Best Therapy Dogs: Your Guide to Breeds

While many dogs can be trained to offer companionship to those suffering from certain medical and mental health conditions, some breeds of dogs are more suited to this task than others. If you are interested in obtaining a therapy dog or you would like to adopt a dog that exhibits desirable therapy dog traits (such as friendliness, calmness, and sociability), review our article below.

This article explains what therapy dogs are and the best (or most common) breeds for performing this work.

What Are Therapy Dogs?

Therapy dogs are dogs that provide emotional comfort and support to those in stressful or highly emotional environments, such as hospitals, nursing homes, or disaster sites. In many ways, they’re very similar to emotional support animals (ESAs). But while emotional support animals are tied to one particular person, a therapy dog is tied to a location. Therapy dogs also don’t have the same housing rights as ESAs, but they are often granted access to places that don’t allow animals to do their therapy work; however, this is not a legal requirement is up to the discretion of the location.

It’s important to note that when a dog is trained to complete specific therapy tasks, like interrupting self-harm, calming anxiety attacks, or searching rooms and providing support during overstimulation, the dog is classified as a service dog. On the other hand, therapy dogs that accompany their owners and provide support or companionship are closer to ESAs. The difference might not seem like much, but it is important in terms of the specific legal protections your dog has.

You can read more about the differences between these two classifications of therapy dogs here.

What Defines a Good Therapy Dog?

As you review the dog breeds below, you will likely notice a trend in what makes a dog a great choice for therapy tasks. All of the dog breeds below have a calm, even temperament, are very friendly and sociable, love to complete tasks for their owners, and are fairly intelligent. These traits are essential for therapy dog breeds, as your dog will need to be focused, in tune with people and their emotions, and willing to provide people with the support they need.

You should keep in mind that dogs prone to aggression, those with stubborn streaks that don’t like to learn, and those with more aloof or independent natures are not great choices for therapy dogs, though all dog breeds can act as valuable companions.

The Best Breeds for Therapy Dogs

Several breeds can be suited for therapy dog tasks and may act as wonderful companions to those who need extra support or relief from certain mental health conditions. Below, we’ve provided a brief overview of the best breeds for therapy dogs.

1. Golden Retriever

Golden retriever sitting calmly outside

One of the most popular dog breeds, golden retrievers are a fantastic choice for therapy dogs. This breed is gentle, loving, and affectionate, and golden retrievers are well-loved for the bonds they make with their families. They are eager to please and focused when it comes to training and can easily learn new tasks or skills. Additionally, they are very aligned with their owner’s emotions most of the time. Golden retrievers are an especially good choice as therapy dogs for children or young adults, thanks to their loving and calm nature.

2. Poodle

Standard poodle happy outside in forest

Poodles are mostly known for their role as guide dogs, and they take these tasks seriously. The standard poodle is quite intelligent and loyal, and they are always eager to learn specific tasks for their owners. In addition, they are known to be affectionate and loving and make the perfect companion for anyone looking for a comforting presence or a dog to help them with specific therapy dog tasks.



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