At first glance, it might feel like a list of the best dogs for anxiety is just another gimmick, but a wide variety of studies have long shown that having a canine companion can help give our mental health a much needed boost.
While a small amount of anxiety can be beneficial and protective, anxiety disorders are on the rise and are characterised by feelings of worry or fear that don't go away. These feelings can cause a range of stressful symptoms that can make living our day to day lives difficult - and that's where man's best friend can come in handy.
Playing with a dog or petting one has been shown to elevate levels of serotonin and dopamine, which have a calming and relaxing effecting on the body, and owning a dog also encourage us to exercise more, which has also been proven to help ease anxiety.
Dogs can actually help with a wide variety of health issues in humans including lowering blood pressure and stress and some are even capable of treating depression, anxiety and Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder. These are generally referred to as being dogs for emotional support (or ESA, emotional support animal).
Below you'll find our top picks of the best dogs for anxiety and we've made sure to include a mix of both large and small breeds so no matter whether you're after a gentle giant or a compact canine, we've got you covered.
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PetsRadar's guide to the best dogs for anxiety
They may be one of the smallest dogs in the world, but the charming Chihuahua has the largest love eyes when it comes to their special human and will usually follow them from room to room, acting as a second shadow.
This independent and spunky little breed often gets a bad rap, being unfairly labeled as prissy, yappy, and a hater of humans. But when it comes to their families, nothing could be further from the truth.
These dogs are loyal, confident, devoted, and courageous, and they’re starting to be used regularly as therapy dogs because they’re not shy about their love of snuggling. If you’re looking for a true best friend who will be by your side 24/7, the Chihuahua is a worthy contender.
2. Pembroke Welsh Corgi
Sweet and obedient without being clingy or needy, the Pembroke Welsh Corgi is one of the world’s most popular herding breeds despite its small size and its affectionate and companionable nature makes it a joy to have in the home.
Bonding with their humans quicker than an industrial-strength super glue, this kind-hearted pooch is utterly devoted to its people and has high levels of smarts that make them a breeze to train.
The Pembroke Welsh Corgi is an energetic bundle of joy, so if you decide this is the dog for you, you’ll need to make sure this tenacious and playful little pup gets plenty of exercise each day to keep them mentally and physically fit.
3. Cavalier King Charles Spaniel
With big brown eyes that could melt butter and a gentle and loving personality that could crumble even the most hardened of hearts, the Cavalier King Charles Spaniel brings a whole new level of meaning to the phrase ‘man’s best friend’.
This cuddly and affectionate canine is soft as silk making them the ideal lapdog and they love to get out and about, so they’re the perfect companion for those daily walks.
Incredibly eager-to-please and always wanting to be where their humans are, the Cavie will shower you with love and will hope for the same in return. Just be aware that this is a breed that doesn’t like to be left alone, so you’ll want to make sure your lifestyle allows for them to always be close by.
4. French Bulldog
The French Bulldog has a smiling face and positive personality that has these little hounds radiating sunshine wherever they go. Sociable, bright, endlessly patient, this affectionate and mild-mannered breed has well and truly earned its popularity.
It’s hard not to laugh at the Frenchie’s joyful and fun nature and because they love nothing more than being at home with their people, they make great cuddly couch buddies.
One thing you’ll need to watch out for though is their stubborn streak, which can make training them slightly more challenging than some of the other small breeds on this list. But it’s a minor drawback when you consider just how much love the Frenchie has to give.
Greyhounds are champion sprinters with lean bodies and a calm and dignified appearance. They’re quiet dogs that move gracefully and while they excel at athletics, the Greyhound is also a gentle breed that’s become a popular family pet in recent years.
The Greyhound is a super-sensitive soul who will very quickly pick up on your moods and emotions and do their best to soothe you by snuggling up at your side and showering you with love and affection.
While many people choose to adopt older Greyhound’s from shelters, we don’t recommend this if you have high anxiety. These senior dogs often have a lot of emotional scars from their racing days that may prove difficult to manage, so getting a Greyhound at the puppy stage is advisable.
Well known for being the clowns of the canine kingdom, the comical and mischievous Pug will win over even the most serious human with their hilarious antics and charming and attentive personality.
With their big sparkling eyes and expressive faces, the Pug has a distinctive look that only adds to their allure. Curious and goofy, they have a laidback and lovable nature that makes them excel at providing comfort during stressful times.
This breed can be quite high maintenance though when it comes to their health and grooming needs and they also suffer from separation anxiety when separated from their loved ones, so you’ll want to ensure you have plenty of time to devote to taking care of them.
7. Labrador Retriever
Kind, trusting, and famously friendly the Labrador Retriever are great with people of all ages, which is why they’ve long been one of the most popular choices when it comes to therapy dogs.
Smart and easy to train, they have very calm natures and are well known to have a soothing effect on people struggling with stress, anxiety, or depression. They’re outgoing and even-tempered too, so they’ll fit right into any family or social situation.
This is a very energetic breed that needs a good amount of exercise each day, including a mix of land and water-based activities. They tend to become hyperactive and destructive when they’re not able to burn off their energy, so make sure they get at least 90-minutes a day.
8. Golden Retriever
The Golden Retriever shares many of the same qualities as its cousin the Labrador, and its reliable and obedient nature has made it one of the standout choices for search and rescue missions.
Possessing an insatiable love of life, the happy-go-lucky Golden Retriever has a temperament that is both playful and placid. Excelling at soothing frazzled nerves and putting a smile on people’s faces, this breed is gentle, loving, and always affectionate.
Like Labradors, this breed requires a lot of exercise to ensure they thrive both mentally and physically. They’re particularly good companions on runs and bike rides and they also love obedience training, where they usually go to the top of the class.
9. Yorkshire Terrier
The Yorkie may be compact but don’t let their toy size fool you, this is one confident, courageous, and bold little dog who’ll steal your heart without you even realizing it.
Utterly adorable inside and out, they’re best compared to a fine wine - complex and deep. Their nature can be both feisty and bossy but also deeply loving and affectionate, which is why they remain one of the most popular dog breeds.
The Yorkie will bond strongly with you and will remain completely devoted, traveling with you wherever you go. This little dog is eager to please and they love being showered with praise, so keep that in mind when you’re training them and it’ll be a cinch.
10. Great Dane
It’s hard to believe that a dog that looks so big and imposing on the outside could be such a softie on the inside, but that’s exactly what you’ll get with a Great Dane.
These gentle giants will certainly whip out their courage when they spot anyone behaving aggressively towards their human, but with those they love, they have tender and loyal hearts that will remain devoted throughout their lives.
Great Danes also have a goofy and playful side, so they’re great for making you smile and laugh, but you’ll want to socialize them from a young age to ensure they behave appropriately around strangers.
11. Bichon Frise
If a gorgeous ball of fluff who’ll happily snuggle up on your lap after they’ve tired themselves out with all their hilarious antics sounds appealing, then the Bichon Frise is the dog for you.
Cheerful, playful, and with bags of love to give, this dog loves to make their humans laugh and they’re real snugglers too, which makes them the perfect package in our book.
Their medium-length coats have corkscrew curls, so they require more grooming than some other breeds - aim for once a day. When it comes to exercise, keep them on a lead when you’re out and about as they’re surprisingly fast for their size and won’t always obey commands if something has caught their attention.
12. Bernese Mountain Dog
Large, loyal, and lovable sums up the outwardly striking Bernese Mountain Dog who has warm and intelligent eyes that you won’t be able to stop yourself being drawn in by.
These gentle souls hail from the swiss alps and are used to long alpine herding missions, so they need a good amount of moderate exercise each day. But at the end of a long walk, they’re happiest flopping down beside their favorite human and chilling out.
Calm and friendly, they have a soothing effect on anyone who spends time with them, but these are people dogs, so they’ll need to be well trained if you’re wanting to leave them alone and not have them engage in destructive behavior.
Kathryn is a freelance writer who has spent the past two years dividing her writing time between her two great loves - pets and health and wellness. When she’s not busy crafting the perfect sentence for her features, buying guides and news pieces, she can be found hanging out with one very mischievous Cocker Spaniel, drinking copious amounts of Jasmine tea and attempting to set numerous world records for the longest ever FaceTime calls with her family back home in NZ.
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