Pugs As Service Dogs? The Best Emotional Support For Anxiety

Do pugs make good service dogs? That might sound like a preposterous question, since pugs aren’t traditionally known for having these roles. You’re probably more used to seeing a Labrador or Golden Retriever as service dogs, but don’t be so fast to judge the incredible pug dog.

Pugs can be used as service dogs but not in the traditional sense. Their qualities as a companion breed makes them a fantastic option as therapy or emotional support dogs. Pugs can be used to help reduce anxiety, fear, depression, and other emotional challenges that people may be suffering from.

While pugs have all the characteristics to provide emotional support to those that need it most, they still need to be trained up as a therapy dog. This isn’t always easy since pugs can be stubborn, but this can be overcome with the right pursuit. In no time, we hope your pug becomes the best service dog that it can be to support your needs.

Do Pugs Make Good Service Dogs?

Firstly, service dogs are generally used to help people with a physical disability perform specific tasks that they can’t do themselves. It is often essential, so these “dogs with jobs” play a significant role in their owner’s daily lives. There are various types of service dogs, including:

  • Guide dogs
  • Hearing dogs
  • Diabetic alert dogs
  • Mobility assistance dogs
  • Autism support dogs
  • Allergy detection dogs
  • Psychiatric service dogs

Regardless of the breed, they all play a significant role in improving the standards of living for their owners. Pugs may not be known for being service dogs, but it’s worth noting that there aren’t clear guidelines that outline the requirements of a good service dog. The dog breed that you choose as a service dog is fully subjective.

For instance, if you have a pug that is trainable, healthy, and can help individuals with disabilities, then there is no reason why they can’t be used as your service dog. In fact, there has been a recent surge in trainers using smaller breeds like the pugs as a service dog.

What Are Therapy Dogs?

Therapy dogs refer to canines that have been trained to improve a mentally impaired individual’s state of mind. They are often used in schools, retirement homes, hospitals, and other similar settings. For example, a therapy pug dog can help children learn to read or to be there to provide affection for individuals that are suffering from depression.

Teachers can also bring them into classrooms to help teach students about empathy, boost their spirits, and make the learning process more fun. There are specific qualities that make some dog breeds more compatible as therapy dogs, and pugs tend to check a lot of these boxes. This is why they are considered great therapy and emotional support dogs.

Pugs are affectionate, warm, and able to form a strong connection that can last for a very long time. When doing your research on training therapy dogs, you will notice that one of the most essential traits is choosing a dog with the right attitude. You will need a dog that can love, comfort, and support the affected individual in an emotional way. They may not be the smartest dogs, but they are known to have a high level of emotional intelligence.

Pugs are great at learning how to lift their owner’s spirits when it is needed most. They are solid companions and can significantly help individuals that suffer with mental and emotional disabilities. Their amazing temperament is a match made in heaven for those suffering from depression, loneliness, fear, anxiety, and post-traumatic stress disorders.

Why? Because they are an adaptive breed that can be calm or energetic depending on the situation. They love people, are great at socializing, and will naturally make their owners feel comforted. Regardless of the owner’s condition and its severity, a pug’s boastful personality will no doubt help to improve their mood and bring joy to the room.

Why Pugs Are The Perfect Therapy Dog

Two important factors come into play when choosing a good therapy dog. These factors include training and personality. These emotional support dogs should be empathetic, calm, and trainable. They should also show patience, love for human contact, and confidence.

Pugs are also highly intelligent in an emotional sense making them great at knowing when their owner is feeling sad. They love to cuddle, sit with you, rest on your lap, and will constantly provide you with a calming presence. These are tendencies and behaviors that come naturally to a pug, and is partly why they make great therapy dogs.

Additionally, this breed is very good with kids. Their adaptability means that they can switch from being a ball of energy to settling down in an instant. Pugs can help children that are diagnosed with mental health issues. Not only can they provide your kids companionship, but a therapy pug dog can help provide some relief to anxiety-related disorders.

Pugs are pretty sensitive to their owners’ feelings since they are natural people pleasures. It is ingrained in their DNA to please, and this trait of theirs is what makes them trainable dogs. Learning to become a therapy dog should include some form of professional training. This will help develop their ability to notice signals of behavioral change within their owners, which will allow them to intervene and prevent an anxiety attack.

Characteristics Of A Good Therapy Dog

IntelligenceGreat therapy dogs should be able to read situations and the people around them effectively. They need to be aware of when to play or be close but calm. They should be able to do this by themselves without the need for anyone else to direct their behavior. They need to make independent judgments.

Intelligent dogs are easier to train compared to less intelligent breeds. They are often more obedient and learn more commands that can help in therapy work. Pugs are quite intelligent, making them a good option for therapy dogs. Their primary drawback is stubbornness; however, you can eliminate this flaw by focusing on their people pleasing nature and by utilizing positive reinforcement techniques.
ObedienceGood therapy dogs should be obedient, especially if they’ve received the correct training. They should respond quickly to commands regardless of the situation and complete specific tasks as per their training. They should also be easy to control.

Therapists and their owners (patients) should be able to easily call the dog, command them to sit or stop, and have them do that regardless of what’s going on around them. Ensure that your pug’s training is sufficient to produce such results in a consistent manner.
FocusedGreat therapy dogs should maintain their focus regardless of their surrounding situation. For instance, they should provide people with social anxiety their undivided attention even in chaotic surroundings. Such individuals may find a hard time feeling less nervous if their therapy dog reacts uncontrollably and fails to give them their undivided attention.

Pugs are extremely playful and can find it hard to stay focused in chaotic situations. However, with proper training, it is more than possible to keep a pug under control. Thus, if you can’t train them effectively yourself, the best option would be to seek help from a professional.
CalmTherapy dogs should be calm. There are instances where affected individuals want some calm and quietness to think or work. Good therapy dogs should be able to sit calmly while their owner works. It wouldn’t be ideal for a therapy or service dog to create a fuss whenever someone walks by.

All of this boils down to the dog’s temperament and training. Pugs are good at staying calm. They’ll lay down in their spot (or on the owner’s lap) for hours without causing a disturbance. However, if they get bored and have an urge to play, it’s essential that they are getting enough exercise and attention from their owners too.
SociablePugs are friendly creatures. They love people, form bonds quickly, and love playing. This trait (as mentioned earlier) makes them the go-to option for families that have children affected by social anxiety and other similar conditions. Any dog that looks uncomfortable in a social setting won’t make good therapy dogs.
GentleMany dog breeds are friendly and gentle by nature, including pugs. One advantage that separates pugs from all other breeds is that they are small and less likely to cause accidents. This is an important aspect to look at, especially when dealing with small children.
CleanTherapy dogs often work with patients and sometimes in institutions that require them to be extremely clean. Regardless of its purpose, having a clean dog is important for personal hygiene. Pugs make a great candidate since they have short fur that can be maintained with adequate brushing.

Training Your Pug As A Therapy Dog

To successfully train your pug to become a good therapy dog, there are a few things you need to focus on doing. Firstly, you need to establish yourself as the alpha, so that your dog recognizes you as its leader. This will naturally trigger their need to please, and will make listening to commands much easier.

You can do this by making it known to your pug that you are more important and higher up on the totem pole. Actions that can help achieve this includes always eating first, leading them on walks, exiting and entering doors before them, and setting boundaries. Secondly, you’ll need to focus on positive reinforcement.

Whether it’s by using praises of treats, they can work equally as well. Praises help to play on their people pleasing nature, while treats help to satisfy their love for food. These are the best motivators for a pug to encourage good behavior. So, how do you go about training a therapy pug dog?

When Should I Begin?

Like most dogs, training your pug starts when they are pretty young (around six months old). The general idea is that your pug should be well-trained as a service dog by the time they are three years old. The training should increase in intensity and complexity as the pug grows.

Be sure to teach your pug more complex (but specific) commands as they grow and check to see if they grow more compliant. It is important to note that various pugs will have different learning curves. Thus, it would be great to ensure that you tailor your training to fit your pug’s rate of learning.

You’ll need to develop a work schedule that works well for both parties. The key here is to be as consistent as possible. Remember that pugs are pretty intelligent; however, one side effect of their intelligence is that they are also pretty stubborn. You will need to take your time, have some patience, and work on the training together.

Step-By-Step Training Guide

Training your pug takes lots of dedication and can take up to 2-3 years to accomplish. Preparing a service dog will require trainers to be diligent in following a regimented schedule, regardless of the level of service your pug is being trained to respond to. For instance, your pug could be trained to respond to services like autism, depression, anxiety, heart attacks, and even epilepsy.

Step 1: Becoming More Sociable

The first step involves teaching your pug to become more sociable. You need to ensure that your dog gets as much social interaction as possible. You could do this by going on regular walks and by taking them to the dog park. This allows them to interact with other dogs, people, and kids.

Constant exposure like this will help your pug feel comfortable around people that are of all different ages and sizes. They will be calmer, gentler, friendlier, and won’t be as distracted. It helps them stay focused and obedient in any environment, whether quiet or chaotic.

Step 2: Teaching Basic Commands

The second step involves teaching your pug some basic commands to help ease them into the third step. You’ll need to begin by teaching them some basic commands like ‘lay down’, or ‘sit’, etc. Doing this will help make it easier for you to graduate your program to the next level, where you will teach them more complex commands.

Step 3: Progressing To Complex Commands

Once your pug understands the basics, it’s time to move on to more complex commands. These commands involve teaching your pug how to react if an incident suddenly arises, such as going into a state of panic, a heart attack or an anxiety attack. During training, you must cue your pug by providing them with a trigger word or even sign that helps them understand the onset of an attack.

Ensure that you show your pug how to respond by rewarding them whenever they show a positive response. Throughout your pug’s training program, you should repeat this procedure (rewarding them for good behavior). Please bear in mind that the training will take lots of time; however, using the right motivators will incentivize your pug to succeed. This will certainly help ease the challenges that you will face with therapy training.

Remember that pugs aren’t best qualified for certain tasks like helping the blind (seeing-eye dog), etc. They are best trained for tasks that involve detecting changes in behavior. Thus, pugs may not be the best option if your condition doesn’t involve mental or emotional disabilities.

Pugs Need To Be Cared For Too

Training a pug to be a service, therapy, or emotional support dog can be a great thing for people that need it. But their unconditional love, loyalty, and support should not be a one-way street. Your pug needs to be cared for just as much as you do. This includes providing enough affection, grooming, daily exercise, a nutritious diet, and regular vet checkups.

  • Provide your pug enough affection and attention so they don’t feel bored and neglected. This will help reduce the chances for your dog to develop separation anxiety disorder.
  • About 30 minutes of daily exercise is recommended to stay fit.
  • Diet is important to not only control their weight, but to provide optimal nutrition.
  • Grooming includes wiping skins, brushing, and bathing on a regular basis.
  • Routine vet checkups is important, especially when it’s time for their vaccination. Also, never forget to provide your dog with their monthly worming medication.

Related Questions

Do pugs make good emotional support animals? Yes, they make fantastic therapy and emotional support dogs for people that suffer from mental health disorders. They can help detect and relieve feelings of loneliness, sadness, and anxiety.

Are pugs good for anxiety? Yes, their calming presence helps add stability for those suffering from anxiety. Their high emotional intelligence allows them to provide warmth to those that suffer from anxiety, depression, or post traumatic stress disorders.

Are pugs aggressive? No, they are calm and gentle dogs that are known for their friendliness. They are sociable dogs that get along with other dogs, people, and especially kids. A pug will only show aggressive tendencies if they feel the need to defend their family or household, especially when something is perceived as a threat.


Karetnick, J., 2019. How to Train a Therapy Dog.

Mayo Clinic, 2020. Pet therapy: Animals as healers.


Society for Companion Animal Studies, 2018. Therapy / Assistance Dogs.

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