Best Companion Dog: The Right Pup for the Job

Key Points

  • The best companion dog for you comes down to what you are looking for in a dog.

  • There is no right size for the best companion dog.

  • What makes a great companion dog is one that is loving and trainable.

Canines are so good at understanding human emotions that humans have turned to them for centuries for comfort and grounding. Finding the best companion dog for you may be a challenge, but with the right advice, you should have a furry friend in your corner in no time.

Unlike service dogs, you're not limited to a select few breeds. Most service dogs are bigger, or at least medium-sized, as they are there to perform specific tasks, like opening doors or retrieving objects. Size doesn't matter with companion dogs. It all comes down to your needs and what you can handle.

Man with dog

What Is a Companion Dog?

Companion dogs are also called emotional support dogs. They act as companions to their owners, who struggle to cope with everyday life from anxiety or other emotional distress. For many that struggle with anxiety, these dogs offer a sense of freedom and independence. The presence of these dogs helps their owners stay grounded and calm in situations where they may feel paralyzed with anxiety or depression.

Dogs become incredibly attuned to their owner's needs. Simple changes in emotions or even moods don't escape a dog's nose. Dog's noses are so sensitive they pick up on the body's chemistry and how it changes with intense emotions or moods. While these dogs don't need specific training, every companion dog gets the basic obedience training down. They also need to be well-socialized and able to stay calm and collected.

Companion dogs do not have legal protection like service dogs do. They also are not the same as therapy dogs. A companion dog cannot go to the same places as a service animal or even a therapy dog. Many places turn away companion dogs from coming into places like restaurants.

Dog licking owner

Best Small Breed Companions

Don't let their small size fool you. Not everyone needs a big breed to get the benefits of a companion dog.

Finding the right breed for you comes down to your unique needs and preferences. If you travel often and need your companion dog close, a smaller breed may be the right fit. They easily fit under your seat while flying as a carry-on, or in your lap during the flight.

Cavalier King Charles Spaniel

Cavalier King Charles spaniels are loving pups that have a long history of being companion dogs. Known originally as loyal companions to noble families. They have a low prey drive, meaning they would rather snuggle you than go off chasing the squirrel in your time of need. Often they adapt easily to their humans' routines and energy. These dogs love attention from their favorite humans.

On average, they only get up to 15.5 pounds and about 12.5 inches in height. They are highly trainable, making them a great choice for a companion dog. They have heavier grooming needs and are prone to medical issues as they get older.

Grooming, though, is a task that many find calming with the repetitive motions that come with brushing. They make great dogs for seniors, as being in a lap is the best place possible.

Cavalier Kind Charles Spaniel on human's lap


Now, hold on before you scoff and say there is no way a chihuahua fits a companion dog job; know that they are qualified. Not every single Chihuahua is right for the job, as some just don't like people. They are sassy and hard to train, but each dog is unique. They are the perfect size for those who live in apartments or travel often. Daily walks or just following you around is enough exercise to keep them healthy.

However, this breed is extremely loyal to their humans. Even though they only average a weight of five pounds, you won't find a smaller dog who thinks they are the size of a Great Dane. This breed has a large personality that matches their massive amounts of devotion to you.

If you have the time and dedication to train your Chihuahua to be a companion dog, then you'll have a loyal and protective companion.


Maltese got special treatment back in the day — women used to carry these small dogs around in their sleeves during the Roman Empire. Even back then, these dogs made great companion dogs because of their sweet nature. Maltese are loyal to their family members, often picking one person they would rather sit with and be around. However, these dogs are absolutely fearless, thanks to their background as rat hunters.

Calming Dog Ad

The average weight of a Maltese is six pounds, meaning they would fit under a seat during a flight or in your lap. Now, they do need training constantly, as they conveniently "forget" commands when they don't want to do them. Despite that, they are sweet-natured dogs.

Consistent grooming is a must as these dogs get tear stains quickly thanks to their white coat.

Maltese with owners

Best Big Breed Companions

For those who love the bigger breeds, you don't have to feel left out.

Bigger dogs are excellent at performing deep pressure therapy for those who find weight grounding. Not all big breeds work for the job, though. Many bigger breeds are working dogs that would find the life of a companion animal slower than they would like. If you do travel, mostly by plane, you cannot have your companion animal with you. They have to travel with the other larger dogs in the cargo area.

If traveling isn't a concern, or you do so mostly by car, then a bigger breed may be more suitable.

Golden Retriever

Goldens are one of the most common breeds to see as not only companion animals but service and therapy animals as well. There is a good reason for that. They are gentle, affectionate, intelligent, and easily trainable, all while enjoying performing different tasks for their owners. They are in tune with your needs, and would rather be at your side than run around. It is what makes them one of the best companion dogs for anxiety.

Goldens love their owners. They also really love strangers and making new friends. While on the higher maintenance side with their coat, and a few health issues passed down through generations, they still make great companions. The golden retriever weighs in at an average of 65 pounds and gets to be 23 inches high.

Goldens get along well with other dogs, creating a soothing presence for anxious dogs.

Golden Retriever as a companion dog

Bernese Mountain Dog

If you look at the face of a Bernese mountain dog and don't see how soft these dogs are, then you just need to look again. They are some of the softest, kindest dogs you'll ever come across. They are calm and ideal for those who need a soothing presence. While they are larger, they are unafraid to become your lapdog. Sure, they probably won't fully fit, but that won't stop them from trying.

They are easily trainable and work well with commands. These dogs love their owners, but they are often wary of strangers. Socializing them as young dogs is important. Even though they aren't aggressive, some may believe they are if they fear strangers, especially at their size.

St. Bernard

Formerly, this breed rescued people in the Swiss Alps. The barrel that you see them wear typically had brandy in it for when they found the lost or injured. Another place you've seen this breed is in Peter Pan. Remember Nana? There is a reason they picked her to be the nanny of the children. The St. Bernard is a soft giant that wants nothing more than to get affection from their families.

They are big dogs, coming in at an average of 140 pounds. They stand 30 inches high, making them taller than most small children. They also are not aware of their size most of the time and may just decide to sit in your lap. It makes them great at deep pressure therapy, as they are all over you.


Poodles enjoy doing different tasks. They are one of the smartest breeds of dogs out there and take any job you give them seriously. They want to learn more. It is what makes poodles highly trainable to do a variety of different tasks. It is why you find many poodles doing service dog work. They enjoy it.

Not only are they smart, but they are affectionate animals. Cuddling is always on the table for these dogs. The standard poodle averages 58 pounds and stands 20 inches high. They do require a grooming routine as their coat easily mats without brushing.

They need plenty of exercise as well because a bored poodle is a destructive poodle.

Poodle dog with owner

Big or Small Doesn't Matter

No matter the size of the dog you settle on, the amount of love is the same. Dogs love their owners, some going so far as to only love their owners and no one else. Before you settle on a dog, look into the size, any health issues, grooming needs, and your own needs to ensure the best possible outcome for everyone.

Once you know what dog is right for you, it is just up to you to find a name for your new companion animal.

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