How Dogs Help Depression

dog and human hand

How Dogs Help Symptoms of Depression

Dogs can help symptoms of depression because they are socially gregarious pack animals and instinctively form close bonds with other members of their “pack” or family. By their very nature, they will help provide emotional support to other members of their pack by being loyal and affectionate companions.

Physical Touch

  • The sheer presence of a dog is calming – you’re instinctively drawn to stroke or pet them. This can be especially helpful for people suffering from anxiety disorders or panic attacks  
  • The sense of touch is hugely beneficial psychologically – the act of stroking your pet can be soothing, and so improve your mood if you are down or depressed. It can also lower your blood pressure and stress levels.

Affection and Self Esteem

  • Pets are uncomplicated – they don’t have their own agendas and they love you unconditionally
  • Caring for another living being and receiving affection in return is great for anyone’s self-esteem – especially if you are lonely, bereaved or depressed.

Reducing Isolation and loneliness

  • Dogs are a talking point and “social lubricant”- small as it may seem a simple exchange of pleasantries between dog owners in the park can be hugely helpful if you are feeling isolated, depressed or anxious. They also tend to be a good supply of silly stories to help break the ice
  • Dog-related activities can form the beginnings of new hobbies, friendships. Activities vary from basic obedience to flyball or dog agility classes.

Taking Responsibility

  • In rescuing a support dog you are taking on responsibility for the care and wellbeing of another living being, even if it has four paws instead of two legs! Hugely rewarding though it may be, its also a big responsibility and not a small undertaking to be cast aside or left behind lightly. When you are feeling rock bottom your responsibility as guardian to the dog you rescued can be a lifeline.

Relationship Building

  • In rescuing a dog, you are effectively acquiring a new member of your family or pack, which, like any relationship, will grow with trust, respect, loving bonds but also bring its share of relationshp tension and challenges to be worked through, much like a relationship with a human family member might do.

Managing Thoughts and Feelings

  • Dogs don’t understand our verbal conversation, they read us at a much more fundamental level of energy and emotional state – you can’t lie to a dog ! They instictively know when you are projective negative energy because you are feeling down, upset and respond.
  • Dog’s behave best when they are exposed to positive calm assertive energy, if you are stressed, tense, anxious, frustrated, or upset, your dog will be less responsive to your commands and more likely to, say, pull on the lead or not return when you call. To be a successful calm assertive pack leader for your dog, you first need to be self aware of your own emotions and state of mind and how affects your dog.
  • When you achieve a calm, assertive, confident state of mind, your dog wiill perform at his best and be your perfect companion. Over time acquiring the skill of being a calm assertive pack leader will help you manage your mind, emotions and stress levels more effectively, enabling you to cope better with life’s difficulties and stay positive more often.

Exercise and Routine

  • Dogs get you out of the house – fresh air, physical exercise and a change of scene are proven to help boost people’s mood and ease depression symptoms
  • Caring for a dog helps form a daily routine and structure that can help keep you going, one foot after the other. No matter how depressed you are, your dog still needs feeding and walking!


  • Last but far from least – they really can make you laugh in spite of your depression when they inevitably do very silly, daft things

How has your dog helped you?

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Dog playing with balloon