very dense and sheds profusely despite having a double coat with short fur. They have been known to trigger allergies in their owners due to dry, flaky skin, which many people may be allergic to.
Along with the Labrador, a golden retriever also has dense fur that sheds profusely, leading to allergies attacking the pet owners.
A golden retriever, along with a Labrador retriever, can make a tremendous psychiatric service dog, especially with their intelligence as far as canine education goes and being easy to train. However, they are not ideal for those with allergies.
Despite their short fur, the attribute most pet owners are allergic to with their emotional support Pug is their saliva. Pugs are notorious for drooling, much like the Bulldog, which can trigger people's allergies. Their fur is also very close to their skin, like the Labrador Retriever or Golden Retrievers, making them suffer from dry, flaky skin, something else those with allergies may be allergic to.
Pugs can make a good emotional support dog, yet people with allergies might want to steer clear.
Siberian Huskies are one of the more popular emotional support dog breeds, they are not hypoallergenic. A long double-coat that is constantly shedding can cause a lot of allergies in pet owners. Admittedly, they are great emotional support dogs, but they are not the breed to get if you are possibly allergic to dogs.
Alleviate Dog Breed Allergies At Home
Since it can be challenging to say goodbye to a family pet if someone is allergic, there are ways to relieve allergies at home and enjoy cuddle time with your furry friend. Emotional support animals mainly help their owners give and receive affection, so it can be frustrating when you cannot get close due to the dog breeds.
Some ways to tell if you are allergic to dogs are:
- Puffiness around the face
- Itchy, watery, swollen eyes
- Runny nose
- Itching or irritated skin
While these can be frustrating symptoms and get in the way of spending quality time with your emotional support dog, there are ways to alleviate symptoms at home.
- Minimize physical contact with the emotional support animal
- Keep the ESD off the couch
- Have the emotional support animals spend time outdoors
- Change clothes after contact
- Bathe and brush pets regularly
- Clean and dust often
- Use an air filter
- Research the emotional support dog breed before purchasing
- Seek medicinal treatment
FAQs About Hypoallergenic ESD Breeds
While finding the perfect fit for an ESD can be challenging, it does not have to be complicated. ESDs can help mental illness and mental and emotional health by offering companionship and emotional support to their owners.
What does hypoallergenic mean?
Hypoallergenic means that dog fur or saliva will not trigger a person's allergies in the dog's presence compared to other breeds.
Is a dog the only animal allowed to be an emotional support animal?
Not at all! Emotional support animals can be any breed. However, dogs are the most popular choice due to their personalities and abilities to perform specific tasks, like stopping a panic attack or helping an individual's safety.
How do I know if I am allergic to my emotional support animal?
If you start experiencing any allergic symptoms, such as itchy, watering eyes or constantly sniffling and sneezing, you have likely developed an allergy to your ESD. Always consult with your physician to see if this may be the case before taking the following steps.
How do I know if an ESD is right for me?
Speaking with a licensed mental health professional and your physician may determine that an ESD will help mitigate your symptoms, like a person's anxiety, or even have therapeutic benefits.
Can I train the dog I already have to be an emotional support animal?
Of course! It may take some time, but it can be easy to train emotional support animals that are already owned with patience, time, and effort. You may already have an emotional connection with your family dog. Individually trained dogs can perform the same tasks as professionally trained emotional support animals, and following veterinary guidance can help keep your support animal health.
What accommodations are available for my service animal?
If landlords or housing providers have a no-pet policy, they must accommodate emotional support animals, no matter the breed. Thanks to the Fair Housing Act, an ESA letter from Pettable can help bypass confrontation when allowing your ESA to live with you despite a rule.