By the year 2018, some 40 million Americans were affected by depression. Today, depression continues to be a widespread issue around the world. It is a silent and often unnoticed mental strain. 

There are several kinds of treatment available for people with depression. A method that proves itself as an effective counter to depression time and time again is a relationship with a dog.

Of course, if you’re already a pet owner, you can probably see how dogs help with depression. If not, owning a dog or dog-sitting could be just what you need to help you through the storm. 

Depression

Depression can go unnoticed if you’re not wary of your mental and emotional state. There are depressive moods, and there are longer depressive episodes that can last years. Both can be extremely difficult to deal with.

When talking about mental health, identifying symptoms can be tricky. It can also be worrisome. 

For either case, you can seek treatment to help you alleviate your symptoms. 

Symptoms of Depression:

  • Fatigue
  • Feelings of guilt, worthlessness, or hopelessness
  • Insomnia
  • Irritability
  • Loss of interest in what you used to enjoy
  • Overeating or appetite loss
  • Digestive problems

These are common symptoms you should monitor if you begin to experience them over a long time. Depression can be incredibly challenging to deal with, especially for an extended period. Thankfully, there are many ways that you can treat depression and ways dogs help with depression.

Treatment for Depression

Though there is an extensive list of depressive symptoms, there are also many treatments for depression that you can use to help you. Solutions include psychotherapy and medication, but there are also ways to relieve depression outside of these methods. 

Staying active and doing exercise are great ways to improve your mental health. Those with depression also benefit from socializing and having a companion with them for deep relationships.

Also, a person with depression benefits from invitations to go out on walks or social events. Support and encouragement from other people are ways to uplift people with depression.

How Dogs Help You With Depression 

The great news is, these are many ways pets help ease depression. 

From companionship to developing a daily routine, owning a dog can offer serious help for someone combating depression because of what caring for a pet entails. 

Your pup will help you in many ways to lift your mood and improve your mental health. Your dog is someone who will always be happy to see you, who will want to keep you company and remind you that you are not alone. 

Loneliness can be a catalyst for depression to ensue. Dogs keep the loneliness away. Your pet is a special friend who makes you laugh, who gets you outside and exercising, and who wants to give you love. 

There are so many mental and emotional benefits. These benefits go not only for those with depression but also for those who suffer from anxiety or Alzheimer’s. 

Dog rolling around

Self-Worth 

Owning a dog is a lot of responsibility.

That responsibility may seem daunting at first. Dog ownership is something that requires a lot of commitment, but the benefits are well worth it.

Dog owners feel proud of raising and caring for a pleasant canine to have around them. Pets of all kinds are considered members of a family. This kind of bond is one of the reasons so many families have pets. 

Owning, raising, and caring for a dog will give you a sense of self-worth because of the responsibility it takes to care for him or her properly. At the end of the day, you’ll feel happy you got the chance to care for your pet and that they remain happy and healthy.

This sense of self-worth will give you purpose and hope despite the work it will take. These are great for countering your depression symptoms. Responsibility and purpose are strong foundations for improved mental and emotional health. 

Soon, your pet will become your friend. You’ll feel good about yourself for developing the close bond you have with your pet, and you’ll receive a lot of love in return. 

Companionship

A 2016 survey done by the Human Bond Research Institute reports that 71% of pet owners say owning a pet has improved their mental health. A dog is called a man’s best friend for a reason. 

Your dog is always going to be happy to see you and will love having your attention.

This behavior ensures your dog wants to be with you all the time, which helps with the loneliness, you may feel if you’re depressed. A pup will keep you company and offer a sense of security. For those who are later in life, this company can be precious to staying emotionally healthy. 

If you live alone and are dealing with depression, you can count on your dog to be happy to see you and spend time with you. Pet dogs are great for breaking a pattern of individuality. 

That companionship boosts the oxytocin and dopamine in your brain, creating good feelings. In this way, dogs make it easier for you to be happy and reduce stress.

Unconditional Love  

The companionship you share with your dog will build your bond later on. You will develop a healthier relationship built on trust. A canine will reward its owner with unconditional love, a great benefit for how dogs help with depression. 

Part of keeping a dog is taking care of it. Your dog will learn to appreciate this care. Over time, the bond you build with your animal will become mutually beneficial, as your dog will trust you and become your friend. 

Dogs are protective, caring, and a joy to have around. These traits help bring security and peace of mind to anyone feeling anxiety or depression. 

Cassie

Routine 

Studies show that keeping a routine is a great way to help relieve depressive symptoms. Regularity reduces stress and anxiety because days are more predictable and, therefore, more manageable. 

Sleeping at the same time every night and waking up at set times are good ways to begin anchoring a routine. This way, you’ll experience a steadier level of energy throughout the day, and your dog will learn your habits too. 

Dogs love routines. They will begin to count on and expect them daily. This means they will get used to eating, exercising, and relieving themselves at a specific time. Keeping a routine reduces stress for canines, too.

If you own a pet, you will both benefit from having to keep a routine. In this area, your dog will count on you to put its food out at a particular time, to let them go outside and walk, and to play.

Caring for a pup requires that you maintain a structure of your day. You will have to organize specific times to do something for your pet to keep them happy and healthy, and this can inspire a healthier schedule for you, too.

Structuring your time helps you to get more done and organizes time for you to rest too. Intentionally making a plan will also give you a sense of accomplishment and purpose. 

Building a Routine For You and Your Dog 

To build a routine, focus on your schedule first. 

Decide what time you will eat and sleep, and then set the times you want to do other things too. From here, you can begin to see where in your schedule you can make time to feed your dog, take him out on a walk, let him go outside, or exercise. 

Once you have those time slots figured out, it’s a lot easier to set it into place. Given some time, your dog will learn this schedule too. His energy and playtime will adjust to it, so you both have a synced and mutually beneficial agenda.


Routines will help your dog behave, as she will know what to expect at different times during the day. You’ll benefit, too, as you find your dog will become more eager to play or go outside when she recognizes the time is coming for one of those activities.

The anticipation they have for activities is another way they will keep you from losing your routine. As the owner, your pup will depend on you to walk or exercise with them. Even if you don’t feel like going out at all, your dog can encourage you to get the active minutes you need. 

Take care of yourself first and organize your time. If you properly implement your plan, your dog will learn your habits and help you keep track of your day. 

Dog lounging on couch

Exercise

Physical activity is a proven method to help ease depression. And dogs are fantastic workout partners. Many breeds are active animals — they want to get up and let out energy sometime during the day. 

Dogs love to walk, run, and fetch. These are all activities that you can do together with your pet. The outdoor exercise puts you out in the sun, which also has beneficial effects for depression. 

Working out is incredibly uplifting for mental and emotional health. Your dog will love playing fetch with you and learning new tricks. This exercise time is an excellent opportunity for you to deepen the bond you have with your pet.

If you can, purchase some fun toys your dog will love to play with. You can use toys to play fetch or play tug. You can hide toys in a dog park and play hide-and-seek. There are endless amounts of games you and your dog can go outside and play. 

Toys are also great for keeping your dog busy in idle times. Chewing on toys while resting allows dogs to relieve stress too. Soon, you’ll notice which toys your animal enjoys the most, and you can use it as a reward during exercise time. 

Exercise will help you feel better and owning a dog is a great way to make sure working out is a part of your daily routine. 

When you make an exercise program with your dog, you’ll also want to pick games that you enjoy playing. Exercise can be strenuous to think about if you also have depression.

If you enjoy the activities you play with your dog, it’s much easier to think of exercise as a time to relax rather than a time of fatigue. Get creative and design a workout you and your dog will want to do every day. 

Two happy corgis

Socialization

A study done by Harvard University found that deep, meaningful relationships are among the most significant parts of a happy life. Social interactions, especially those which are face-to-face, help people with depression. 

When you own a dog, you’ll find yourself walking them around your area and possibly looking for local dog parks in your area for larger exercise spaces.

On your way to the park or on your walks, you will likely run into other dog owners.

These are great opportunities for social interactions. Because you both have dogs, there is an immediate common ground for conversation. Soon, you may even become friends with the other local dog owners in your area.

In this way, dogs are great ways to help you become more socialized. Dogs enamor people. If you walk your dog, people may come up to you and ask you if they may pet him. They may ask you what her name is or what breed she is.

Face-to-face human interactions will help you with your depressive symptoms. Your dog can help you meet more people.

Take advantage of these opportunities to meet new people. Making friends is a sure way to help lift your spirits.   

Final Thoughts 

Don’t go through depression alone. As difficult as it can be, you can give yourself the best chance to recover from depression by giving to yourself.

Dogs are great friends to have when times are tough emotionally or mentally. Their calming presence, friendship, and loyalty help you weather the storm. The routines they help you set and the emotional boost they give you are just a few ways a canine could be all the medicine you need to help you with depression.

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