Best Service Dogs: Top 5 Helpful Hounds Most Recommended By Experts

The best service dogs can make a huge difference in the lives of people struggling with anything from anxiety to physical disabilities. They provide comfort and guidance for those who need a little extra hand navigating everyday life. From assisting with mobility and daily tasks to providing emotional comfort and alleviating the symptoms of PTSD, service dogs have also become indispensable companions for countless veterans, enriching their lives and enabling them to thrive despite the invisible wounds of war. If you are looking for a helping hand or paw, our list narrows down the breeds that will make for the most trustworthy companions.

Therapy service dogs in children’s hospitals significantly uplift the spirits of both patients and staff, a new study reveals. Recently, dogs have helped to soothe children in various countries receiving their COVID vaccinations. This recent study confirms that these canine companions indeed offer essential support during challenging medical experiences. The researchers from Japan report that the most profound impacts take place in palliative care, easing suffering among patients with serious or terminal conditions. A considerable majority of the participants, approximately 73 percent, indicated that therapy dogs were “very often” or “always” beneficial.

Therapy service dogs improve kids’ moods and help them learn and engage more with educational lessons. Those are the conclusions coming from a new study by researchers at the University of British Columbia, Okanagan, focusing on how children react to attending a social skill-training program with therapy dogs. Twenty-two children took part in these sessions, which help kids learn and build social skills. First, each child practiced new skills, like introducing themselves to others, with their therapy dog. Then, the children would attend a lesson with the rest of their class. After that, the kids reunited with their pups, along with a volunteer handler, to practice their newly learned skills with local university students.

Children are not the only ones who can benefit from the care of a service dog. Many impaired Americans rely on their faithful hounds to enjoy greater mobility and freedom in life. So, which breeds make the best service dogs? StudyFinds researched ten expert sources to discover the top five breeds for the job. Let us know what you think in the comments below!

black and white curly coated small dog with black and white strap
Service dog (Photo by Frames For Your Heart on Unsplash)

The List: Best Service Dogs, According to Canine Experts

1. Labrador Retriever

Labrador Retrievers have made an appearance on several of our best of the best dog lists, and with good reason. Labradors are everything that people imagine in an excellent dog: smart, brave, loyal, and strong. It’s no wonder that some people trust these wonderful dogs implicitly as protectors and caretakers. The American Kennel Club explains, “Labrador Retrievers are one of the most popular service dog breeds, thanks in part to their friendly and easy-going nature. While sociable, Labs are also devoted and eager to please. This, coupled with their high levels of intelligence, makes them both easy to train and attentive to their owner’s needs. Physically, Labs are hardy and athletic, enabling them to keep up with their handlers as they go about their day.”

chocolate Labrador retriever sitting on floor
Chocolate Labrador retriever (Photo by Jen Vazquez Photography on Unsplash)

Newsweek adds, “Labrador Retrievers make popular family pets for much the same reason they make excellent service dogs. Not only are Labs friendly and good-natured, they are also able to bond well with people and enjoy having a job to do.”

“Labs can perform a variety of services for their owners, but they’re especially helpful for mobility-impaired owners who need help grabbing or manipulating items. This is partly due to their natural retrieving instinct, but Labrador retrievers also have a ‘soft mouth,’ which means they grip things lightly with their teeth. This will help ensure they don’t mangle the objects you expect them to fetch,” adds K9 of Mine.

2. Golden Retriever

From family friend to basketball star, is there anything that Golden Retrievers can’t do? All jokes aside, the Golden Retriever’s intelligence and fierce loyalty make them great service dogs. Bully Max claims, “Golden Retrievers have a good work ethic and a calm, gentle nature. Thanks to their intelligence, they’re fast learners… Golden Retrievers are perfect for emotional therapy assistance. They are also really great with small kids and children… Golden retrievers are also one of the best service dog breeds for PTSD, and are often the go-to dog for veterans dealing with this condition.”

a dog sitting in the grass with its tongue out
Golden retriever (Photo by Shayna Douglas on Unsplash)

Anything Pawsable states, “Golden Retrievers, like their Labrador cousins, love to pick items up, carry them, and work closely with their people. While they’re bred as hunting dogs, they have a soft, gentle mouth and an even gentler temperament. They tend to be a bit larger than Labradors, and their coat is thick and long and requires special grooming. They excel in many Service Dog roles, but they’re particularly suited for mobility work and guide work.”

“Another excellent service dog breed is the Golden Retriever. They’re an ideal breed to serve as therapy dogs for kids because of their friendliness and charm. Also, these dogs are intelligent and obedient to their owners. So, they can assist you with mobility and retrieval of objects,” adds Sierra Delta.

3. Cavalier King Charles Spaniel

This smaller Spaniel breed is feisty and insightful. They are able to read their human’s needs and can respond accordingly. Reader’s Digest offers, “Cavaliers were initially created to be companion dogs, so their genetics run deep as warm-hearted comforters. They are undeniably cute, well-mannered, and petite in size.”

Cavalier King Charles Spaniel dog
Cavalier King Charles Spaniel (Photo by Liesbet Delvoye on Unsplash)

“Originally bred as a companion dog, the Cavalier King Charles Spaniel craves the company of its person. Their small size makes them a handy apartment or small home dog, and they tolerate unexpected movements better than many other small breeds. They are a good size for a child to handle and snuggle and an easy fit on a lap to provide comforting weight. Often used as therapy dogs, the Cavalier King Charles can provide calm for patients with anxiety and stress-related disorders,” opines Love Your Dog.

Service Dog Certifications writes that “There’s an old soul in the Cavalier King Charles Spaniel, making them calm and collected. They’re also loyal and attentive to their owners and bond closely with them, making them ideal psychiatric service dogs for people who struggle with depression or PTSD. Their high level of intelligence enables them to identify and intervene when they see harmful or atypical behaviors in their handlers.”

4. Havanese

Havanese pups seem unassuming at first glance. They are pint-sized bundles of energy that also happen to be excellent mental support animals. Service Dog Recommendations makes their case: “The Havanese breed may be small in size—the largest they grow is about 13 pounds—but it has a big personality. These dogs enjoy being close to their owners, and are enthusiastic about training, and extra attentive to their surroundings. All these traits make them exceptional psychiatric service dogs. Because the Havanese are eager to perform tasks, they respond quickly to behavioral issues like repetitive or harmful actions. They’re also highly intelligent, which helps them to sense mood changes in their handlers.”

Havanese Yawn photo by Gordon on Unsplash
Havanese yawn (Photo by Gordon on Unsplash)

Reader’s Digest offers details on a breed that never needs to leave their handler’s side because they are great travelers. “The Havanese is an adaptable breed that is up for air travel or road trips alike. ‘Selecting a non-shedding dog that has a calm temperament will be courteous to other travelers and help to set the stage for ongoing airline industry accommodations,’ says Dr. Choczynski Johnson. Havanese and other small dog breeds that fit into a carrier can still fly with you when stowed under the airplane seat. Traveling or not, the Havanese are uber friendly and effortlessly make friends with everyone they meet, which takes the focus off you.”

“The diminutive Havanese may seem small for the task, but their breed characteristics make them exceptional psychiatric service dogs. They bond strongly with their people and are sensitive to slight changes in mood or behavior. Eager to please, they learn their job quickly and respond swiftly to potentially harmful behavioral situations,” details Love Your Dog.

5. Beagle

Beagles are a favorite breed in the United States thanks to Charles M. Schulz’s Snoopy. Good ole Charlie Brown painted beagles as vivacious, intelligent, and emotionally complex. These traits turn out to apply to real beagles as well. Top Dog Tips writes, “Portable and friendly, this much-loved scent hound makes a great therapy dog, especially in situations where the best smeller wins, such as for blood sugar detection. Great with kids, this is an excellent service dog for large households or a therapy dog for children’s hospitals.”

A happy Beagle outside
A happy Beagle ( Photo by Marliese Streefland on Unsplash)

Love Your Dog expands on this: “For some children with autism, the friendly Beagle may be the perfect pup. They get along well with children and never meet a stranger. Beagles thrive on affection. Happy-go-lucky and active, these smaller dogs enjoy the outdoors and exercise. Their outgoing personalities can make them upbeat companions for people with anxiety disorders such as PTSD or veterans transitioning back from active duty. Beagles may not be the best choice for a child sensitive to noise, as they tend to bark excessively.”

“Mobile and friendly, the much-loved Beagle makes a great service dog, especially in larger households and where there is a concentration of children. However, be aware that the Beagle breed possesses an independent streak, and some may refuse to accept training well enough to make the grade as a service dog,” claims Newsweek.

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Note: This article was not paid for nor sponsored. StudyFinds is not connected to nor partnered with any of the brands mentioned and receives no compensation for its recommendations.


    1. I LOVE that breed but aren’t they usually bursting with energy? Lol I guess they just need something to do.

  1. Hi my husband is a disabled veteran. He has a service dog. She (Zoey) is an Australian cattle dog. She is very well trained (Paws of War).Many people might not agree but she makes a great service dog. She is totally devoted to him and has helped him with his PTSD on many occasions. She even made me a dog person!

    1. I can totally see where she would be a great service dog. They are very intelligent. I’m sure people will disagree about my American Staffordshire Terrier being a great service dog too but mine is amazing. He helps me function on a daily basis. He’s protective but he’s such a gentle soul. He loves people, even kids.

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