We all have suffered from anxiety at some point in our lives. It’s so common nowadays that around 40 million adults are suffering from it in the US alone. While a little bit is good for you and keeps you motivated in your tasks, if it goes out of control and affects your daily life, you must take some actions to keep it at bay.
Mild to moderate anxiety can be daunting and needs medical attention; there are a few ways you can manage it yourself, like adopting a cute puppy or a cat. Believe it or not, animal comfort is one of the most popular ways to reduce stress and anxiety. Their presence alone has been enough to calm people down and keep their serotonin levels running.
Over the centuries, dogs have fulfilled several roles, such as guardians and companions, but one of the most important ones was that of a comfort dog. A dog that reduces its owners’ stress levels and elevates their mood is simply a comfort dog. There is no other way to define them better than that.
Not every dog can play the role of a comfort dog, and there are a few qualities you need to consider before getting one. Now, don’t get us wrong, every puppy can be a great fit for the role, but some are born with the natural tendency to help reduce stress and anxiety levels in their owner. And, it gets easy to harness this potential due to their naturally loving nature.
Throughout this guide, we will share a few support dog breeds that reduce stress and anxiety and are good for your mental health.
How Can Dogs Reduce Anxiety And Stress In People?
Dogs make excellent companions and wonderful pets. They not only help reduce the stress levels to a minimum but can successfully counter loneliness. Research conducted in 2015 showed that people responded more positively to psychotherapists accompanied by a dog. Moreover, another study indicated that people with dogs had lower blood pressures than those without dogs.
Apart from reducing anxiety, dogs also help with other common associated mental health conditions like PTSD. A survey among veterans showed that in the presence of a service dog, they felt safe, and it helped them manage their PTSD symptoms.
As soothing as it is to pet your mutt and play with it, a physiological mechanism is taking place that helps reduce stress. A study published in the Frontiers of Psychology states that animal-human interaction helps release oxytocin. That is the same hormone responsible for the loving relationship between a mother and her child.
Moreover, spending time with your pet can help reduce cortisol levels, a stress-linked hormone that directly influences a person’s anxiety and stress. The lower the cortisol levels, the better you will feel throughout the day.
These things might be very obvious to you if you are a dog lover or an owner. You might feel anxious or stressed if your pup isn’t with you for some time, highlighting how dogs can help with stress.
Dogs That Lower Anxiety: Personality Traits
Undoubtedly, every dog breed is built differently, and their personalities shift massively. From temperaments to sizes, no single breed shares the same room. Like for example, there is a clear difference between the personalities and temperaments of a wolf hybrid and a golden retriever – the latter being the sweetest and least aggressive.
That said, some dogs are born with the qualities that make them excellent comfort dogs. Here are a few you should keep in mind before getting yourself a cute comfort puppy.
- Trainability. There is no doubt that a good, trainable dog that heeds well to commands can not only reduce anxiety but also stress. A well-behaved dog and anxiety go hand in hand, and your mental health can take a hit if your dog isn’t behaving well.
- Temperament. Dogs with a high prey drive are likelier to show aggression and are not ideal for providing comfort. A calm and well-behaved dog with a naturally soft aura will keep you calm and stress-free. Its presence alone will be enough to keep your anxiety levels at bay.
- Exercise. Exercise is sometimes the best remedy for stress and anxiety. That’s why athletes are mentally and physically fit. If you are a runner and love a stroll around the park, get a dog that can accompany you on your daily runs. An energetic dog alone is enough motivation to get you out of your room and into the park.
- Size. Size can matter a lot in your quest to get a Fido as your companion, especially when you are traveling all the time. A small dog breed is ideal for carrying around if you can’t stay without your pup for too long. In comparison, a large dog breed like a german shepherd can be the perfect partner if you are a cuddler.
The 20 Best Dogs For Anxiety
Here is the list of the best support dogs that will surely lighten your mood.
1. Golden Retriever
The Golden Retriever is one of the most popular breeds known for its docile and caring nature. No other breed scores higher on the Canine Good Citizen tests than our Golden friends. Easy to train and easy to manage, these furry best friends’ hugs are a delight. A single hug is more than enough to lift you and cheer you up.
Intelligent, smart, caring, and loving – the Golden Retriever is an all-around dog for every type of person and family. They are excellent with children, make great friends with strangers, and never miss an opportunity to take center stage and please their owners.
The warmth of a retriever’s hug is enough to lift your spirits.
Don’t be fooled by their fluffy white coats (that are less prone to shedding) – as underneath, there’s a lot of substance. Poodles are highly energetic and intelligent dogs and are considered one of the three smartest dog breeds. They are aware of their surroundings and can tell if their owner is feeling out of the blue.
With Poodles, training is easy, and positive reinforcement works like a charm. They are energetic and love going around the parks but are shy around strangers and can easily get anxious.
All in all, Poodles are wonderful support and comfort dogs. Their intelligence makes them keen on their surroundings, and their intuition rarely goes wrong.
A poodle is one of the three smartest dog breeds and is highly energetic and intelligent.
3. German Shepherds
Easy to train and easy to manage, the German Shepherds are police and military favorites. There is a reason why they are so popular among the security forces, and that is their excellent guarding and watching prowesses.
If you are anxious about house break-ins and robberies, this hairy friend can go to extreme lengths to keep you safe. A jaw as strong as a hammer, no one can easily break free if it’s locked in.
German Shepherds are extremely intelligent dogs, and with the right training and socialization, they can become excellent support dogs.
Despite their intelligence, German Shepherds make excellent support dogs when trained and socialized properly.
With its fluffy white appearance and small gorgeous eyes, a Maltese can easily make you fall in love with it. It is so small and petite that it can easily adjust to your lap or curl up with you in the bed.
Maltese are affectionate and loving dogs. They are probably the best emotional support dogs and go out of their way to please their owners. Moreover, due to its small size, it doesn’t have an extensive exercise requirement. So, you need not worry about running around the parks all day, but instead, get comfy in a recliner and have a good evening in front of the TV.
There is no doubt that Maltese are the best emotional support dogs, and they are willing to go the extra mile to please their owners.
Pugs are lazy and slow and don’t need daily exercise to keep them fit. They love sitting around, enjoying the comfort of a slow day. Being small apartment dogs, they thrive in small families and positively interact with every household member.
Pugs are affectionate towards their owners and try weird stuff to make them smile. They crave attention and can suffer from separation anxiety if you are too busy in your personal life. As one of the smallest dog breeds, they can easily fit in your lap and help alleviate feelings of anxiety and stress.
Due to their small size, pugs thrive in small families and are friendly toward all household members.
Labradors’ personalities synch quite well with the Golden Retrievers. Like our Golden buddies, they make excellent comfort and support dogs. They are easy to train, adjust comfortably in a family, and are great with children.
Labradors are highly intelligent pets and offer a calming and supporting presence in nursing homes and hospitals. They will often lie beside you, providing the comfort you need to tackle anxiety.
Positive reinforcement training is a proven method to inculcate good habits in labradors. They are the way to go if you need an energetic and fun companion.
Whether in nursing homes or hospitals, labradors provide a calming and supportive presence.
7. Saint Bernard
Saint Bernard finds its name from The Great St Bernard Hospice in Switzerland, where they performed watchdog duties and helped search for lost travelers. But, now they are busy with the daily American households caring for children and showering love on their owners.
This breed has a caring and affectionate personality. Bernard’s inner desire to please its owners goes beyond simple hugs and cuddles. They are very protective of them and can get aggressive if someone tries to hurt them.
It goes beyond hugs and cuddles for Bernard to please his owners.
Bulldogs often share a tainted picture with Pitbulls as aggressive and dangerous. But, this opinion is biased as every dog breed can be aggressive with wrong training and socialization. But, there are a few differentiating features between the two as they are more laid-back and low energetic compared to Pitbulls.
If you are looking for a lazy partner to comfort you and help you binge Netflix on a slow rainy day, then a bulldog is the right choice for you. Moreover, they are not exercise-addicted, and you won’t have to go out of your way to take them out on a stroll. But don’t get us wrong, they do need a run around the park, but not as much as other energetic dog breeds.
A bulldog is the right dog for you if you are looking for someone to keep you company while you binge Netflix on a rainy day.
9. Great Dane
Great Danes are massive dogs known as the “Apollo of Dogs”, reaching a height of 32 inches at the shoulders. That makes them one of the tallest dog breeds. Speaking of tall breeds, they do sometimes appear intimidating to strangers. And that’s why they make excellent guard dogs.
If you live alone and are anxious about your safety, no better dog breed other than the Great Dane can fulfill that role. It’s huge and can easily tackle people around. They do, however, have a soft and tender personality. They are great with children and are known for their people-pleasing abilities. If you are a hugger, a hugging paradise awaits you.
Known for their people-pleasing skills, Danes are great with children.
10. Cavalier King Charles Spaniels
King Charles Spaniels are wonderful pets to have around your family. They are great with children, love interacting with strangers, and the best thing – they love cuddles. This kingly dog breed is known for its adaptive behaviors and is popular among dog owners with annoying small apartments.
The biggest plus of having Spaniels is that they are small, petite dogs and can be easily trained for therapy work. So, if you are looking for a lapdog to comfort you on your bad days, King Charles Spaniels are your go-to pets.
As small, petite dogs, Spaniels make great therapy dogs because they are easily trained.
The greyhound is an excellent choice if you want a running companion that doesn’t tire for miles. They are highly energetic dogs with an extensive racing history. Apart from racing, they love other fun activities as well.
But, where they shine the most is their trainability. Greyhounds are highly intelligent dogs with great training temperaments. They love playing around with their owners, and that makes them great at comforting them as well. Retired greyhounds enjoy the comfort of a loving family, and you will often find them curled up on a couch.
A greyhound has a great training temperament and is highly intelligent.
Dachshunds are wonderful family pets, but their temperaments are not developed for small children or strangers. They were bred as hunters, but now they enjoy the comfort of a daily American household. Their aggressive traits are mainly linked to their ancestry, but they can become docile and caring dogs with the right training.
Belonging to the small dog breeds, Dachshunds make excellent apartment dogs and can easily adjust inside your lap. They are energetic dogs, have big personalities, and love taking a run daily. So, you can find a running and a comforting partner in your Dachshund.
The Dachshund is an excellent apartment dog and can easily adapt to living on your lap.
Chihuahuas are small mutts with big personalities. In fact, they are one of the smallest dog breeds, with a weight ranging between 2-6 pounds. And, don’t let their small size confuse you, as they can be ferocious and equally aggressive when need be.
But, if you are looking for a dog whose whole life revolves around you, no other dog breed can come close to being as possessive as Chihuahuas are.
Despite their small size, chihuahuas are ferocious and equally aggressive when required.
14. Yorkshire Terrier
Yorkshire Terriers are a great option for those who love cuddling but are allergic to dog fur. Their long coat hair resembles human hair, but there’s a catch. Their hair gets tangled a lot, so you might need to brush it daily or otherwise get ready for a trip to the hairdresser more often than you can imagine.
Yorkshires make wonderful family pets, as they are great with children, strangers, and surprisingly with other new dogs as well. They are highly-energetic dogs and easy to train. They are very fond of their owners and like to spend quality time with them. They can develop separation anxiety if they are not given enough attention.
The Yorkshire terrier makes an excellent family dog since it is great with children, strangers, and even other new dogs.
15. Great Pyrenees
This “majestic” and powerful dog breed was bred as working dogs. They mainly used to tend to sheep and livestock and keep them safe from becoming prey to wolves.
The Great Pyrenees gained immense popularity due to their non-aggressive temperaments and intelligence. They are relatively easy to train but can trouble first-time dog owners. They have great temperaments for children and make great family pets. Our furry friend loves cuddles and will surely ease any feelings of stress or anxiety through its cheeky smiles.
The Pyrenees makes a wonderful family pet as they have a great temperament for children.
16. Pembroke Welsh Corgi
Pembroke Welsh Corgi is the preferred dog breed of the British Crown and is often seen with Queen Elizabeth II, showering love and doodling all around. They are one of the most popular dog breeds worldwide, and the reason is very clear. They are affectionate towards their owners, kind to children, and easy to manage and train.
Corgis are not shy dogs and love interacting with new people. That can be troublesome as it can interfere with their socialization, creating problems for them in the future. They are highly-energetic dogs and love to play with their owners. They have extensive exercise requirements, and you can’t keep them locked up in homes for very long, making them not a preferable choice for small apartments.
There is nothing shy about Corgis, and they love to interact with people who are new to them.
Papillons are high-energy and charismatic dogs. They are a very popular dog breed and descend from the toy spaniels. Many small families love their upbeat personalities and active, enthusiastic approach as they can cheer up a gloomy environment in a pinch.
Papillons are great for active dog owners who want an active companion to tag along on runs and meetups. Moreover, they are comparatively easy to train, and positive reinforcement works like a charm with them.
If you are looking for an active companion to accompany you on runs and meetups, papillons are a great choice.
Also called the “Velcro Dogs”, mainly due to their tendency to please their owners and stay by their side as much as possible. Havanese has a calm and soothing personality and are great for people with anxiety. You can’t go wrong with Havanese. It’s a caring and affectionate dog, and can guess if its owner is feeling out of the blue.
People with anxiety can benefit from Havanese’s calm and soothing personality.
19. Bichon Frise
Bichon Frise is one of the friendliest dog breeds you will come across. Their jolly and charismatic personalities will brighten up your mood. They are charmful and mischievous with a lot of love to give. If you have anxiety and need a cozy companion to cuddle up with, you can look to Bichon Frise to lend you some hugs.
An anxiety-stricken person may need a cozy companion to cuddle with, such as a Bichon Frise.
Pomeranians are one of the smallest dog breeds and can even fit inside your handbag. They are jolly friends and rarely leave your side as they tend to cherish their owners quite a bit. They can be a bit wary of strangers, so do take care of their socialization from a young age. Otherwise, it can create problems for you and your favorite pet in adult life.
Pomeranians are great family pets and can make your afternoon a delight. With proper training and socialization, they turn out to be excellent family dogs and companions.
Generally, they don’t leave their owner’s side much as they tend to adore them quite a bit.
The best dogs for anxiety are the ones that can make you feel at peace and can comfort you in difficult times. Literally, almost any dog breed will do. Because with the right training and socialization, every dog breed will turn out as docile and caring. All you need to care about in this matter is what your needs are. Are you active and love running daily? Or are you looking for a companion to cuddle with while you binge on Netflix to relieve the feelings of anxiety? But, whatever your decision is and which breed you choose, keep cherishing your Fido as they will love you with all their heart.
Jen Jones is a professional dog trainer and behavior specialist with more than 25 years of experience. As the founder of ‘Your Dog Advisor’ and the ‘Canine Connection’ rehabilitation center, she applies a holistic, empathetic approach, aiming to address root causes rather than merely treating symptoms.
Well known for her intuitive and compassionate approach, Jen adopts scientifically-proven, reward-based methods, encouraging positive reinforcement over punishment. Jen specializes in obedience training, behavior modification, and puppy socialization. Her innovative methods, particularly in addressing anxiety and aggression issues, have been widely recognized. Jen has worked with many of the world’s leading dog behaviorists and in her free time volunteers with local animal shelters and rescue groups.