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Emotional support animals are a vital mental health treatment aid for many of us that are suffering from a range of conditions. This new form of therapy in the field of psychology is a huge advance in the treatment of mental health and has been an incredibly successful option for many. In this article, we get down to what every potential ESA owner wants to know—what are the ultimate breeds that make for the perfect ESAS? If you have been on the hunt for the perfect ESA for your lifestyle, or maybe just have a burning curiosity to see if your dog makes the top ten, then you've come to the right place. Keep reading to find out which dogs make the cut in the top 10 ESA dog breeds of all time!
What ESAs Do
First, we should tell exactly what these mysterious "ESAs" do. ESAs, or emotional support animals, are tasked with providing a supportive presence to those who are suffering from a mental health disorder. ESAs are not service animals, in that they are not specifically trained in tasks to assist their owners. Instead, they provide important emotional support, in the form of companionship, affection and even a grounding presence, which assists their owners to manage their mental illness more effectively.
Who uses ESAs?
Emotional support animals are appropriate for treating and supporting a wide range of mental health issues. They are also highly accessible to those in need of a safe, natural and reliable form of therapy—making them a popular choice for those that are approved to have them as a therapy aid. Some of the most common conditions that ESAs may be appropriate in treating include:
- Alcohol/Substance Dependance
- Anxiety Disorders
- Bipolar Disorder
- Generalized Anxiety Disorder
- Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder
- Panic Disorder
- Post-traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD)
- Social Anxiety
Benefits of ESAs
ESAs have been shown to have amazing benefits for their owners, including positive physiological and psychological effects. Here are some of the great benefits of keeping an ESA.
Improves brain chemistry: Interacting with animals, and in particular, keeping pets has been shown to assist the brain in producing beneficial chemicals. While this is not a cure for mental health problems in itself, it can help to rebalance chemical levels in the brain which can improve symptoms.
- Reduces stress: Another area in which animals have shown great efficacy in is stress reduction. In fact, pets are even used in some hospitals, particularly in cardiology units, as a natural way to help patients keep their stress levels and heart rate down. Cool, huh?
- Provides a distraction from negative thought patterns: The presence of an animal can be incredibly useful for those struggling with anxiety and depression, as they can provide a welcome distraction from negative thoughts that can spiral out of control when alone.
- Helps to establish a healthy routine: Pets require a super regular routine for their needs to be met, so an ESA can be an excellent way to help those with mental illness establish and maintain a healthy routine that can improve their condition and quality of life.
- Encourages exercise and socialization: For those with mild to moderate mental health conditions, emotional support animals can be an excellent motivator to get out of the house, do all important exercise, and even socialize with new people.
Top ESA Dog Breeds
Okay, let's get down to it. These are the ultimate breeds for ESAs that tick all the boxes. Friendly, loyal and adorable, any of these breeds could make an excellent emotional support animal!
1. Labrador Retrievers
These popular and gentle dogs are amazing at soothing their owners. Whether you need an ESA for anxiety or depression, there's a reason why these lovable and highly trainable pets top our list. Labradors are extremely mellow pets and do well around large amounts of people, essential for any ESA. They are gentle, even-tempered dogs with extremely friendly personalities.
2. Cavalier King Charles Spaniels
These goofy sweethearts are wonderful ESAs for a whole host of reasons. Cavalier King Charles Spaniel dogs are sweet, quiet and have a supremely gentle nature. This makes them an excellent pet and therapy animal, especially when you add to that the fact that they need a low to moderate amount of exercise, and are super quiet dogs. Perfect for those with small apartments and easily disturbed neighbors.
Another cute breed with a gorgeous face featuring stereotypical puppy dog eyes, Beagles are a sweet and gentle type of dog that would make wonderful ESAs. They are known for being friendly and having a medium energy level.
The kings and queens of fluff have to be one of the most adorable lap-breeds out there. Loving nothing more than time spent with their human, Pomeranians are cheeky, bossy and form extremely close bonds with their owners, making them an excellent choice as an ESA.
5. Yorkshire Terriers
Another "tiny in stature" but "big in heart" lap dog, Yorkies make a very good choice as an ESA. While they can be stubborn, they are incredibly smart and independent dogs who will always entertain you.
Poodles are another breed that are renowned for their impressive intelligence. These deceptively fluffy princes and princesses are extremely trainable and loyal dogs which are great qualities to have in an ESA.
7. Golden Retrievers
Another winner from the retriever category—trust us—there's a reason that there are two of this type in the top 10! Sharing all of the positive qualities of their Labrador cousins, these dogs make excellent companion animals for their owners. They do require a moderate to high amount of exercise, which is something to keep in mind for potential ESA owners of this breed.
Super cute, with an almost googly-eyed appearance, Pugs have the ability to put a smile on anyone's face with their hilarious behavior and looks. These happy-go-lucky pets bond closely with their owners and are often "shadows" that follow their humans wherever they go. Their antics are sure to brighten any owner suffering from mental illnesses!
Greyhounds may be the fastest dogs on the planet, but in reality, these tall hounds are total lounge lizards. Contrary to popular belief, Greyhounds do not need loads of exercise. Instead, they are happy with a low-moderate amount of exercise to keep them healthy. Greyhounds are sensitive animals that can sense the emotions that their humans are feeling and offer support, making them excellent ESAs.
What's not to love about long-bodied Corgis? These dogs are known for being even-tempered, loyal and well-mannered. They are known to have the personality of a "big dog" all wrapped up in a super cute small dog package. A Corgi could be a great ESA choice for an owner comfortable with an active dog.
So, with ten amazing dog breeds that all make excellent ESAs, I'm sure we've made your job easy right? Well if not, remember, the best choice of an ESA is one with a temperament, size and exercise needs that fit your lifestyle perfectly. If you've already got an ESA, how did they fare? The best dog for an ESA is the pooch you connect with, that supports you emotionally. Another key tip to remember is that any type of dog can be an ESA—whether from a breeder, a shelter, or even your existing dog! If you're struggling with mental health, make an appointment with a therapist today, so that you can discuss your options, and start feeling better today with the help of an emotional support animal.