Depression is a tough illness to deal with no matter who you are. Whether you live alone or you have a house full of loved ones, it can be one of the most isolating experiences you will ever have.
Sometimes, when you are feeling the most isolated and lost, it seems like no one can reach you or help you. In these cases, a pet dog can be a life saver in more ways than you can imagine. Read on to learn how dogs can help treat depression and which dogs are the 6 best dogs for depression.
How Can Dogs Help With Depression
Dogs can provide some essential support and be very therapeutic for a person suffering from depression. A lot of research has been done about this and shown that dogs help with depression in a number of ways.
Here are a few of the most important ways that a dog can help with depression:
- Unconditional love and companionship – They literally jump for joy when you come home every single day. Their love and companionship is also completely uncomplicated. There’s no deceit or manipulation like you might find in some human relationships. So you never have to worry about your dog’s true intentions. More importantly, they make no demands on you. They love you just the same whether you look your best or you’ve spent the entire day sitting on the couch, eating ice cream directly out of the container.
- Improve physical health – The simple act of petting a dog has been shown to decrease stress and lower blood pressure. This is not only great for your physical health but also helps with your emotional well being.
- Develop relationship building skills – When you’re depressed, you start to push people away or have paranoid thoughts that no one actually loves you. Your dog will always be there to remind you that that’s simply not true. More importantly, you will develop a sense of respect, love, and trust with your dog easily because they are capable of such uncomplicated love. This can help make it that much easier to build strong relationships with other people later on. It gives you some of the basic skills you will need in order to be able to trust and love other people.
- A sense of purpose and responsibility – The simple knowledge that there is another living being who depends entirely on you for their well being will help to give a sense of purpose in your life even when everything else seems meaningless. This is especially true if you adopt a rescue dog who would have otherwise been stuck in a pound or put to sleep if it weren’t for you. Dogs give you a sense of purpose and connection to something outside of yourself.
- Daily Routine and Structure – When you feel like your life is spiraling out of control, the simple routine of feeding your dog and taking him for walks each day can give a sense of stability and structure that is absolutely essential. This structure and routine prevents you from sinking to deep. It gives some order to your life and gives you a reason to keep going when you might otherwise feel like there is no reason to get up.
- Exercise – Exercise has been proven to help depression and the change of scenery along with the fresh air will provide an immediate boost to your mood. When this becomes a daily routine, you will start to feel better much more quickly. Even if you know exercise can help improve your mood, it is hard to motivate yourself to actually do it when you are depressed. With a dog, you have no excuse to skip your walk.
- A “social lubricant” – Dogs are also a great way to meet people and break the ice. You can take your dog to the dog park and chat with other dog owners. With a dog, you already have a store of fun and interesting stories you can share with others. You can also take a dog training class or join other dog-related activities that get you out of your house and interacting with other people. Most importantly, you are interacting with other people that you know you have at least one thing in common with already.
- Silliness – Finally, dogs are silly! They do adorable and funny things on a regular basis. When you see your dog trying to catch his own tail, barking at a cat on the TV, or accidentally falling off the couch, you can’t help but at least smile.
The 6 Best Dogs for Depression
Now that you know how dogs can help with depression, you need to decide which dog is right for you. The absolute best way is to go to the pound and see which one you have an instant connection with.
But before you do that, there are certain breeds that are considered the best for helping to treat depression. Many sources agree that these 6 breeds are the absolute best dogs for depression:
Cavalier King Charles Spaniel
The Cavalier King Charles Spaniel is extremely affectionate and loving which is great for a person with depression. They are also very easy to train so you won’t have to deal with a crazy, uncontrollable dog.
Their small size also makes them very portable and very good for smaller homes and apartments. The biggest down side is that they do need more grooming than other dogs. But even this can be an advantage for a person who needs more routine in their lives.
Staffordshire Bull Terrier
This breed is very energetic and playful so they are ideal for those who struggle with motivation. They will not give up on trying to get you to take them out for a walk or play with them.
Beyond that, their biggest advantage is that they are pretty low maintenance dogs. They are also very loving and great around children.
Pugs are the comedians of the dog world. They always seem to have a very funny and playful personality. Plus, their squishy face makes it impossible not to fall in love immediately. They are always upbeat and positive which can be very helpful when you are feeling down.
The only things you have to worry about are that they are prone to breathing problems (because of that adorable squished face) and they do not like extreme heat. But this makes them great indoor dogs.
Vizslas are wonderful dogs for depression. They are extremely loyal and loving. Plus they are very healthy and clean so you don’t need to worry so much about health problems or special care needs.
They are highly energetic and prefer to have space to run around so make sure to take them out often.
Labradors are well-known for their loyalty and devotion. There are also very playful and energetic so they will get you up and moving no matter how down you feel. Their loyalty also makes them very easy to train.
Poodles are great because they are extremely adaptable and have longer lifespans than average so they will be with you for a long time. They are also natural performers so they will know how to get you smiling no matter what.
The only major downside is that they need professional grooming because of their special fur.