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How Dogs Can Support You During Depression & Choosing the Best Dog Breed for You

There are many benefits to having a dog, and perhaps you've already heard about the value of dogs in supporting people with depression. In this article you'll find:

  • 12 reasons why having a dog can support your mental and emotional wellbeing, including if you're struggling with depression.
  • 6 tips for choosing the right dog breed for you
  • 7 breeds to consider if you're looking for a dog to support you through depression, to benefit your mental and emotional wellbeing
  • 4 resources about the “pet effect”, how and why dogs can be beautifully supportive in helping you on your healing journey out of depression.
  • 4 related articles about depression, with supportive insights and tips to help you on your healing journey.

12 Reasons a Dog Can Support Your Mental & Emotional Wellbeing

Before we talk about breeds and choosing the right beloved dog companion for you and your unique situation, let's go through 12 reasons why having a dog can support us in our mental and emotional wellbeing.

This is particularly relevant for those of us that have suffered from or continue to experience the impacts of depression or other challenges to our mental and emotional wellbeing like anxiety, fear, grief or stress.

Please note: having a dog is not a substitute for the care of a professional in helping one through the experience of depression. However, they are a beautiful, valuable and loving way to support and uplift you on that healing journey.

1. Comforting Energy

Dogs have a comforting, loving energy that seeks to give love and receive love. Just being with our dogs is so healing to our own energy. It's a bit like going into nature. Mother Nature's uninterrupted energy is soothing.

Think of times you've been in a park, forest or at the beach or a lake… it's a soothing energy.

The closest thing to that which I've found is to be with my dog. His energy is like Mother Nature emanating from him, beating his heart, shining through his eyes, and I believe our dogs share their loving energy with us to support our mental, emotional and physical wellbeing.

2. Companionship

It can be tough to find people that you feel comfortable being completely yourself around, to spend time with. Sometimes we feel we have to prove ourselves or adapt ourselves to “fit in”, or that we have to hide how we're really feeling. We might not have the energy to put on a facade or happy face around friends, and we just want companionship without any expectations or complications.

With dogs, we get to experience PURE and real loving companionship.

Dogs are the best friend who will always say yes to hanging out, to going for a walk, to cuddling, to playing, and to being there with no agenda. They will never have other plans, they will never ditch you for a better offer, they will be your reliable companion day and night.

3. Unconditional Love

Whereas human relationships can often be fraught with expectations and conditions, where we feel like the love and support we receive might be based on us behaving a certain way or meeting the ideals of others, that's definitely not the case with dogs.

Dogs love us, full stop. They give that love no matter what. If you've been out all day and haven't had time to give them attention, they don't turn their back. If you are feeling down and you don't feel like talking or listening, your dog doesn't care, you dog will love you as you are.

There are no limits on love when it comes to your dog, and that's why they are such a loving, healing inclusion in your life, particularly if you're struggling with depression, grief, anxiety or stress.

4. Sense of Purpose

A big challenge so many of us face in life is the lack of or loss of purpose. This can lead to such challenges in our mental health. Often when feeling depressed, we can't see a reason or purpose for our being.

Dogs give us purpose. We have something/someone that relies us on. They need us. They want us to get up every day and care for them. They provide a steady sense of purpose that helps us to find meaning and value in our existence.

5. Safe Physical Touch

When we feel low, we often want, need and benefit from physical comforting. We deserve to be held, loved and comforted. Though we need to feel SAFE. And so often when we are in a dark place we may not feel safe around other people, or willing to be vulnerable and in physical contact with others.

In this way, dogs provide a safe, loving companion that will cuddle us, comfort us, and provide us a safe and easy way to outlet our love through the physical contact of cuddling them back.

6. Routine

During depression and other intense and challenging experiences like prolonged anxiety, fear, stress or grief, it can be a struggle to maintain routine.

That struggle can be a combination of factors such as not having the energy, feeling like there's no purpose, point or reason to do anything, and this can become a vicious cycle. The less routine we have, the less purpose we feel, the more we can sink down.

Having a routine helps to provide a sense of personal power, a sense of control, a structure to guide your day.

Dogs require routine, and caring for them gives you routine without having to think too much about the day and without having to make big choices… just enough routine to keep you moving and to empower you.

So when you get a dog and you become their beloved human, they look to you for that routine. By fulfilling their need for routine, you automatically bring routine to your own life.

That routine for example includes what time you get up in the morning (as your furry friend is going to wake up and tell you it's time to get up, and want to bounce and play with you!), plus walks/exercise… your dog will want to go outside. Plus your dog needs to be fed at certain times of the day.

Dogs bless you with structure/routine.

7. Small Bumps of Motivation

There's very little we need to say about this other than to acknowledge that when depressed (or anxious, stress, grieving or other difficult experiences), motivation can seemingly vanish.

Dogs provide you a little motivational bundle of joy, that through routine and sense of purpose, can start to bring back glimmers of motivation.

You might even find yourself being motivated for THEM, even if not for yourself. For example, motivated to make them feel loved, motivated to give them good walks and experiences, motivated to find lovely treats to give them. Any little motivation they ignite becomes one more gift to support your wellness.

8. Exercise

Moving our bodies has a big influence on our mindset and emotional state, and it's often the last thing we want to think about or do when we are deep in the darkness.

Dogs need exercise, and so just the very simple act of having to walk our dogs each day, gets us moving. Gentle walks in fresh air on a daily basis go a long way to not only satisfying our furry friends needs but also giving our own mind/body/soul what we need too.

As dog owners, we are required to get outside, even when we might least feel like, because our dogs need it. And we love our dogs, so we do it for them. And we both benefit!

9. Lovely Interactions with People

The most surprising thing happened when I got my first dog. I ended up having interactions with so many people when out and about with my dog, people that ordinarily I would probably would never have spoken to. In fact I've made life long friends with people because of my dog!

Dogs have this incredible way of drawing people together with a common joy. Dog owners gravitate together in public places as dogs play together. People will often stop on the pavement and want to ask about your dog, pat your dog, say loving things to your dog as you walk by.

And you can have the most lovely, positive interactions with kind people all because you have this bundle of furry cuteness with you.

Dogs bring people together in such a pure way.

10. Smiles

Dogs can be so funny, and cute, and weird, and playful, and just be being with them and watching them, you can derive little moments of light.

Moments when you'll smile at their silly behavior. Moments when you'll think they are just the cutest thing you've ever seen. These little moments when you're depressed, stressed or anxious can add up to become a daisy chain of loving, soothing and uplifting energy that brings you hope and relief.

11. Responsibility

Having a dog is a responsibility. It requires us as pet caregivers to do certain things, to focus on the needs of the dog, to act responsibly.

When we sometimes don't want to deal with the responsibilities of life, having a dog allows us a way to claim a new level of accountability in our daily lives in a way that we can derive satisfaction from.

This goes a long way to feeling empowered and confident, when we have things we take care and can be proud of, things that matter to us, and that we take the time to be responsible for.

12. Undemanding Ally

Dogs are undemanding allies. So long as you take care of the basics (walk, feed and love your dog), they aren't going to demand anything of you. Unlike people! Life is filled with so many demands, and it can feel so overwhelming to face all of this when you're in the midst of depression. A dog will be there for you, as one of the most loving allies, but also the ally that will not ask anything of you (except the basics!). They are undemanding, and loving. Making the ideal companion.

6 Tips for Choosing the Right Dog Breed for You

Choosing a dog is an important process if you're suffering depression or other challenges in our mental and emotional wellness. It's a bit different to generally choosing a pet. You'll want to be sure that the dog you get is going to fit into your life and meet the unique needs you have.

For example, you'll want a breed that thrives on close companionship and has a playful nature, and ideally is low maintenance (in terms of physical care), while not being too overly energetic in terms of requiring high levels of mental stimulation or physical exertion.

Tips for Choosing the Right Breed for You:

  • Dogs come in all sizes (it's easy to forget how big some grow when you're looking at a cute little puppy!). Think about how big your living space is, and where the dog will be spending time both inside your accommodation and any outdoor space.
  • Consider how much maintenance the dog might need. Dogs have different care and grooming needs (some dogs need fur trimming for example (a haircut for dogs!) while others don't.
  • Research how much exercise the breed will need. Some dogs are more active and athletic than others, and may need more activity/exercise.
  • Different breeds have different traits, personality styles and temperaments , so it's useful to research online to see what resonates and fits with you, your needs, and your lifestyle.
  • Consider how easily trainable the breed is – some breeds might be easier to train and manage than others. For example, some breeds while very easy to train are super intelligent and need confident leadership from their human, otherwise they're so smart they might end up trying to be the leader!
  • Whether you're getting a dog that is being rehomed, or a dog from a shelter, or a dog from a breeder, ask the person you're dealing with about the unique dog you're considering. Irrespective of the breed, ask what the personality, traits and needs of the unique individual dog are, so you can get a sense of whether the dog will be a good fit for you.

7 Dog Breeds for People Fighting Depression

When you're thinking about getting a dog for the first time, you might not know where to start, or how to pick a breed of dog that will suit you.

There are lots of useful short videos and articles online to help you explore the traits of different breeds (resources provided by dog experts).

Here is a short list of 7 breeds that might suit you, to help you get started as you open your heart to the idea of welcoming a new fur best-friend into your life…

1. Cavalier King Charles Spaniel

Find out the pros and cons of this breed here >>
Short Video on Cavaliers: https://youtu.be/Zaz_DtgQLZw

Dogs for depression

2. Pug

Find out about the pros and cons of this breed here >>
Short Video on Pugs: http://youtu.be/8Kkrmubsgf8

Dogs for depression

3. Staffordshire Bull Terrier

Find out about the pros and cons of this breed here >>
Short Video on Staffordshire Bull Terrier:
 https://youtu.be/wNWQMs2kRvQ

Staffordshire Bull Terrier

4. Golden Retriever

Find out about the pros and cons of this breed here >>
Short Video on Golden Retriever: http://youtu.be/kI4EbABtJQ0

Golden Retriever

5. Standard Poodle

Find out about the pros and cons of this breed here >>
Short Video on Poodles: http://youtu.be/74mx2OWM6mE

Poodle

6. Labrador Retriever

Find out about the pros and cons of this breed here >>
Short Video on Labrador Retrievers: http://youtu.be/0cj81wHmfXc

Labrador

7. Vizsla

Find out about the pros and cons of this breed here >>
Short Video on Vizsla: https://youtu.be/zEn4WXXhKmQ

Dogs good for depression

A Final Word of Support

Any dog owner who loves their adored pet will tell you that their breed is the best breed for healing, soothing, comforting and loving.

That's because dogs, irrespective of their breed, are a beautiful way to support your life, and by giving them a loving home you support their life.

First and foremost choose a breed that resonates and fits best with your needs and lifestyle, and then know…. that the soul of your dog will be there for you always, just like you will be there for them.

All dogs need love, on that you can count! And all dogs have LOTS of love to give to anyone who wants to care for and love them back.

Related Resources About Dogs Helping with Depression

Related Resources to Support Your Journey Out of Depression

How Dogs Can Support You During Depression & Choosing the Best Dog Breed for You

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Comments

322 Responses

  1. I love my Golden Retriever Murphy! He is also my service dog who helps me with my PTSD. I couldn’t live without him!

  2. ,gmMy Rottweiler is a constant companion. Always wants to be near, inside or out. Prefers to be an inside , lap dog! Very sensitive to my moods

  3. My Shihtzu helped me out if my depression. I need him aa much as he needs me and im forever thankful hes in my life….

  4. Australian shepherd for certain! As a breed they have an intelligence with emotional empathy to their person that is amazing. They also make amazing service dogs for the disabled since they thrive having a job to do.

  5. I have a German Shepherd/husky mix and he has helped me a lot with my depression actually more than my therapist. I also have anxiety disorder and he helps calm me when an attack is coming on. Yes he’s playful, nips, and loves to run but I wouldn’t trade him for any other dog. He’s just plain out goofy and sometimes I think he does silly things just to make me laugh.

  6. I have a shih tzu/chihuahua mix (shichi) I would highly recommend this breed to anyone who needs a loving, sweet dog!

  7. I have 3 golden retriever, 3 pomeranian and 2 mixbreed. They’re the best dogs i ever had. I loved them very much. They help me to battle my depression.

  8. My yorkie never left my side as i layed for 8 months going though therpy with breast cancer she cuddled me the whole way through recovery

  9. Pug. So much yes. Very stubborn and hard to get potty trained but the sweetest, funniest dogs. All they want to do it play, be silly and nap.

  10. I love all my dogs but I got a chiweenie last year. I believe she’s the funniest dog I have ever owned. She keeps me laughing as well as keeping me on my toes. She’s the best little snuggle bunny when it’s time to settle down for the night. I also have a mixed breed dog about 30 pounds that I have no clue what she is but she don’t want strangers in our yard, very territorial. She showed up in our yard one day and we kept her. They both make me feel secure. I have a part miniature collie also. He’s sweet and he’s an old man, 11 years old. He’s not protective at all. He loves everybody.

  11. I have 2 australian Sheppards one red merle standard whonis a yeah and a blue merle mini who is 8 month litteraly the beat dogs ever always happy to see me when i get home from work and are like velcro to my leg at all times they are the most affectionate dogs i have ever have my mono is also deaf and is smart as can be i love my aussies

  12. I am on my return back in power after two years with a depression causede by stress.
    This april we got our long waited for puppy. A “BROHOLMER” named “Astrid”. The broholmer is an old Danish breed and Should defenitaly be on this list. It is a very big dog, calm and kind. I am in love and my recovery is faster just because of her.

  13. We have a Shorkie! Look them up online……cutest little ones ever! Our Mia is extremely loveable, active as you want to be, but always willing to snuggle. Never sheds and at 10-12 pounds, VERY portable. We get her groomed once a month with puppy cut…..she will ALWAYS look like a little puppy! As you can tell, we LOVE our little Mia!!!!

  14. I love my GREAT DANE/ITALIAN MASTIFF mix and my full blooded chocolate lab, that are both extremely good for my depression and other health issues. Just being able to caress them on their backs when I come home from work helps relieve the stress from the day. It is like they know that is just what I need…It has been proven to release Oxytocin in the brain; which makes you happy.

  15. Had boxers. Very loyal and protective and loving. Had 2 pekingese, one passed the other is still with me. She is 16 years old and is startung to have health issues. My best buddy. I think any dog can help keep people happy. Especially a rescue. They are so grateful and appreciative and loving. Have a Heart in Boca Raton has many loving dogs waiting for forever families.

  16. When I worked in a humane society, the number one most affectionate dogs that came in were bull terriers, all they want is love. But people would avoid them when coming in because of their stereotype and yet I found them the easiest out of all the dogs I had to walk, re-train, wash, feed while working there, the dog breeds that were more aggressive coming in were actually poodle/chow mixes, but in time when they knew they weren’t threatened eventually let you in. (If you’re patient)

  17. Chipoo (chihuahua and poodle mix) she’s 5 pounds of 100% love!! I’ve had her for 2 years and she’s the best thing that has truly ever happened to me (besides our family dog that we lost after a wonderful 17 years)!!! Every single person that comes into contact with her falls in love with her and asks me if I ever had to get rid of her to give her to them… lol. I would NEVER give her away!!! I hope God gives me many many years with her!!

  18. All well and good identifying “breeds” that are good for fighting depression. One of the best activities for fighting depression is getting outside of oneself and doing something good for others. So how about rescuing/adopting a dog that needs a home? Doesn’t matter if the dog is some breed or a mutt. A rescued dog and their person always will have a special bond–another wonderful thing to fight depression.

  19. Mini dachshunds. I have two of them. And they are such a kind sweet and terribly funny dog. Although they are extremely stubborn. They are very compassionate. My little Koda always knows when I’m sad and always tries to make me feel better. They are my little angels.

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