best dogs for depression

The Therapeutic Paws: Unveiling the 7 Best Dogs for Depression

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Depression is a prevailing concern that continues to affect millions of people globally, significantly impacting the everyday lives of American adults. More than just a fleeting bout of sadness, depression is a serious mental health disorder characterized by persistent feelings of despair, lethargy, and a marked lack of interest in activities once enjoyed. Its impacts ripple into various aspects of life, including personal relationships, productivity at work, and overall quality of life, presenting a dire need for supportive interventions.

Enter the world of our four-legged friends. Numerous studies have demonstrated the therapeutic benefits of pets, notably dogs, in the context of mental wellness. This intriguing phenomenon, often referred to as the ‘pet effect,’ involves our canine companions helping alleviate mental and emotional distress. Indeed, dogs have proven to be more than just adorable household companions; they are resilient, healing partners.

The ‘best dog for depression and anxiety’ isn’t a one-size-fits-all label, as the bond between humans and dogs is highly individual and can depend on various factors. Nevertheless, certain dog breeds are renowned for their beneficial impacts on mental health.

This article aims to explore this intriguing intersection of canine companionship and mental wellness. We’ll delve into the therapeutic benefits of dogs, guide you through selecting the right dog breed considering your lifestyle and needs, and introduce you to some of the best dog breeds for anxiety and depression. In doing so, we hope to provide valuable insights for those battling depression or anxiety and considering the companionship of a dog. This exploration could be the key to unlocking a new, effective strategy for combating depression and improving mental health. 

Get ready to embark on a journey of understanding how a tail-wagging, affectionate creature can potentially turn the tide against depression. So, which dog is best for depression? Let’s discover together.

Table Of Contents
  1. The 12 Therapeutic Benefits of Dogs for Mental and Emotional Wellbeing 
  2. 5. Tips for Choosing the Best Dog for Depression 
  3. Seven Best Dog Breeds for Supporting Mental Wellness 
  4. Final Thoughts
  5. Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

The 12 Therapeutic Benefits of Dogs for Mental and Emotional Wellbeing 

1. The Comforting Energy of Dogs

The cornerstone of why dogs make good companions for depression lies in their comforting and loving energy. This inherent quality of dogs, unlike anything else, can have profound effects on people struggling with mental health conditions. 

The Loving and Soothing Energy of Dogs

When faced with bouts of depression, being in the presence of a being that radiates boundless love can be incredibly comforting. Dogs are creatures brimming with affection, their eyes twinkling with adoration and their tails wagging in pure joy at the sight of their human companions. Their energy is a ceaseless stream of love and loyalty that remains consistent regardless of external circumstances. 

From their soft nuzzles to their gentle pawing, the non-verbal communication dogs engage in can transmit a sense of soothing warmth. Even simply having them lie down next to you, their steady heartbeat and warm presence, can serve as a subtle reminder that you are not alone in your struggles. This contact can bring about a sense of calm and grounding that is much needed in times of emotional distress.

Dogs and the Calming Energies of Nature

Much like the tranquility we find in nature, dogs can provide a similar therapeutic effect. Spending time in nature, observing the serenity of a flowing stream or the quiet grandeur of a mountain, has a grounding effect that brings us back to the present moment and eases our worries. Dogs, in their own unique way, mirror this calming energy.

The way dogs live in the present, undistracted by thoughts of the past or the future, is a lesson in mindfulness that we, as humans, often struggle to remember. Their joy in simple pleasures, be it a belly rub or a walk in the park, reminds us of the importance of appreciating small moments of joy in our daily lives. Like a breath of fresh air, a hike in a forest, or the gentle sound of a flowing river, the comforting presence of dogs can soothe our minds, ease our anxieties, and help manage symptoms of depression.

Thus, in the realm of the best dogs for depression, the breed may not matter as much as the calming and comforting energy that all dogs possess. Their loving nature and soothing presence can serve as an emotional balm, providing a soft cushion of support for those battling depression.

2. The Unparalleled Companionship of Dogs

Unconditional Companionship

One of the most impactful reasons why dogs are good for depression is the unconditional companionship they offer. Dogs do not differentiate between good days and bad; they simply remain a steady, loyal presence in your life. In moments of despair and loneliness, dogs, with their silent understanding and unwavering loyalty, can provide much-needed companionship.

Their companionship does not wane with mood swings, bouts of depression, or any personal shortcomings we perceive in ourselves. In the face of their steadfast companionship, individuals grappling with depression often feel less alone and more understood.

Non-judgmental Companionship

Unlike human relationships that can sometimes be fraught with misunderstandings and judgments, dogs provide non-judgmental companionship. Dogs do not pass judgment or criticism. Their acceptance is unwavering, and their love is not contingent on your mood, appearance, or social status. This kind of non-judgmental companionship can be particularly soothing for individuals dealing with depression, reducing feelings of isolation and unworthiness.

3. The Healing Power of Unconditional Love

Dogs and Unconditional Love

One of the defining traits of dogs is their capacity for unconditional love. Dogs do not bear grudges or change their feelings based on circumstances. Their love is constant, unwavering, and independent of what you do or say. Whether you’re on your best day or your worst, your dog will greet you with the same affectionate enthusiasm, undeterred by any emotional turmoil you might be experiencing.

Healing Potential of Unconditional Love

The healing potential of this unconditional love cannot be overstated when battling depression. Love that is free from all conditions provides a sense of security, acceptance, and self-worth, which can counteract the feelings of self-doubt, guilt, and loneliness often associated with depression. This powerful bond can serve as a beacon of hope and a source of emotional support for those living with depression.

4. Dogs: Instilling a Sense of Purpose

Dogs Provide a Sense of Purpose

Another reason why dogs are beneficial for mental health is that they can provide a sense of purpose. Caring for a dog involves regular feeding, grooming, exercise, and veterinary care. These daily routines and responsibilities give dog owners a sense of purpose and meaning. They know their pet depends on them, and this dependency creates a sense of being needed and valued.

Purpose as a Balm for Depression

Having a sense of purpose can act as a balm for depression. It encourages regular daily activity, promotes a sense of accomplishment, and can help distract from negative thoughts and feelings. It provides a routine, offers tasks to look forward to, and serves as a reminder that one is capable of caring for another living being. As a result, having a dog can help people with depression feel more engaged and less consumed by their depressive symptoms, proving dogs to be one of the best emotional support companions.

5. Safe Physical Touch: A Unique Comfort 

Importance of Physical Contact for Mental Wellbeing

Physical contact can be a powerful therapeutic tool for mental wellbeing. Scientific research suggests that safe, positive physical touch, such as hugging or petting an animal, releases oxytocin, the “bonding hormone,” in our bodies. This release can help reduce blood pressure, lower stress levels, and improve mood—fundamental aspects for combating depression.

Safety of Physical Contact with Dogs

Dogs, being the empathetic creatures they are, often sense their owner’s emotional states. When you’re feeling low, they might nudge their snout into your hand or curl up next to you, offering an opportunity for this therapeutic touch. The safety of this contact with dogs—free from the complexities of human interactions—can provide immense comfort and solace, making dogs excellent companions for those battling depression.

6. Dogs and Routine: A Pillar of Mental Wellness 

Dogs Establishing Routine in Life 

One of the essential aspects dogs bring to our lives is routine. Dogs thrive on consistency—they need regular feeding, walks, playtime, and sleep. As a result, dog owners naturally find themselves adhering to a schedule, often molded around their dog’s needs.

Importance of Routine for Mental Wellness

Routine is a critical factor in mental wellness. It provides a sense of order and predictability, which can be comforting to individuals suffering from depression. This established routine helps divide the day into manageable segments, providing structure and reducing the overwhelming feelings often associated with depression. With their necessity for daily walks and feeding times, dogs can help instill this beneficial routine into a person’s life.

7. Small Bumps of Motivation

Dogs Stimulate Motivation

Even the simplest actions of a dog can act as small bumps of motivation. A dog wagging its tail in anticipation of a walk can motivate the owner to step outside, even when they don’t feel like it. The excitement a dog shows when its favorite toy is in sight can prompt playtime, encouraging the owner to engage in a moment of joy and silliness. 


Consider this: You’re having a particularly challenging morning, but your dog is nudging you, eager for its morning walk. This small gesture can encourage you to get out of bed, get dressed, and step outside. As you walk, you might notice the fresh air, the sunlight, or the nature around you—elements you may have missed had you stayed in bed. These moments add up, reinforcing the positive impact dogs can have on their owner’s mental health, and making them excellent companions for those struggling with depression.

8. Exercise: An Unexpected Anti-Depressant 

Mental Health Benefits of Regular Exercise

Exercise is one of the most effective, yet often overlooked, tools for combating depression. Regular physical activity can boost mood, improve sleep, reduce anxiety, and improve self-esteem—all vital aspects of managing depression. The release of endorphins during exercise also triggers positive feelings, acting as a natural antidepressant.

Dogs Facilitating Daily Physical Activity

But how do we incorporate regular exercise into our lives? Enter dogs. Their need for daily walks and playtime often encourages physical activity among their owners. They provide a fun, enjoyable reason to get moving, ensuring we receive those necessary doses of exercise. Whether it’s a leisurely walk in the park, a game of fetch, or a rigorous hike, dogs ensure that their human companions are up and moving, inadvertently contributing to their mental health.

9. Social Butterfly Effect: How Dogs Foster Positive Interactions 

Dogs Leading to Positive Social Interactions

Dogs are natural social catalysts. Their friendly and outgoing nature often leads to conversations with other dog owners or animal lovers. For individuals suffering from depression, these interactions can be a welcome respite from feelings of isolation and loneliness.

Sharing of Experiences

Consider the instances where you’ve been out walking your dog, and a stranger stops to pet them or ask about their breed. Or the dog park visits that lead to chats with other dog owners. These interactions, though seemingly simple, can provide a sense of community and belonging, easing feelings of loneliness and isolation that often accompany depression.

10. Dogs: Masters of Joy and Amusement

The Joy and Amusement Dogs Bring

Dogs have a unique ability to make us smile and laugh, no matter our mood. Their playful antics, uncoordinated puppy play, and insatiable curiosity often result in moments of sheer joy and amusement. 

Uplifting Mood and Combating Depression

Laughter and joy, in turn, can have a profound effect on our mental wellbeing. These moments of positivity can uplift our mood, providing temporary relief from the overwhelming feelings of depression. Research has even shown that laughter can reduce stress and anxiety, further highlighting the role dogs can play in managing mental health. Whether it’s their head tilt at an unfamiliar sound or their unabashed joy at a squeaky toy, dogs are indeed masters at bringing smiles to our faces, making them perfect allies in the battle against depression.

11. Harnessing Responsibility: Dogs Boosting Confidence and Purpose

Boosting Confidence and Purpose Through Responsibility 

Responsibility is a powerful factor that can significantly impact our sense of self-worth and confidence. Owning a dog requires a certain level of commitment and responsibility that can, in turn, lead to an increased sense of purpose. This increased sense of purpose can be particularly beneficial for individuals battling depression, who may often feel a lack of motivation or direction in their lives.

Responsibilities and Their Positive Impacts 

Caring for a dog requires regular feeding, exercise, grooming, and veterinary care. These responsibilities, though they might seem ordinary, can create a structured routine and help a person feel needed and valued. Each time a dog shows contentment or love, it reinforces the owner’s role and their ability to care for another being, boosting their self-esteem and providing a sense of achievement.

12. Dogs: Undemanding Allies in the Battle Against Depression

Dogs as Undemanding Allies

Unlike humans, dogs offer companionship and support without any demands for emotional reciprocity. They don’t require us to put on a brave face or pretend we’re okay when we’re not. They’re there for us in our darkest times, offering comfort and companionship without any judgment. This makes them undemanding allies in the fight against depression.

Cumulative Support for Mental Wellness

Dogs offer an array of benefits that support mental wellness. From providing comforting energy to promoting physical activity, encouraging social interactions, and fostering a sense of purpose, they support us in multiple ways. Their unconditional love, combined with the companionship and joy they bring, makes dogs the ideal companions for those battling depression. While dogs aren’t a cure for depression, they can significantly contribute to managing the condition, making life a bit brighter for those struggling with mental health issues.

5. Tips for Choosing the Best Dog for Depression 

Finding the best dog for depression requires a careful consideration of your personal needs, the dog’s breed and individual characteristics, and the responsibility that comes with owning a dog. Here are some tips to help guide you through this process.

1. Understand Your Own Needs and Lifestyle

The best dog for depression and anxiety isn’t a one-size-fits-all proposition. Each person’s needs and lifestyles are unique. Some might benefit from a high-energy breed that necessitates regular exercise, while others might find comfort in a more relaxed, low-energy breed. Consider factors like the size of your home, your work schedule, and your activity level. Assess what you are truly capable of providing for a pet, and ensure your lifestyle aligns with the needs of the dog breed you are considering.

2.  Consider the Dog’s Breed and Individual Characteristics

When choosing the best dog breed for depression, consider the dog’s temperament, energy level, size, and lifespan. Some breeds are known for their calm demeanor, such as the Labrador Retriever and the Cavalier King Charles Spaniel, while others like the Border Collie or Australian Shepherd have high energy levels and may need more exercise and mental stimulation. Remember, individual dogs within a breed can also have unique personalities, so it’s crucial to interact with a dog before deciding.

3. Acknowledge the Commitment of Owning a Dog

The responsibility of owning a dog goes beyond the immediate emotional support they provide. Dogs require daily care, including feeding, exercise, grooming, and medical check-ups. Make sure you are ready for this long-term commitment before bringing a dog into your life. Remember, the goal is for the dog to help with your depression, not add to your stress.

4. Tips on Adopting versus Buying

While purchasing a dog from a breeder allows you to choose a specific breed, adopting a dog from a shelter offers its own rewards. Rescue dogs can be just as loving and therapeutic as those purchased from a breeder. Plus, you’re giving a home to a dog that needs one. Regardless of whether you decide to adopt or buy, ensure you are sourcing your dog from a reputable place that prioritizes the health and wellbeing of the animals.

5. The Importance of Meeting the Dog Before Making a Decision

Whether you’re buying or adopting, it’s important to spend time with the dog before bringing them home. This allows you to gauge their personality, energy level, and compatibility with you and your lifestyle. Some dogs might be more anxious or energetic than you can manage, while others may be a perfect match. Taking the time to make an informed decision can ensure the dog is a good fit for your life and can truly serve as your companion in your journey to better mental health.

Seven Best Dog Breeds for Supporting Mental Wellness 

While all dogs offer incredible companionship and love, certain breeds are often recognized for their particularly therapeutic qualities. In the search for the best dog for depression and anxiety, breed suitability is an essential consideration. Each breed carries a unique set of characteristics, temperament, and energy levels that may make them more appropriate for individuals battling depression. Here’s a look at seven breeds known for their potential to provide emotional support and comfort.

1. Labrador Retriever

dog breed for depression

Labrador Retrievers are known as the ultimate family dog, but their supportive nature makes them an excellent choice for someone with depression. Their loyalty, affection, and ability to empathize with human emotions make them a comforting companion. Their need for regular exercise can also provide the essential motivation for owners to engage in physical activity, a known mood booster.

2. Cavalier King Charles Spaniel

best dog for depression and anxiety

The Cavalier King Charles Spaniel is an affectionate breed that thrives on human companionship. Their gentle and patient nature makes them great therapy dogs. This breed is relatively low-energy and enjoys cuddling, offering a calm presence that can be very beneficial for individuals dealing with depression.

3. Poodle

emotional support dog breeds

Poodles, regardless of their size, are intelligent and sensitive dogs. They are known for their ability to pick up on their owner’s emotions and respond accordingly. Plus, they require regular physical and mental exercise, providing structure and routine for their owners’ daily lives, which can be beneficial for mental health.

4. Golden Retriever

best dogs for mental health

Golden Retrievers are famously friendly, reliable, and trustworthy. Their sunny disposition and desire to please their owners make them one of the best dog breeds for depression. Goldens are active and fun-loving animals; they need lots of exercise, which can help their owners stay active and maintain a routine.

5. Bichon Frise

companion dog for depression

The Bichon Frise is a small breed known for its cheerful disposition and love of play. Their friendly nature and adaptability make them excellent companions for those living with depression. They are a sociable breed that can help facilitate interactions with others, potentially leading to improved mood and social connections.

6. Border Collie

dog for depression and anxiety

Border Collies are intelligent, responsive, and highly energetic dogs. They thrive on having tasks and activities to do, which can provide their owners with a sense of purpose. While they require significant exercise and mental stimulation, the companionship and structure they bring could be advantageous for someone dealing with depression.

7. Boxer

dogs for depression

Boxers are known for their boundless energy and affectionate nature. Their protective instincts, combined with a playful and patient temperament, make them good dogs for people with depression. Exercise is a must with this breed, providing an excellent motivation for physical activity, which is essential for mental wellness.

It’s important to note that while these breeds often exhibit traits that can be beneficial for people with depression, individual dogs’ personalities can vary. Meeting a dog and spending time with them before deciding is key to finding the best companion for your unique needs.

Final Thoughts

Depression can be a debilitating condition, but the therapeutic benefits of dogs can be a beacon of hope in navigating the journey towards better mental health. Through their comforting energy, unconditional love, companionship, and the structure they bring, dogs have a unique capacity to support mental wellness. With the right breed and individual traits, dogs can be more than pets; they can become lifelines, proving to be the best dogs for depression and anxiety.

Remember that while this article provides guidance, the best dog for you is a highly personal choice that depends on your unique needs and circumstances. So, whether you’re considering a Labrador Retriever’s loyalty or a Bichon Frise’s cheerful disposition, adopting a dog could be a significant step towards recovery. 

For those battling depression, the simple act of choosing to invite a canine companion into your life may indeed mark the beginning of a new chapter filled with comfort, companionship, and unconditional love. We encourage you to consider this powerful relationship in your journey towards better mental health.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

What makes a dog one of the best companions for those with depression?

Dogs offer numerous benefits that can aid those dealing with depression. These include unconditional love, a comforting presence, non-judgmental companionship, a sense of purpose, and the establishment of routine. They can also motivate us to exercise and help foster positive social interactions.

How can owning a dog help improve my mental wellness?

A dog’s companionship can help reduce feelings of loneliness and isolation which are often linked to depression. They can also provide a comforting presence and a sense of purpose, which can be crucial in managing depression. Regular physical activity with a dog can also improve mental health.

Are certain dog breeds better for supporting mental wellness?

Certain breeds can be more suited to supporting mental wellness due to their specific temperaments, energy levels, and size. The article discusses seven such breeds, including their characteristics and how these make them especially suited to individuals coping with depression.

What should I consider when choosing a dog for depression?

When choosing a dog to aid in combating depression, it’s important to consider your own needs and lifestyle, the dog’s breed and individual traits, the commitment of dog ownership, and the importance of meeting the dog before making a decision.

Where can I find more resources on the benefits of dogs for depression?

There are many resources available that delve deeper into the benefits of dogs for mental wellness, including scientific research and anecdotal evidence. The article provides suggestions for further reading to continue learning about the ‘pet effect’ and its impact on depression.

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Article Author

Lucas Evans

Lucas Evans

Lucas is a writer who is passionate about mental health and wellbeing. He is dedicated to helping others overcome their challenges. Lucas is known for his compassionate and non-judgmental approach, as well as his ability to help people gain a deeper understanding of themselves.
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