What Dog Makes the Best Therapy Dog?

Therapy dogs have become a popular and effective way for people with a variety of challenges
to live happy and fulfilling lives. The great thing about therapy dogs is that, unlike service dogs,
there is a much wider variety of breed that can do the job. While service dogs usually assist
people with physical ailments and must be of a certain size and breed, therapy dogs help
people with emotional challenges. For that reason, their main strength is their sensitivity and
let’s be honest, that’s something all dogs have in spades, regardless of breed.

If you already have a pet dog and you are thinking of registering the little guy as a therapy
animal, you don’t really have to worry about breeds. You already have a great pet and if you
need more information about how to get your him/her registered, we can certainly help you
with that on this website. However, if you’re one of the many people who is simultaneously
looking for a new dog and a service dog, there are some things you might want to consider
when making your decision.

The most important factor might come down to size. While all dogs can be sweet, loving, and
sensitive to human emotions, the simple fact is that larger dogs can’t go everywhere as easily.
One of the great values of therapy dogs is that they can accompany their handler in all kinds of
situations, including on planes and in most hotels. In cases like this, a dog that can fit easily on
your lap, or be picked up without you injuring yourself, are really ideal.

Emotional intelligence is another important factor for a therapy dog. Sure, smart breeds can
and do make great therapy dogs to many people, but even more important is a dog’s ability to
connect with you and be sensitive to changes in your emotional well-being. Again, any breed
can have emotionally intelligent members, but as a whole, breeds that were raised for working
tend to be best at this. That’s because breeds like this were selected specifically for their ability
to communicate and get along with people. Aside from that, some things you might want to
look for in an emotionally intelligent dog are how well they read or pay attention to your facial
expressions and if they look guilty when they did something bad. Another good tip is yawning.
It might sound strange because we associate yawning with being tired. But dogs actually yawn
for a variety of emotional reasons.

While we don’t want to be accused of being ageists, a dog’s maturity should be something you
consider as well. We’ve written other posts about the great value of particularly young and old
dogs, but in this case, you might want to stay away from the extremes. While young dogs,
especially puppies, have stamina, they haven’t always matured to the degree that a therapy
dog needs to operate at. Old dogs, on the other hand, can be especially emotionally connected
to their owners but not have the energy of health for extended trips on planes on other

As with all decisions concerning dogs, the most important thing is to do your research, and be
honest with yourself about what your lifestyle is like. At the end of the day, the most important
thing about a therapy dog is the relationship he/she has with the owner.