Top Dog Breeds That Make the Best Therapy Dogs

It’s incredible how much a canine friend can positively influence your entire life.

Research has long shown that people suffering from illnesses can benefit from having a dog in their lives. But now there’s even proof that everyone is better off with a pet. In fact, a study by Psychology Today found that pet owners “exhibited greater self-esteem, were more physically fit, were less lonely, were more conscientious, were more socially outgoing, and had healthier relationship styles” than those who didn’t own pets.

All dogs will make you smile, but therapy dogs go the extra mile to make their owners’ lives better. Therapy dogs are often volunteers in nursing homes, schools, or hospitals and are taught to bring comfort to those who need it most. They aren’t as trained as service dogs and should never be passed off as such on flights or airplanes, but they still enrich the lives of those around them more than any other kind of pet.

There are positive aspects to every breed, but therapy dogs in particular must be naturally calm and patient with people. Check out some top picks for dog breeds that naturally fill the bill.

1. Labrador retriever

Two friends, child with Labrador retriever dog sitting in sunny summer park near water

Labs love people — especially kids. | iStock.com/Rohappy

When it comes to Labs, you simply won’t find a better breed for bringing joy to people’s lives. These dogs are calm, patient, sweet, kind, and affectionate. They’re also the happiest when around people, so visits to nursing homes or schools will always be the highlight of their day. Ranked as the most popular purebred dog in the U.S., it’s no wonder Labs sit at the top of the list for best therapy dog breeds, too.

2. French bulldog

Woman and French bulldog outdoors

Petting a Frenchie will make you smile. | iStock.com/DuxX

Frenchies are clever and full of personality – plus, they always look like they’re smiling. This breed doesn’t need a whole lot of exercise, making them ideal for urban or suburban settings. Why do they make great therapy dogs? Well, they love meeting new friends and have no aggression toward strangers.

3. Greyhound

Greyhound outside

A greyhound loves to be loved. | Neurodoc/Wikimedia Commons

Quiet, gentle, and sweet, greyhounds are an ideal choice for therapy work. They can go fast, but many prefer to keep it slow and will lay down patiently being petted for long stretches of time. Retired racing dogs are often up for adoption, and you can train them as therapy dogs as well.

4. Golden retriever

Dog Visiting Young Happy Female Patient In Hospital

A golden loves everyone. | iStock.com/Monkeybusinessimages

Every golden you meet is your new best friend – which makes this breed perfect for therapy work. Patient, smart, gentle, and easy to train, these pups don’t have a mean bone in their bodies, and they do great in new situations. This breed also has a special connection with children and has the innate ability to bring happiness wherever they go.

5. Poodle

White poodle dog on green grass field

Poodles are smarter than they look. | iStock.com/Disqis

They’re so much more than just a fluffy face! Poodles are exceptionally intelligent and easy to train, which makes them a fantastic therapy dog breed. With tons of energy and a consistently pleasant disposition, a poodle has the stamina to last through a long day of bringing contentment to those who need it most.

6. Pomeranian

A pretty pomeranian female dog on a blurry grass background

Pomeranians are basically irresistible. | Tsik/Getty Images

How can you resist smiling when you see this little ball of fluff walking by? Pomeranians have tons of personality and are curious explorers, both traits that make them well-suited to the life of a therapy dog. Spunky, agile, and obedient, these little pups have a true zest for life that’s highly contagious.

7. Miniature poodle

Asian International Dog Show

It’s easy to train a miniature poodle as a therapy dog. | Koichi Kamoshida/Getty Images

Just like their larger-sized cousins, miniature poodles are incredibly intelligent and easy to train. Plus, they’re super cute and fit perfectly into your lap. They socialize well with others and often perform comical antics, which is why they’re often used as circus dogs. Teach your miniature poodle a trick or two – she’ll just love putting on a performance during her therapy rounds.

8. Collie

rough collie

Just like Lassie. | iStock.com/Cynoclub

Like Lassie, collies love being around kids and would make the perfect breed of therapy dog at the children’s hospital. Eager to please and easy to train, this breed has all the qualities you should look for in a therapy dog.

9. Yorkshire terrier

Purebred yorkshire terrier

Yorkies have tons of personality. | iStock.com/Grase

Their small stature makes Yorkies perfect for small children who are stuck in the hospital. They’re so huggable and sweet, too. Spunky, smart, energetic, and easy to get along with, this breed has all the attributes of an exceptional therapy dog.

10. Cavalier King Charles

Woman Holding Her Dog in Sunset

Everyone loves a cavalier King Charles. | Banepx/Getty Images

Affectionate and gentle, this breed has a silky soft coat that just begs for you to pet it. They love to make new friends and have tons of energy and a sweet disposition. This breed is beloved by royalty and celebrities, and while some say they’re difficult to train, they’re actually very smart and eager to please.

11. German shepherd

young purebreed alsatian dog in park

German shepherds are more than just police dogs. | Diego_cervo/Getty Images

It’s obvious that a German shepherd is easy to train – otherwise they wouldn’t be the top choice for important police work. But these hard workers are also gentle, highly intelligent, obedient, and great with kids, which are all attributes that a therapy dog should have.

12. Dachshund

The Sausage Dog Club Meets For Its Annual Walk In Bath

A dachshund is at home on your lap. | Matt Cardy/Getty Images

Like so many other smaller dogs on the list, dachshunds feel right at home when they’re curled up in your lap, making them ideal therapy dogs. They’re also active, fun-loving, and fearless, and they love being around people. You’ll collect a lot of smiles when you’re walking this little guy around, which is just what the doctor ordered.

13. Beagle

Young woman with Beagle dog in the park

Beagles will set your mind at ease. | iStock.com/SbytovaMN

Beagles are happy dogs. It’s not commonly known that they’re often used for police work, like drug-sniffing in airports, because they make people less nervous than larger, more intimidating breeds. The cute factor is also part of what makes them perfectly suited to therapy work.

14. Pugs

Dog in laundry basket

Pugs give great hugs. | Chris Amaral/ Getty Images

Snub-faced pugs love people, which is essential for being great therapy dogs. Their charming personalities will delight just about everyone. Pugs are great with kids, sociable, and easy-going, and they can last through long days of play and cuddles.

15. Corgi

Corgi dog soft focus

It’s hard to resist a happy corgi face. | iStock.com/JackSpoon

Corgis are smart, good-natured, and personable. They’re also fun-loving and eager to please, and they’re happy to learn the ways of the therapy dog life. Again, corgis are real cuties, which helps to lift the spirits of everyone they meet.

16. Maltese

White maltese dog lies on carpet and looking ahead

Petting a Maltese will put your mind at ease. | Baloon111/Getty Images

Just try to resist petting the silky, gorgeous coat of the Maltese. These lap-sized pooches love to sit in laps and nap. They make wonderful therapy dogs for this and many other reasons, including their even temperaments and love for being around humans. Dog breeders adapted the Maltese to “love and be loved,” which makes them the absolute ideal companion for the lonely.