The Best PTSD Dog Breeds: A Definitive Guide

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By: Verina Hassett Updated: June 15, 2020

best ptsd dog breeds australian shepherd lying on veteran's bootsPTSD – a hundred years ago, they called it shell shock. These days, post-traumatic stress disorder does not only affect war veterans and people who have been in war zones. PTSD can occur in people who have experienced a range of extremely stressful and traumatic events and situations. Managing the various symptoms of PTSD can involve an array of techniques and therapies. One of these involves sharing your life with a wonderful canine! Read on to find out about the best PTSD dog breeds!


How Dogs Can Help People Living with PTSD!

How can dogs help people with post-traumatic stress disorder? Well, research with veterans and service dogs suggests dogs help by lowering the overall severity of PTSD symptoms. This includes helping with depression, anxiety, anger, and aggression. Anyone who has an emotional support animal can attest to the impact these assistance animals can have!

The help doesn’t just happen by one wag of a tail, or single smooch with a pooch though! How dogs help a person with PTSD will depend on the symptoms a person experiences and the training the dog has. But nevertheless studies have shown canine companions have helped PTSD suffers with:

  • Social Wellbeing: PTSD can be debilitating. Someone with PTSD may withdraw from social contact and find it hard to connect with other people. A dog provides one on one companionship, but the activities and exercise people do with their dog can help with interaction with other people as well.
  • Better Sleep: Just the presence and security of a dog at night can help with a better night’s sleep for a PTSD sufferer. Service dogs may be trained to respond signs of a nightmare. They may gently help the person wake-up and bring them back to the present. Falling asleep or staying asleep at night can also be an issue with PTSD. A dog can provide enough security to know they have an alert system on hand, and relax into a good slumber.
  • Being a Best Buddy: Trust in others can be an issue for people with PTSD. The unconditional love and friendship offered by a dog can help people rebuild trust with other living beings. Dogs are usually very loyal to the people who they live with!

Any Dog Can Become an ESA: All You Need is an ESA Letter!

That’s right, from Toy Poodle to a Saint Bernard, any dog can become an emotional support animal! Emotional support animals don’t receive any special training to do their job. But, they should have the right temperament that suits or complements yours!

ESA letters are issued to the person, not the animal. To qualify for an ESA a person must have an emotional or psychological condition that benefits from the companionship and comfort their animal provides.

You can take our free online 5-minute pre-screening if you’re wondering whether you may qualify for an ESA. This takes you through a few questions that will indicate whether you may be eligible.

After that, we connect you with a licensed mental health professional (LMHP) in your State. They will assess whether an emotional support animal will benefit your condition. ESA letters usually take around 48 hours.

How Service Dogs and ESAs Bring Comfort and Support to PTSD Sufferers!

man with ptsd hugging his emotional support dog

The actual ways service dogs and emotional support dogs bring comfort and support to someone with PTSD are many. It will depend on both the person and the dog. Service dogs are specially trained to do specific tasks. Emotional support animals bring good things to a person through their presence and companionship.

Emotional Support Animals Can Keep Anxiety Attacks at Bay!

The presence of an emotional support dog can help someone to reduce and manage their anxiety levels. The way dogs help diffuse the scary feelings of anxiousness include:

  • Companionship: An ESA is a companion animal. They help with feeling that you are not alone in the world, and support that you have someone by your side to get through the tough stuff. The unconditional love and physical affection you share with an ESA dog also helps with our need for companionship
  • Distraction: If you feel a panic attack coming on, or know your potential triggers for one, an emotional support dog can act as a diversion. Their daily care needs, and cuddles and playtime, help with relaxing and distracting from unsettled thoughts.

A PTSD Dog Can Be Trained to Do All Sorts of Things!

Dogs trained to help people with PTSD symptoms can be taught to help with a remarkable range of tasks. Some of these include:

  • Checking the environment for potential threats: Say, for example, someone has been in a war zone or experienced an unexpected attack from out of nowhere. The fear of what may be outside, around the corner can be incapacitating. Service dogs can be trained to ‘scout’ an area and then reassure a person it is safe to be there.
  • Responding to symptoms: Someone on the verge of a panic attack may start to show physical symptoms to indicate they are in distress. Their anxiety might show physically via agitated hand or foot movements, or crying out loud. A service dog can be trained to recognize these indicators. They may be trained to literally use a paw to pause the physical action or to gently lean into the person for a hug.

The 4 Essential Qualities That Good PTSD Dogs Share!

Any full or mixed breed dog can be an emotional support dog. However, there are some qualities that a dog should show to be a good fit for someone with PTSD. These include:

  1. Calmness: PTSD dogs need to be able to maintain a calm disposition at all times. Any signs of over-excitability or aggression are a strict no-no!
  2. Confidence: A level of self-confidence and self-assurance is needed in a PTSD dog. Any dogs with a timid or fearful nature may freak out and add to the stress!
  3. Intelligence: A willingness and ability to learn. A PTSD dog needs to be aware of how to respond sensibly and smartly in different situations.
  4. Sociability: A PTSD dog should be loyal and attentive to its handler, but also friendly and sociable with other people and animals.

Here are our Top Picks for the Best Dog Breeds for PTSD!

When it comes to trained ESAs or service dogs, popular choices are often breeds such as Labrador Retrievers and German Shepherds.  But a PTSD dog does not have necessarily have to be one of these well-known breeds! Here are some breeds we recommend as being a possible emotional support animal for someone with PTSD.

Best Small Dogs: Yorkshire Terriers are the Ultimate Lapdogs

ptsd dogs yorkshire terrier with red bow

Yorkies are pint-sized and full of personality. This is a smart little dog that will love sitting in your lap just as much as going for a lap around the block or learning new tricks. The Yorkshire Terrier is also one very brave and fearless little bundle of love!

Best Companion Dogs: The Cute and Cuddly Cavalier King Charles Spaniel

young girl with ptsd lying in bed with her cavalier king charles spaniel

Cavalier King Charles Spaniels will treat you like a King, or Queen. These are people pooches, utterly devoted to their human companions. They’ve also usually got great sensitivity and intuition around the needs of the people they love.

Best Apartment Dogs: The Bold and Brave Brussels Griffon

brussels griffon sitting in a field

Brussels Griffons are pretty laid back and low maintenance kind of dogs. They prefer being indoors, and due to their small size, they are best as mostly indoor pets. This is one watchful watchdog though, that will alert you to anything out of the ordinary in an instant.

Best Big Dog Breeds: Great Danes are Gentle Giants

emotional support animal great dane sitting on bed

Great Danes are not just “great” they are grand, gentle and loyal to their people. Your commitment to them will be reciprocated tenfold. This big beauty can be a little goofy (think Scooby Doo!) and will enjoy daily exercise.

Calmest Dog Breeds: The Newfoundland with Its Calming Presence

newfoundland puppy with butterfly on its paw

Newfoundland’s, or Newfies, are massive in terms of both their physical size and their overall ability to remain calm at all times. These big dogs are intelligent, outgoing, and affectionate with a lot of love to share.

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

A dog adopted from a rescue group or shelter can bring much joy into your life. Here’s why:

  1. You are potentially saving a life and a dog from being euthanized.
  2. The shelter will be able to tell you a little about the dog’s temperament and health.
  3. The costs you pay are lower and contribute to the good work of the shelter.
  4. You get to meet and interact with dogs needing a home to find the right match for you.

Not Exactly Rare Dog Breeds! Whether Mutt or Designer Breed, a Rescue Will Love You Unconditionally!

The dogs in rescue shelters range from full pedigrees to mixed breeds, to mutts with any mix of marvelous heritage! It really doesn’t matter what their genealogy is. To be a good emotional support dog for PTSD look for a rescue dog that shows they are calm, confident, smart and sociable – and enjoy the love!

rescue dog waiting for adoption in shelter

The Best Dog Breed for Me! Certapet’s Role in Helping People Fight PTSD with Dogs

Our job at CertaPet is to help people get their ESA letter. If you are thinking about getting an ESA, the first step is as easy as taking our free online 5-minute pre-screening! After that, we will put you in touch with a LMHP and you could have your ESA letter in as little as 48 hrs!

Common Questions on The Best PTSD Dog Breeds

Can a PTSD dog help with anxiety?

Which dog breeds are suited being PTSD dogs?

Should a PTSD dog be a big or small dog?

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