Therapy Pets: 9 Ways Dogs Help with Depression


Over one-third of households in the US have a pet dog. At the same time, up to44 million Americans suffer from a mental illness.

Have you ever considered how an animal can help alleviate a mental health condition? You may be surprised that pets have a highly therapeutic power that can help people with depression.

In this article, we’ll explore 9 ways in which dogs help with depression. Let’s go.

  1. Love Is the Answer

Petting an animal has been proven to lower stress levels and release oxytocin, the “love hormone“. This hormone is key for good relationships.

Relationships with dogs or humans can help show us the light. This can make you feel as though there is a purpose to your existence during tough times.

Although you won’t necessarily feel great every time you pet a dog, it’s definitely worth giving it a go and getting a boost of hormones.

  1. Help Your Helpless Animal

When you’re depressed, you’re likely to feel completely hopeless and helpless. Remember, your furry friend depends on you for pretty much everything.

Just knowing that there is one being that needs you can make you feel a lot less helpless. Your animal asks for help, so perhaps you should try doing the same.

Thinking about someone else can help with depression. When you have a pet, suddenly you need to remember to get out of bed, pick up their food, and ensure they have enough to eat and drink.

  1. Dogs Need Exercise and So Do Humans

Less than one-quarter of Americans exercise enough. However, the body produces endorphins when we move which can work as nature’s own anti-depressant.

Other benefits of exercise include increasing blood flow to the brain and reduced feelings of anxiety. There are also improvements in other health conditions, such as diabetes, arthritis, and high blood pressure.

By owning a dog, you’ll be required to get up and out every single day to walk your furry friend.

  1. Forest Bathing Isn’t Just for the Japanese

In Japan, “forest bathing” is a well-known practice where people spend time in nature, being mindful of their surroundings.

It’s thought that forest bathing or nature therapy can help reduce diseases of both the mind and body. Now, doctors are also prescribing such methods to those suffering from mental illness.

Being in nature can boost your immune system, help you sleep, and lower your blood pressure. If you’re walking your furry friend, make sure you visit a beautiful park or, better yet, head out into the forest.

When you’re there, turn your phone off and leave it in your bag and practice walking mindfully and concentrate.

What do you see, what can you hear? How does all this greenery make you feel? You may even want to take refreshment with you to enjoy next to a tree.

  1. Pets Need Routine

Those suffering from depression may find themselves sleeping in late, missing breakfast, and sitting around the house all day.

However, if you have a dog, this simply isn’t possible. Your dog provides you with routine. They need you to let them out in the morning, encouraging you to step outside yourself.

They require feeding, which may encourage you to turn the kettle on and prepare yourself some tea and food. Furthermore, as we’ve discussed, a pet dog needs a walk and they will get you out of the house every day, preferably for them at the same time.

Having this routine can provide you with a strong sense that you are needed. This is a powerful feeling which can help people even on the bleakest of days.

  1. Never Feel Lonely Again

What’s great about dogs are that they really are furry friends. When you’re feeling sad or alone, they’ll curl up next to you. Even if you have a depressed dog, you can get through it together.

Having companionship at home has been proven to prevent the development of illnesses. In fact, isolation can trigger depression in some people. You won’t feel isolated when a dog is wagging its tail and happy to see you.

If you’re feeling lonely, why not talk to your pet? Just voicing your concerns out loud can sometimes make you feel better and no-one is a better listener than a devoted dog.

  1. Meet New People with Dogs Easily

When you’re out walking your dog, you may be surprised by the sheer number of people who will say hello to you.

Most of these people will be fellow dog owners who you may recognize over time and get to know. Your dog will ensure you meet lots of fellow dog-lovers.

If you’ve met a few people while walking your dog that you enjoy talking to, why not get their numbers and plan to walk your pups together every other day.

This social activity isn’t too demanding either. You’re simply walking and occasionally chatting but will help bring you out of your shell.

  1. A Pet Provides a Sense of Security

In a world where sometimes it feels like everything we do is criticized, returning home to a pet that has nothing but love for you is a wonderful thing.

Your dog will provide you with a loving sense of security and you can guarantee they’re not judging you.

  1. Take Inspiration from Your Pooch and Be Mindful 

Ever wonder what your pet is thinking about when they’re sitting next to you and staring into space? Perhaps the answer is absolutely nothing and that’s a beautiful thing.

Your dog doesn’t hold a grudge, it doesn’t ponder over why you’ve said something a certain way, it simply moves on.

We are, of course, very different from our pets. However, why not try being mindful the next time you notice your dog staring off into space! You might be surprised by how many benefits this can bring you.

How Can Dogs Help with Depression?

If you already have a pet, now’s the time to truly appreciate everything then bring you.

However, if you don’t have a dog you may now be tempted to run out and buy one. Before you do this, make sure you truly can take care of a pet.

Have you experienced yourself how dogs help with depression? Share this article on Facebook.

About Kimberly

Kimberly Vetrano resides in the suburbs of New York City with her family and "mini zoo" consisting of five cats, a dog and a Goldfish. Kimberly is a teacher's assistant for a Kindergarten class. When she is not working or blogging, Kimberly enjoys taking photos of nature and hanging out with family and friends.