How Dogs Can Help with Depression

By Greer Grenley | Feb. 02, 2018

 

Depression is a widespread issue in the U.S. affecting about 40 million adults. Fortunately, there are many ways to feel better. Talking to a licensed psychiatrist can make a huge difference and there are so many effective medications out there. Exercise and healthy eating can help too, as can opening up to and spending more time with family members, close friends and pets. In fact: Did you know that dogs can play an integral part in your emotional well-being?

Dogs can contribute to your happiness. Studies show that dogs reduce stress, anxiety and depression, ease loneliness, encourage exercise and improve your all-around health. For example, people with dogs have lower blood pressure and are less likely to develop heart disease—just playing with dogs has been shown to elevate oxytocin and dopamine, creating positive feelings and bonding for both the person and their pet.

For someone living with depression, there is so much to gain from having a dog. Here are just a few of the many benefits.

Exercise

Pets help you lead a healthy lifestyle. Dogs need exercise, which means you’ll be exercising right along with them! Exercise increases endorphins, which fight depression. Because dogs need consistency, you’ll learn how to make exercise a daily routine instead of a once-in-a-while activity. Research has shown that consistency in one’s schedule can help reduce stress levels and lead to better sleep patterns and overall health.

Socialization

Dogs give you a reason to talk to new people while on walks or at the dog park, which can alleviate the loneliness you might feel in a depressive episode. Socialization with others, especially face-to-face, has been shown to ease symptoms of depression. This is especially true for people aged 50 years or older.  

Having a companion can also prevent depression from worsening, especially therapy and service dogs who are constantly in tune to your needs. Caring for an animal gives you purpose, makes you feel wanted and helps take focus away from your depression.

Self-Worth

Dogs can be a lot to handle, but research shows that responsibility helps your mental health. Some psychologists say that you build self-esteem by taking ownership and applying skills to a specific task. Taking care of a dog offers reassurance that you can care for another creature and for yourself.

If you love dogs but can’t commit to or afford one, try dog-sitting! Sites and apps like Rover.com allow you to do everything from short walks and check-ins to daycare and dog boarding. It’s worth a try. Because not only can dogs make you feel better, but the responsibilities entailed in the human-canine relationship can provide important structural and social benefits that lessen the burden of depression.

Dogs bring happiness into your life, and depression is often no match for the unconditional love they provide.

 

Greer Grenley is a part-time dog writer and full-time dog lover. She lives in Seattle where she can be seen out-and-about with her Aussiedoodle, George.

Comments
Caroline
Excellent article on Dogs & Depression
2/7/2018 2:41:03 AM

Wendy Turner
I totally agree sometimes he’s the only one I care to talk and I have a lot to say
2/5/2018 10:28:17 PM

Lizanne Corbit
I think this is a wonderful read. Dogs can be amazingly comforting and supportive. Making sure that you can safely and positively raise and care for a dog is important though. Be mindful of where you live, apartments can prove a little trickier than a house. If you're not up to the task of taking care of a dog full-time you might want to consider volunteer shelter work and/or dog walking. Excellent read.
2/5/2018 4:16:41 PM

Lisa Smith
Since I married my husband, we have always had at least one German Shepherd. I grew up with cats and love them dearly, but never knew that dogs were so much more devoted and give a different kind of love. Ours have lived 11-13 years each. When we lost our last boy in May, we thought we would need to wait awhile before getting another, as he was so special and we had spent about 10 months doing all kinds of things to keep him going. But both of us felt the sadness and finally started looking again in September. We have our newest family addition ALthough he is rambunctious and chews everything, he is such a joy-meets me at the gate when I leave for work and come home, always happy to see me and gives ppuppy kisses. Wouldnt want to be without him.
2/5/2018 10:56:51 AM

Paul
My dog IS my therapy!!!
2/4/2018 2:34:28 PM

Marilyn W
Dogs also reduce anxiety by spotting others and alerting you. They push you to get up when you don't think you can stand it, to let them out or feed them, so you become at least that active. Dogs maintain a positive affect even when you feel down. But treating anxiety or depression needs more than the dog, you need an alert, knowledgable psychiatric health care provider and enough insurance to afford to go to see him/her.
2/4/2018 2:07:12 PM

Janet Kuhn
My sister's dog Quincy makes me feel so good and he is like my own therapy dog. I call him my little buddy and I enjoy our times together.
2/2/2018 5:14:59 PM

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