Jen Juneau
June 28, 2017 12:04 pm

We’ve all heard of humans enlisting the help of emotional support animals. Cats, dogs, ducks — you name it. But this stress-easing technique, as it turns out, extends to helping other animals too. The maybe cutest examples of this are support dogs for anxious cheetahs, which is apparently a very real thing.

San Diego Zoo has been pairing pups up with these big cats for about 30 years, dating all the way back to the 1980s. The reasoning is pretty straightforward: Cheetahs aren’t super outgoing animals by nature — and as we all know, dogs are the epitome of pep.

"A dominant dog is very helpful because cheetahs are quite shy instinctively, and you can't breed that out of them," Janet Rose-Hinostroza, animal training supervisor at San Diego Zoo Safari Park, told ThoughtCo in March.

“When you pair them, the cheetah looks to the dog for cues and learns to model their behavior,” she said of the captive animals. “It’s about getting them to read that calm, happy-go-lucky vibe from the dog.”

The purpose of getting these cheetahs to lighten up a bit is so their anxiety will ease, making them able to mate more effectively.

Maybe the best part of this whole endeavor is the fact that the dogs are usually rescued from shelters, which is pretty much a win/win situation for everyone involved.

"We're very protective of our cheetahs, so the introduction is a painfully slow process but a lot of fun," Rose-Hinostroza added to ThoughtCo. "There are lots of toys and distractions, and they're like two cute little kids who desperately want to play."

The only time the BFF cuties are separated is during feeding time, Rose-Hinostroza says.

Twitter user @Champ_Dawg9 even found pics of a pupper with a tiger cub, proving cats and dogs CAN get along.

When you think about it, dogs are basically acting as a dual BFF and wing (wo)man for these cheetahs. And just when we didn’t think we could love these glorious animals any more.

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