The Best Therapy Dogs Rocking the Emotional Support World!

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one of the best therapy dogs helping old ladies in hospital

The Best therapy dogs come in all shapes and sizes. It’s not what’s on the outside that counts, its what’s on the inside: Character maketh the therapy dog. It’s all about personality and a doggos ability to bring comfort and joy to people who need those things in their lives!


Therapy Dogs are Working Wonders in the World!

Therapy dogs are so much more than just man’s best friend. Some special doggos just have the perfect temperament to make ideal emotional support animals. Whether they are trained or not, they are simply naturals at being companion dogs, support dogs, and assistance dogs. It’s like they were born to it.

Therapy dogs don’t always get the recognition they deserve, but boy do they deserve it! Their job is visiting people and assisting them in a bunch of different ways! From building confidence in school children who struggle to read, to bringing company and joy to the residents of nursing homes: therapy dogs have important jobs to do!

The Amazing Health Benefits of Animal Interaction and Dog Therapy 

Studies show how dogs not only feel good around their human, but they also make their human feel better in return. This is due to the levels of oxytocin and cortisol in dogs and owners being closely associated. Dogs are quite simply soulful-eyed, tail-wagging, loving and furry four-legged antidepressants.

Oxytocin is not only the renowned love hormone but also an antidote to depressive feelings. Oxytocin levels rise when dogs and humans look into one another’s eyes. Enough said. Love and science working together to make a happier life through humans and dogs interacting.

dog therapy golden retriever visiting woman in hospital

Understanding the Difference Between ESAs, Service, and Therapy Animals!

There is often a lack of understanding when it comes to knowing the difference between support, service and therapy animals, so let’s straighten those out at the get-go.

Emotional Support Animals are not registered or certified. A person diagnosed by a licensed mental health professional (LMHP) can receive an ESA letter from their LMHP that indicates that the person requires the assistance of their ESA for emotional support. These animals serve to provide support and companionship to people suffering from disorders such as anxiety, depression, and post-traumatic stress. Any dog (or cat) can be an ESA!

Therapy animals are used in animal-assisted therapy. Their job generally includes helping people in a public setting. They mostly visit people in hospitals, nursing homes and, special needs schools. There are even organizations that take therapy dogs to disaster zones or after acts of violence such as mass or school shootings in order to help the people affected!

Cancer patients and autistic children benefit immensely from their presence. Therapy dogs do not have the same access privileges as service dogs and emotional support animals. Therapy dogs are only allowed in public places or institutions with the permission of those in charge!

Service dogs are the only one of the three protected under the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA). These dogs are permitted access just about everywhere and anywhere their handler goes. Service dogs are trained to perform specific tasks to help their handler with their disability. Petting of these working animals is not advisable as they must remain alert and ready in accordance with their stringent training.

Emotional Support Animals Make Some of the Best Therapy Animals! 

Anyone with an ESA can attest to the phenomenal benefits their animal brings them. By default, they help release endorphins, prevent loneliness, elevate moods, lower blood pressure and heart rate, reduce anxiety and improve self-esteem, self-empowerment, and trust.

ESAs don’t need any specific training. Although basic obedience training is highly recommended, it is not a must. With a little bit of planning and training, however, ESAs have the potential to be the best therapy animals because they already do such a good job of helping humans. Because therapy animals interact with the general public, training and obedience are more important for them! The great thing is: you can always train an emotional support dog and make them a therapy animal.

If you are thinking about getting an ESA, the first step is as easy as taking a free online 5-minute pre-screening to see whether you’re eligible!

Therapy Dogs Fall Mainly Fall Under the Following Two Categories 

These dogs provide affection and comfort to people in hospitals, retirement homes, nursing homes, schools, hospices and more. They also assist with learning difficulties and stressful situations, such as in disaster areas. Therapy dogs generally fall into two main categories according to the work they do.

Animal Assisted Therapy 

Animal-assisted therapy (AAT) is the planned inclusion of an animal in a person’s treatment plan, typically within rehabilitation facilities.

AAT dogs help physical and occupational therapists to assist injured people with their physical and mental recovery. Their tasks may include assisting patients to gain motion in limbs and master fine motor control and hand-eye coordination.


Animal Assisted Activities Therapy 

Animal-assisted activities (AAA) involves animals assisting special needs people through visitation and recreational programs. These therapy dogs visit places like long-term health care facilities, prisons, and hospitals.

Their interventions include specific exercises in physical rehabilitation and occupational therapy, equine-assisted psychotherapy, and prisoner rehab programs. Organizations such as Therapy Dogs United Inc provide community service within the United States.

animal assisted therapy labrador visiting woman with cancer

10 Qualities that the Best Therapy Dogs Share 

Although personality is paramount, it is important for therapy dogs to have general qualities that best suit this type of assistance animal:

  1. Sociable – to get along with strangers and other animals in social situations.
  2. Obedient – dogs need to respond to their handlers without hesitation at all times.
  3. Calm – in situations which may incite panic and mayhem, the dog must maintain a calm demeanor to defuse the chaos or assist their owner or handler to cope.
  4. Friendly disposition – the dog must get along with everyone they meet. Aggression is not an option.
  5. Well-mannered – there is a time and place for ablutions, eating, drinking and romping, and the dog must be cognizant of these at all times.
  6. Reliable in strange environments.
  7. Even-tempered
  8. Gentle
  9. Confident 
  10. Love meeting people 

Here are Our Top Picks for the Best Therapy Dog Breeds! 

We said at the outset that big or small, its what’s inside that counts, so let’s consider the best breeds, both big and small. You will appreciate that these breeds all share common traits which are mandatory in therapy and companion dogs.

This does not take away from the fact that each and every dog does come with its own precious and peculiar personality. Much like in the human dating arena where “every pot has its lid”, every human has a dog suited to them.

Best Small Dogs for Therapy Work! 

  • Snuggle Pugs may look grumpy, but they are just little bags of loving happiness and with eagerness to please.
  • Yorkies are small enough to take anywhere. They also love to love and form a unique bond with their human.
  • Cute Corgis love to learn new tricks, are super affectionate and intelligent, and bond well with their person.
  • French Bulldogs are loving and adaptable and tick all the boxes for providing emotional support and companionship.

    Bigger Dogs with Bigger Cuddles to Share! 

  • Golden Retrievers may very well epitomize the therapy dog. Energetic, intelligent, highly trainable, and eager to please, these beautiful dogs are born to support. And those goofy derp faces and smiles bring so much joy into this world!
  • Great Danes may not be able to cuddle with someone in a hospital bed, but they are unbelievably gentle and affectionate and they just love to please.
  • German Shepherds are fantastic therapy dogs. This partially has to do with how incredibly trainable and obedient most of them are. They have a gentle yet confident air about them, which can bring reassurance to people struggling with insecurities and fear.
  • Labrador Retrievers are very easily trained, eager to please and love to interact. Like Goldens, they have the most fantastically uplifting spirits.

Rescue Dogs Have as Much to Offer as Any Other Dogs! If Not More! 

Personality maketh the dog. The rescue mutt has as much to offer as any other dog. Rescue dogs are a great source of joy. They can touch a life in a loving and constructive way.

They may require a little help along the way, but in the end, you’ll have a loyal companion who is a happy, well-adjusted member of the family. Who better to help others heal than a dog who has dealt with trauma themselves?

The best therapy dogs must be friendly to strangers, sociable, calm no matter what’s going on around them, and have abundant patience and plenty of love to give. Sounds like any rescue dog we’ve ever met! Who wouldn’t be happy at having a new lease on life?

therapy dog breeds german shepherd visiting elderly man

Adopt! Don’t Shop! Shelters are Overflowing with Potential Therapy Dogs and ESAs! 

A great positive for adopting a rescue dog to be your ESA is that once you have rescued the dog, it will rescue you right back – over and over again. Volunteers and employees at animal shelters have the opportunity to gauge the character, idiosyncrasy, and shortfall of almost every dog in their care.

A rescue dog needs to be as comfortable with you and your home as you are with the dog. Add to that how the dog will appreciate its second chance and you have a match made in heaven.

Visit your local shelter which can also put you in touch with breed specific rescue shelters in your area.

Common Questions on the Best Therapy Dogs

How do I choose the best ESA dog for me? 

Which small dog breeds make the best therapy dogs? 

Would a rescue mixed-breed dog make a good Emotional Support Animal? 

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