Can Dogs Be Helpful For People With Depression?


Dogs hold a truly valuable place in our society. Even today, when modern man doesn’t necessarily require their talents for hunting or protection, dogs are still revered for their contributions to our everyday lives. And why shouldn’t they be? Dogs are objectively awesome. They’re unapologetically enthusiastic and loyal, they’re sweet and smart (to varying degrees), and more than anything, they just want to make your life better. If recent research is any indication, they may be accomplishing that goal just by being your roommate.

Dogs having been helping humans for years

Dogs have been used for therapeutic purposes for more than 200 years. In 1792, the Quaker Society of Friends York Retreat in England used dogs for that purpose. Famed nurse Florence Nightingale also worked with animals to treat certain patients. Even the U.S. military used dogs to help psychiatric patients as early as 1919 at St. Elizabeth’s Hospital in Washington, D.C. In addition, studies have found that pets have a positive impact on physical conditioning, reducing fear and anxiety, and even monitoring blood sugar levels. According to one study, “An individual with type 1 diabetes reported that her Jack Russell terrier would awaken her at night by licking her face when the woman’s blood sugar levels had fallen to dangerously low levels.”

Pets can soothe

Simply caring for a dog includes engaging in several activities that are proven to help reduce the impact of depression on your day-to-day lives. For example, just being in the same room as a dog inspires — in most people — the urge to pet the pup’s furry coat. It’s only natural. Well, it’s probably not terribly surprising to discover that studies indicate that 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.”

Even more, dogs love unconditionally. As points out, “Caring for another living being and receiving affection in return is great for anyone’s self-esteem,” and it can do wonders for someone battling depression. Just having another living being in close proximity is also a great remedy for loneliness, too.

Dogs get you out there

A dog’s enthusiasm can also act as a gateway to more human interaction, as well. When you take Snoopy to a dog park, for example, you can be 100 percent confident that you have at least one shared interest in common with everyone around you. That erases like 80 percent of the difficulty in meeting new people right away.

Owning a dog also brings with it more implied physical benefits, as well. If you choose to care for a dog, you’re going to have to take it for walks to make sure he or she stays as healthy as possible. Guess what? That means you’re getting more exercise as well, and doctors universally agree that exercise is wonderful as a means of combating depression or anxiety. Like it or not, there’s no other surefire way to cause your body to release endorphins. But, when you’ve got your four-legged buddy by your side, exercise doesn’t seem nearly as awful.

As the University of New Hampshire points out, “Having a dog also promotes being more active, for an active dog is a healthy and happy dog. Dog owners typically get more exercise, as they have to make sure their furry friends are getting enough exercise as well. Exercise has been shown to lift moods and increase the production of endorphins – a hormone that makes you feel happy.”

So, there you have it. Injecting a dog into your life may be a great way to enrich not just your life, but their life, as well. If you’re suffering from depression or anxiety and you’re looking for some comfort or some unconditional love, a new addition to your home may be just the ticket.