The Best Dog Breeds to Own if You Have a Mental Illness May Surprise You

From depression to bipolar disorder to PTSD, mental illness can be serious and all-consuming. But it’s important to note roughly 1 in 5 U.S. adults experiences some form of mental illness in a given year. In total, that’s over 43 million people — proving if you’re one of them, you’re certainly not alone.

You know there are plenty of clinical ways to help with mental disorders, but it turns out your pet can play a role in your recovery, too. Here are the best (and most surprising) dog breeds that can help with your illness.

1. Cavalier King Charles spaniels are the best cuddlers

spaniel dog running in summer

These dogs do more than look cute. | Carmelka/iStock/Getty Images

  • Best for those with depression

These dogs are known for their loving and loyal ways. PetHelpful explains Cavalier King Charles spaniels love to be around their owners, and they don’t mind being played with, picked up, hauled around, or cuddled.

Their curious and inquisitive nature makes them a great companion for any dog lover, especially for those who have been diagnosed with depression, Bustle notes. There’s a good reason this spaniel has the nickname “the love sponge.”

Next: This dog breed is known for its intelligence and kindness.

2. Standard poodles have a calming presence

Cute red Toy Poodle puppy sitting outdoors on green grass

They’re obedient and affectionate. | iEudyptula/iStock/Getty Images

  • Best for those with anxiety or bipolar disorder

There’s a reason the standard poodle is often trained as a service dog. These large, lovable animals are incredibly smart and easy to train, says PetGuide. As well as being obedient, they’re also quite affectionate, making them perfect for those looking for a dog breed that will never stray from their side. For these reasons, they’re perfect for those who have panic attacks, anxiety, or bipolar disorder.

Next: This adorable small dog has an upbeat personality. 

3. Pugs have a very positive temperament

old boy pug puppy

Depressed? A pug might be a perfect fit. | LexiTheMonster/iStock/Getty Images

  • Best for those with depression

Yes, pugs may look funny, but there’s a reason they’re among the most adored breeds. The Daily Positive explains owners love the pug’s off-the-wall personality and always-happy attitude. They’re also relatively easy to take care of because they enjoy time indoors and can adapt to many different environments. If you have depression, the pug might be the perfect companion for you.

It’s also important to note, however, that pugs can develop breathing issues. This is something you might want to prepare yourself to take on over time.

Next: This might be the most happy-go-lucky dog breed of them all. 

4. Labrador retrievers offer feelings of security

Beautiful labrador retriever dog in the park,

This classic breed is great for your mental health. | sanjagrujic/iStock/Getty Images

  • Best for those with schizophrenia

There’s a reason Labrador retrievers are among the most common service dogs. They’re happy, playful, calming, and smart, making them an all-around great breed for those with a variety of mental illnesses. PetGuide notes Labs might be especially great for those with schizophrenia, as the breed’s gentle, easygoing nature can help you feel more secure. And taking care of this breed can also offer focus on something unrelated to the mental illness itself.

Next: You’ll be surprised that this breed is on the list. 

5. Doberman pinschers have a strong presence

doberman dog outdoors

These dogs are protective. | iStock.com/onetouchspark

  • Best for those with PTSD 

They may look intense and hard to handle, but Doberman pinschers have proven to be excellent companions for those with mental illness. Anything Pawsable notes this breed is known for its calm temperament, and they’re often referred to as “Velcro dogs” because of how they attach to their owners. They’re also one of the most highly trainable dog types, making them ideal service animals.

PetGuide says those with PTSD or anxiety may prefer a pinscher because of their commanding presence and calming attitude.

Next: One of the first documented therapy dogs was of this breed.

6. Yorkshire terriers have proven they’re excellent therapy dogs

Beautiful yorkshire terrier playing with a ball on a grass

They form strong bonds with their owners. | yevgenromanenko/iStock/Getty Images

  • Best for those with depression and bipolar disorder

Bustle notes one of the first documented therapy dogs was a Yorkshire terrier who boosted morale and visited injured soldiers during World War II. Since then, Yorkies have been known for forming strong bonds with their owners and being a relatively easy-to-train breed. On top of that, they’re lovable, loyal, and perfect for those who want a companion but don’t have a ton of space.

On top of helping with depression, bpHope notes this breed is also ideal for those with bipolar disorder.

Next: This breed is one of the most lovable of them all. 

7. Boxers help you stay focused and burn off energy

Puppy Boxer Dog

Boxers can help those with ADHD burn off excess energy. | ElizabethHoffmann/iStock/Getty Images

  • Best for those with ADHD

This breed may look intimidating upon first glance, but you’d be hard-pressed to find a dog more loving than a boxer. They’re loyal companions and are often found hanging around their owners. Not only that, but PetGuide notes a boxer could be an ideal companion for those with ADHD.

Daily Treat notes dogs can help with ADD and ADHD in a variety of ways. And a boxer’s high energy is perfect for burning off excess energy and making you feel less isolated from others.

Next: These athletic dogs will certainly keep you occupied. 

8. Vizslas love being right by your side

Hunting dog running through long grass

This dog will keep you moving. | FiN85/iStock/Getty Images

  • Best for those with depression

If you haven’t heard of this breed before, it’s time to take note. Bustle says these dogs are as loyal as they come, and they love being close to their owners. Another plus side of this breed is they’re not genetically predisposed to many health problems, and they’re great about self-cleaning.

Because they require lots of exercise and attention, they’re especially great for those who have depression. The only downside is they’re not ideal to have in urban environments because they require plenty of space.

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