How Dogs Can Help Treat Depression

By Laurie Darroch

Dogs can be more than just a loving family member. They contribute in many ways just by being a part of the household. They can even be of special service or be a therapy dog to people who have medical issues or certain limitations in function. One of the conditions they can help their human companions with is depression.

Love

Dogs give unconditional love while asking for very little in return. Their love is uncomplicated and adds no stress on that level to an already depressed person who has very little of themselves to give. A dog can also sense that their human family member is in a less than functional emotional or physical condition, and be concerned and protective. If relationships with family members or friends are strained and causing more anxiety for the person dealing with depression, the simple love of a dog can be soothing to overtaxed nerves and feelings.

Motivation

Depression often causes lessened physical activity and no motivation to do things. The smallest physical task often becomes overwhelming. It is hard to even get up and move around a little when a person is battling depression. Having a dog to care for and love may be one way to find just enough motivation to move around the house to feed, play with and care for the dog.

Even something as simple as giving the dog a CANIDAE treat and watching him enthusiastically wolf it down, can brighten the human companion’s mood a little. What person doesn’t perk up a little when they feel something they do matters? At the best, playing outside or going for a walk with a dog will give the person some much needed fresh air and exercise.

Establishing a Routine

The routines necessary in caring for a dog, such as maintaining an eating schedule for the dog, may help the human companion get up to follow that routine every day as well. They can avoid some things that overwhelm them, but they can’t ignore the basic needs of a loved pet.

Helps Them Feel Needed and Wanted

With depression there is often the feeling of being invisible, unwanted, useless or unneeded. Having a dog that does need the person in uncomplicated ways can give them a sorely needed emotional connection with another living being.

Encourages Socialization

Depression is a very solitary illness. It makes the person dealing with it close up into themselves and withdraw into emotionally and psychologically dark spaces. The presence of a dog brings them out of their solitude a bit. If the dog gets the person with depression out of the house on occasion, having that common bond with other dog owners they meet may give the person a social outlet that isn’t overwhelming. It may help them start to communicate more.

Touch and Connection

Physical contact is another thing that a withdrawn, detached and depressed person often avoids. Another person may make them uncomfortable, but there is something calming, soothing and unthreatening in simply petting a dog or holding it against you. That small bit of touch and a connection can really help. It helps maintain the bond for the dog as well. Dogs need love and affection too, in their own way.

A dog can provide a remarkable service as a therapy dog, and can add love, companionship, physical activity, purpose, connection and overall health improvements to a person battling daily with the overwhelming symptoms of depression. A loved dog can be a special blessing for that person as well.

Top photo by dburka
Middle photo by AJU Photograpy
Bottom photo by Adam Russell

Read more articles by Laurie Darroch

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