Although many dog breeds of larger sizes make great emotional support animals, there are lots of benefits to choosing a smaller dog. A lack of size doesn’t indicate a lack of love and support. In fact, there are many small dogs that are particularly well-suited as therapy animals, and these are widely used in hospitals, schools and nursing homes to assist people with physical and emotional disabilities.
Small dogs are particularly good for people who are immobile as they can be lifted easily onto a bed and petted and stroked. They are also more manageable for children to hold. Although an emotional support dog isn’t required to have any specific training, when it comes to traveling by plane, a well-behaved, small ESA dog is much more likely to be approved by airline staff to travel with you. In general, they are much easier to control, cheaper to feed and require less exercise than larger dog breeds.
So really, once you’ve decided on a small dog as your furry friend, all that remains is to find out which pint-sized dogs make the best emotional support animals and apply for an ESA letter. You’ll need an emotional support dog that is friendly, gentle, has a pleasant demeanor, and doesn’t mind being petted and handled. Here are our top picks for small ESA dogs.
These small, intelligent dogs form a strong bond with their ESA owners and can provide comfort and solace as an emotional support dog. If you’re planning on going on long walks with your dog, then a Chihuahua may not be right for you as they’d rather hang out at home and keep you company than fetch sticks at the park. But they love being fussed over and having their fur brushed. Once you win its trust, a Chihuahua is a loyal companion for life.
There’s not much that escapes a Poodle’s notice. It is an extremely intelligent breed that is easily trained and very obedient. Poodles don’t shed, which can be beneficial for people with allergies. Regular weekly grooming with a brush will ensure that your Poodle looks its best. It’s also a good bonding experience. They will appreciate the care and attention and lavish it back on you two-fold.
Corgis are a favored dog breed of the queen of England, and these loyal royal companions make excellent emotional support animals. In terms of temperament, they’re affectionate, obedient, protective, playful and friendly. They’re likable little dogs that will want to be part of your family, and they love being active — they were originally bred for herding cattle and sheep — so they will need regular exercise to work off their energy. Corgis are great for ESA owners who want a dog that everyone at the local dog park knows and loves.
An important quality of an ESA dog is companionship, and the sturdy French Bulldog is as affable and affectionate as they come. Invite one into your home, and this breed will stick by your side — but not in a clingy way.
King Charles Spaniel
As the name suggests, this breed of small dog was a favored four-legged friend of King Charles II of Britain. Obedient, calming, friendly and often found lounging in people’s laps (yes, they are the original lap dog), the King Charles is great at interacting with people of all ages. After all, they’ve had a lot of practice in providing comfort over the years. With their silky fur, long ears and cute face, they are pretty irresistible.
As small dogs go, Dachshunds are a bit funny looking with their elongated bodies and short legs. But as an ESA dog, they’re not short on personality. This fearless little dog was originally bred in Germany in the 1600s to kill badgers, but today, they’re quite happy trotting to the park and playing a game of fetch. If you have depression or anxiety, a Dachshund is the small dog for you.
Often chosen as therapy dogs for children, Pugs are energetic, loving and faithful companions. Buy or adopt a pug as an ESA dog, and you’ll soon be laughing at their playful antics. Your sturdy, short-haired pug will naturally want to please you, and they’re not fragile dogs, so you can have a bit of a rough-and-tumble relationship. They love getting outdoors in the fresh air, which is ideal for ESA owners suffering from depression.
Sporting a (non-allergenic) white cotton-ball fur coat, the Bichon Frise is a cute, small ESA dog that wins people over with its warm disposition. They were a popular European lap dog for nobility in the Middle Ages and are intelligent, steadfast and easily trained.
Developed as hunting dogs, Beagles have hunting behaviors hard-wired into their genes, but their good nature is what makes them excellent emotional support animals. Beagles are low-maintenance because they have a short coat that tends not to shed too much. A Beagle is happiest going for a walk in the park with you, but keep them on a leash because if they smell something interesting, they’ll be off!
You can count on your Yorkshire Terrier (or Yorkie for short) to be a faithful companion as well as brave ESA dog. If you hear a bump in the night, your Yorkie will be the first to investigate. Known for their therapy dog-qualities, especially boosting morale, Yorkies are bundles of fun. Plus, their small size makes them easy to transport if you want to take them on a trip once you’ve applied for your companion dog certification.