What are the best breeds for therapy dogs?

Thousands of years of domestication have made dogs irresistible companions. They’ve become our best friends, our confidants, and in many instances, our healers. But not all breeds are created equal when it comes to therapeutic abilities. Some dogs have a knack for providing emotional support and physical assistance, while others stand out for their exceptional training aptitude. But what are the best breeds for therapy dogs? This article will delve into that and provide insights into why these breeds stand out in therapeutic settings.

1. Labrador Retrievers: Unbeatable for their Versatility and Temperament

When you think about therapy dogs, Labrador Retrievers often come to mind first, and for good reason. These dogs are known for their even-keeled temperament and high adaptability. They are well-suited to work with a variety of people, from children with autism to adults recovering from severe trauma.

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Labrador Retrievers are an excellent choice for therapy work because they are highly trainable and have a great affinity for humans. They are good-natured, intelligent, and extremely friendly. The breed’s innate desire to please makes them very responsive to positive reinforcement training techniques.

Their strength and size also make them suitable for physical therapy and mobility support. They can help patients regain their strength and balance by providing a stable support system. Labrador Retrievers are not just good therapy dogs, they are great ones.

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2. Golden Retrievers: The Gold Standard of Therapy Dogs

Golden Retrievers are often described as the quintessential therapy dog breed. They are naturally empathetic, making them effective at providing emotional support. They can sense human emotions and respond in a comforting manner, making them excellent companions for people dealing with emotional distress.

Golden Retrievers are also known for their intelligence and exceptional trainability. They love to learn new commands and are quick to pick up on tasks. Their eagerness to please, combined with their love for people, makes them ideal partners in therapeutic settings.

Their gentle and intuitive nature coupled with their ability to form strong bonds with their handlers contributes to their effectiveness as therapy dogs. They don’t just do their job well, they do it with a level of compassion that few other breeds can match.

3. German Shepherds: A Testament to Trainability and Dedication

German Shepherds are renowned for their versatility. They serve in various roles, from search and rescue to guiding the blind. This breed’s utility extends to therapy work, where their intelligence, dedication, and trainability come into play.

These dogs are known for their ability to focus on tasks, making them exceptional service dogs. With proper training, they can help people with mobility issues, PTSD, and other conditions. German Shepherds form strong bonds with their handlers and are protective, making them excellent for providing emotional support and reassurance.

However, their immense dedication requires a handler that can match their energy levels. These dogs need regular mental and physical stimulation to keep them well-balanced. Through consistent training and a routine, German Shepherds can offer immense support in therapeutic settings.

4. Beagles: Small in Size, Big on Comfort

Don’t let their small size fool you. Beagles are robust therapy dogs. They are friendly, curious, and love to be around people. Beagles have a merry demeanor that can uplift anyone’s spirits. Their size also allows them to be lap dogs, providing physical comfort.

Beagles are good listeners, making them ideal companions for individuals who need someone to talk to. They form strong bonds with their handlers and are known to exhibit immense loyalty. Their distinctive howl can also offer a unique form of comfort.

However, Beagles are known for their strong sense of smell, which can make them easily distracted. This quality requires a handler who can provide consistent training and keep them focused on their tasks.

5. Poodles: Intelligent and Hypoallergenic Companions

Poodles are often referred to as ‘the scholar of the dog world.’ They are incredibly intelligent, which makes them highly trainable. Poodles are eager to please, and they pick up new tasks quickly. They can be trained to perform various tasks, making them suitable therapy dogs for various scenarios.

Poodles come in three sizes: standard, miniature, and toy. This makes them adaptable to different environments, from nursing homes to schools. Their hypoallergenic fur also makes them a good choice for individuals with allergies.

Poodles are known for their loyalty and form strong bonds with their handlers. They are sensitive to their handler’s emotions, making them excellent emotional support dogs. Their intelligence and adaptability make them not just a good breed for therapy dogs, but one of the best.

6. Bichon Frise: A Bundle of Joy and Comfort

Though small in size, the Bichon Frise carries a huge heart, making it a great therapy dog. This breed is known for its charming and affectionate demeanor. Their cheerful personality and small size make them excellent lap dogs, offering both companionship and comfort.

These dogs are incredibly adaptable and friendly with people of all ages, making them a great fit for settings like nursing homes or children’s hospitals. Bichons thrive on human interaction and are known to form strong bonds with their handlers.

Bichon Frise dogs are intelligent and easy to train. They quickly learn commands and tasks, making them highly effective in therapy work. These dogs are also hypoallergenic, which is an added advantage for individuals with allergies.

While they are high-spirited and lively, Bichon Frise dogs also have a calm demeanor when required, making them excellent for providing emotional support. Their ability to adapt to different personalities and situations makes them a versatile choice for a therapy dog.

7. Cavalier King Charles Spaniel: Royalty in Therapy Work

The Cavalier King Charles Spaniel is a breed that is as regal as its name suggests. Known for their gentle and affectionate nature, these dogs make excellent therapy dogs. They are small, making them perfect companions for individuals who need a lap dog for comfort.

Cavalier King Charles Spaniels are intelligent and easy to train. They are eager to please, making them quick learners and effective in therapy work. They form strong bonds with their handlers and are known for their loyalty.

These dogs are excellent with children and the elderly. Their gentle nature and unconditional love make them ideal for providing emotional support. They are particularly effective in scenarios where quiet and calm behaviour is required.

Cavalier King Charles Spaniels have a long history as companion dogs, and this trait shines through in their work as therapy dogs. With their gentle nature and intelligence, they are a testament to how even the smallest breeds can make a significant impact in therapy work.


Dogs have been man’s best friend for thousands of years and it’s no surprise that they make excellent therapy animals. The breeds mentioned above, including Labrador Retrievers, Golden Retrievers, German Shepherds, Beagles, Poodles, Bichon Frise and Cavalier King Charles Spaniels, are considered some of the best therapy dogs due to their temperament, trainability, and ability to provide emotional support.

However, it’s important to remember that the success of therapy work doesn’t solely depend on the breed. The handler plays an essential role in training the dog and ensuring that it can perform its tasks effectively. The bond between the handler and the dog is crucial for successful therapy work.

Ultimately, the best therapy dog is not only determined by the breed but also by the individual dog’s personality and the handler’s commitment to the dog. With the right match and proper training, therapy dogs can provide an invaluable source of comfort, support, and healing to those in need.

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