In recent years, depression has become a serious issue which affects more and more people every day. According to the Anxiety and Depression Association of America, around 15.7 million adults had at least one major depressive episode in 2014. Treating depression can be a long progressive journey and many people search for different options, desperate to try anything that will help alleviate their symptoms and condition. As a dog lover, I have seen first hand how dogs can actually help with people’s depression. After doing some research, I decided to share my findings here to give people more information about the best dogs for depression.
How Dogs Can Help With Depression
If you feel overwhelmed with the burdens of life and you find yourself slowly begin to lose interest in communication with friends, family, or even going outside, dogs can be beneficial to you in a variety of ways. Having a dog can easily break that vicious cycle of depression by giving you companionship, comfort and a new sense of purpose.
When a person confines himself/herself to a room, house or apartment, their depression can often get worse. In situations like these, a dog’s unconditional love and companionship can help. Cuddling your dog or the mere responsibility of having someone to care for can help give you a sense of purpose.
Dogs are pack animals and they always develop a strong bond with their owners. Your dog’s loyalty will often inspire you and give you the assurance that human relationships might sometimes never be able to. With your dog, you can almost feel completely assured that it will never abandon you, and it will always be there by your side, loyal to a fault.
What Studies Have Found
Studies have shown that a person suffering from depression will more likely get motivated to do stuff around the house if they have a dog because they need to feed him and are less likely to neglect their dog’s daily needs. Let's talk about what science tells us about dogs and battle with depression.
These are some findings according to research:
- Prevention – You are less likely to become depressed if you already have a dog
- General Health – Studies have shown that dog owners often have much lower blood pressure when exposed to stressful situations than people without a pet. Also, another study has shown that people who had problems with high blood pressure have experienced a decline in blood pressure once they have adopted a dog
- Hormones – Just playing with your dog can cause a dopamine and serotonin rush after which you feel relaxed and calm
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Questions To Ask Before Getting A Dog For Depression
Of course, there are some things you need to ask yourself before you go out and adopt a dog to help you with your battle.
Firstly, to state the obvious, domestic dogs are living creatures that are not independent. You’d need to be prepared to attend to the basic needs of your dog, whether that means preparing its meals or taking it for a walk. Doing these can be quite a challenge for someone already suffering from depression. However, having to do these can also be the motivating factor to get someone up and moving. Whether you’ll be the former or latter will depend on yourself and your will power.
Secondly, be sure to ask yourself if you even like animals. You won't do yourself any good by getting a dog if you don't feel comfortable near animals. Despite the scientific research as stated about dogs and depression, it won’t help much if you’re allergic to animals or do not like animals in general. Someone already suffering from depression certainly doesn’t need the extra stress.
Thirdly, the inevitable truth about having a pet dog is that it will eventually die like all living creatures. Some people suffering from depression might worry and get extremely anxious about life and death. If this is you, you might not want to have a dog, embrace it in your life and form an emotional attachment to it in such a way that you will suffer greatly when it eventually dies.
Next, you should consider your budget. Just like many other things in life, having a pet will cost you money. Be sure that you are able to afford a dog before adding the extra stress to your life.
Best Dogs For Depression
Let's start this list with everyone’s favorite big dog.
The Labrador Retriever might be big, but he is full of loyalty, love, and compassion. They know how to sense when their owner is down, and they will do everything to cheer you up.
Poodles hate to be alone. They are loyal, and they form a strong bond with their owner. This is a great dog because of his smaller size, personal traits and how easy he is to look after and maintain.
Once you get a poodle, you will never have to worry again about being alone.
This dog is best described as something between a terrier and a pug.
They are playful and they adapt really fast. They are also rather quiet so if you don’t want a breed that can be a little over the top for you, this is the breed to go for.
Yorkshire Terriers have a rich history as service dogs.
Probably the most famous Yorkshire Terrier is Smokey, who was a service dog during a WWII. His main job was to boost the morale in hospitals, and he did that job perfectly. This dog also forms a strong connection and bond with its owner, and they are known to be loyal to a fault.
This dog will shower you with affection and love. They are extremely loyal and are incredibly independent. You won't have to clean up much after them.
With the French Bulldog, you’ll be able to just focus on enjoying its company!
Widely known as the dog that can offer you more love than you can imagine. Golden Retrievers are a well behaved and playful breed.
This dog will show you lots of joy and its playful demeanor will cheer you up!
Probably the most recognizable face in the dog world. Pugs are famous because of their energy and their squiggly, smushed faces.
This is a great dog for an indoor living because they hate warm weather. Thus, you won’t have a problem if you prefer to stay indoors often.
King Charles Spaniel
This is another small dog breed that will love spending time right in your lap.
They are great for reducing anxiety, stress and making the fight with depression a lot easier.
If you are much more interested in bigger dogs with silly ears, the Vizsla might be your perfect choice.
This highly active dog will encourage you to be more active and motivate you to get up and moving.
Staffordshire Bull Terrier
This breed is fantastic with kids!
They are great family dogs and are guaranteed to get you up and moving. They make very loyal companions and are extremely low maintenance breeds, making them ideal for people suffering from depression.
Jack Russell Terrier
Another loyal and loving breed on this list.
This dog is incredibly intelligent and active. You won't be bored with them around you and their playful antics will often bring laughter.
Dogs, in general, are wonderful, loving and loyal companions that can be said to bring lots of joy and love into anyone’s life. However, to someone suffering from depression, dogs can bring about an even greater impact by actually improving their mental health and helping in their overall well-being. If you are looking for a dog that is known to be especially great for depression, then choose from one of these breeds mentioned in our list!
Cover image "Test Animation" by Emma Donnelly.