Last Updated on April 22, 2023
All dogs make for a great companion for their humans. However, some dogs are more well-suited to aiding their humans in more ways than one.
For example, therapy dog breeds exist to assist humans with physical, mental, and emotional support.
So, what exactly makes a therapy dog breed tick and how do they help us as humans? Keep reading to learn more!
What is a Therapy Dog?
Did you know that people tend to be healthier physically, mentally, and emotionally if they own a dog?
A therapy dog is an active working dog that helps boost the well-being of its human companion. They have been trained to provide support, affection, and comfort to people who need it.
This typically happens at retirement homes, nursing homes, hospitals, hospices, schools, libraries, and disaster areas.
These pups are good to help people with autism, anxiety, and depression. In addition, they can help with a wide range of physical, emotional, and mental support.
Some of the best breeds to assist anxiety and depression may be French Bulldogs, Dachshunds, Labrador Retrievers, or Golden Retrievers.
Therapy dogs aren’t granted some of the same privileges as service dogs or assistance dogs. They need to have certification to be a therapy dog, depending on where you live.
For example, if you live in the United States your therapy dog needs the American Kennel Club’s (AKC) Canine Good Citizen certification.
The Best Dog Breeds For Therapy Dogs
Now we know what makes a therapy dog and the difference between them and other assistance dogs. Let’s take a closer look at some of the best top dog breeds that make great therapy dogs for kids, adults, and seniors alike.
Toy and Small Therapy Dog Breeds
First, let’s take a look at some of the best toy and small dog breeds. Believe it or not, small dogs can in fact be therapy dogs.
Beagles do make great working dogs. They’re intelligent, great with kids, and affectionate. They’ll understand what they need to do, but they can be stubborn and independent at a time.
Depending on their personality, some Beagles will make for better therapy dogs than others.
2. Bichon Frise
The Bichon Frise is another friendly dog breed. They are happy, playful, and make great companion dogs. The best part about this smaller dog is that they don’t shed.
So, they’ll do great therapy work in public places such as hospitals and nursing homes.
3. Cavalier King Charles Spaniel
The Cavalier King Charles Spaniel is a friendly pup. They are friendly, easy to train, eager to please, and cuddly with their human companions. This doggo is obedient and gentle and will be great for therapy work.
Believe it or not, a Chihuahua can also make a great therapy dog. This pooch is friendly and confident. So while they won’t be able to retrieve large items for their human, they’ll be able to fetch help if needed.
This small breed may tend to bark a lot, but through dog training, that can be nipped in the bud. Dachshunds are active, fearless, and loving.
They’ll enjoy curling up in someone’s lap and will do great therapy work in smaller areas.
6. French Bulldog
French Bulldogs are a small dog breed that’s intelligent, intuitive, and easily picks up people’s emotions. They are well-behaved, easy to train, and incredibly sweet.
Due to their small size, they’ll make great therapy dogs in small spaces.
This smaller dog will be a best friend to their human companion. They’re great for people who have trouble with mobility.
The Maltese will be just as happy to stay with their human and curl up in their lap for some cuddles. This doggo is friendly, affectionate, and docile.
8. Pembroke Welsh Corgi
The Pembroke Welsh Corgi, or any Corgi, will make a great therapy dog. This pooch is always happy, and they thrive on attention from their human companions.
This small pup will be great in certain situations and small spaces. They’re friendly, affectionate, and trainable.
The Pomeranian is an intelligent dog breed that is gentle, friendly, and makes great companions. They’re obedient, making them easy to train.
In addition, this doggo will be good under pressure to the sometimes difficult demands of being a therapy dog. However, they’ll enjoy being a lap dog just as much.
10. Miniature Poodle
A Miniature Poodle is similar to the Standard Poodle. It’s a smaller pup, but they’re hardworking, friendly, and intelligent. This pooch is hypoallergenic so grooming will be kept to a minimum.
The Pug is another smaller dog that will enjoy being a lap dog. This pooch is patient, intuitive, and enjoys cuddles. They don’t require much exercise, but they will be a best friend to young children who need their support.
12. Yorkshire Terrier
The Yorkshire Terrier is another small dog breed that will make for a great therapy companion. Yorkies are great at sounding the alarm when something isn’t right.
They’re intuitive, trainable, and intelligent. This is another stubborn breed, though, so that some Yorkies might be better than others.
Medium-Sized Therapy Dog Breeds
13. Border Collie
Border Collies crave attention. These dogs are people pleasers and stay on task, making them ideal for therapy work. Since they are not easily distracted, they’ll form a fast bond with their humans.
This pooch is intelligent, easy to train, and affectionate.
14. Standard Poodle
Standard Poodles are great therapy dogs because they were originally bred to be companion dogs. They are smart, adaptable, and easy to train.
This doggo loves to be around people and is excellent at picking up their emotions. The best part is that this pooch is hypoallergenic, so there will be minimal shedding at your home.
Large and Giant Therapy Dog Breeds
Collies are great with kids. They’ll do well to aid some support in children’s hospitals or at home with young children. This pooch is friendly, eager to please, and easy to train.
The best part is that they’re focused on their work and won’t get easily distracted.
16. German Shepherd
Often seen working as police dogs, German Shepherds are another popular dog for therapy work. They are strong, energized, and they’re great to help in bigger situations and for physical situations due to their large size.
In addition, this doggo is gentle and great with kids.
17. Golden Retriever
Golden Retrievers are one of the best therapy dogs for dog owners. They are friendly, affectionate, and gentle. No matter what age, this dog breed is great for kids and elders. Despite its large size, this doggo is gentle.
Greyhounds are docile by nature, which means they’re calm, laid-back, and highly trainable. They are not easily distracted and will be content to lounge with you on the couch.
The best part is that this larger dog has short hair, so there will be minimal shedding.
19. Labrador Retriever
Labrador Retrievers are one of the best dogs to have a therapy dog. They are intelligent, adaptable, and easy to train.
In addition, this pooch is calm and gentle, which allows them to be patient with the vulnerable. They are also affectionate and will love to cuddle.
Rottweilers can be used as police dogs, guide dogs, or search and rescue dogs. This dog is massive, but don’t let that fool you. They’re friendly, gentle, calm, and loyal. They will do excellent therapy work.
21. Saint Bernard
Even though the Saint Bernard requires some maintenance, this large pup will do great therapy work. Originally bred as rescue dogs, this pooch will take great care of its human.
They can retrieve things, and they’re also big and cuddly.
Other Therapy Dog Breeds
The list of therapy dog breeds can go on. Of course, some breeds will do better at therapy work than others, but any dog can do it with the proper temperament and training.
So, here are some other breeds that will do well as a therapy dog.
- Airedale Terrier
- Irish Setter
- Italian Greyhound
- King Charles Spaniel
- Shetland Sheepdog
Frequently Asked Questions
What are the reasons for having a therapy dog?
A therapy dog is good to have for many reasons. For example, they can help assist the blind and deaf. They can also help people with mental illnesses and protect those who practice self-harm.
These dogs can help with seizures and blood sugar disorders. Or, they can simply be a shoulder to cry on.
If the person is stuck or can’t get to something, the therapy dog can retrieve a water bottle, call for help, or do just about anything to help out their human.
How do you choose a therapy dog?
Just about any dog can be a therapy dog with the right training. However, a pup should show certain characteristics to be considered a candidate for therapy work.
These characteristics should be intelligent, well-trained, focused, calm, sociable, comfortable being touched, gentle, and clean.
Do therapy dogs have legal rights?
Unfortunately, while therapy dogs are comfort dogs, they don’t have any legal rights. They must be trained and certified but don’t hold the same rights as ESAs or service dogs.
How much does it cost for a dog to become a therapy dog?
For your pup to be considered a therapy dog, they’ll need certification from Canine Good Citizen. Luckily, it’s affordable, with it’s classes being around $100.
Which breeds should you avoid when looking for a therapy dog?
You might want to stay away from dogs that are overly protective, difficult to train (stubborn or too independent), and rare to show affection to others.
For example, some dog breeds that might not do well at therapy work could be the Shar-Pei, Kerry Blue Terrier, Pekingese, and Shiba Inu.
What are service dogs?
Service dogs are not the same as therapy dogs. Service animals are typically guide dogs for the blinds, detect diabetes, and perform other specific tasks for individuals with disabilities.
These pups usually have access to public places so that they can accompany their human at all times.
If you want to learn more about service dogs, be sure to read our article about the different types of service dogs.
What are Emotional Support Animals (ESAs)?
Emotional support dogs are given to people who need emotional support by mental health professionals. For example, people with PTSD may have an ESA.
Which Therapy Dog Is For You?
Many dog breeds can be considered therapy dogs. However, they need to meet certain requirements and be certified through the AKC to be labeled as therapy dogs.
Whether you own a dog at home that you want to register as a therapy dog or you want to bring home a new furry friend that will help you go through tough times, any dog breeds on this list will be a good candidate.
Does your dog at home have the temperament and characteristics to become a therapy dog? Let us know in the comments below!
Further Reading: Other Gentle Dog Breeds
Cess is the Head of Content Writing at K9 Web and a passionate dog care expert with over 5 years of experience in the Pet Industry. With a background in animal science, dog training, and behavior consulting, her hands-on experience and extensive knowledge make her a trusted source for dog owners.
When not writing or leading the K9 Web content team, Cess can be found volunteering at local shelters and participating in dog-related events.