Dogs Can Help Overcome Depression

April 24, 2014 Erin Schulthies

When I got my dog, Digby, I had no idea how much he would help me with my depression. Standard recommended treatments for depression pretty much never recommend getting a dog or spending time with a dog, but maybe they should.

Dogs help depression symptoms through routine, exercise, and unconditional love. I've learned a lot about taking care of myself through taking care of my dog.I'm someone who cares a lot about other people and, consequently, animals. When my depression symptoms hit me hard and keep me feeling really low, I find it hard to take care of myself through exercise, regular meals, or adequate sleep because depression steals my motivation.

Yet when I got my dog two years ago, I found it much easier to motivate myself for him instead. I became excited to take him for walks. I learned that if I timed his meals correctly and took him outside about twenty minutes after eating, he would relieve himself on the grass instead of on my carpet.

A Dog's Routine Can Help Your Depression

After a few weeks of training Digby, I realized I'd started was timing my meals around his meals. With Digby around, I even remembered to take my medication on time. Frequent walks for Digby also gave me enough exercise to realize that exercise really does help my mood.

Meet The Dog That Helped My Depression

After having Digby for two years, I now realize he helps me with all kinds of things besides getting out of the house and having regular meals.

Digby makes me laugh, which is obviously a great way to fight depression. He requires me to be calm and assertive when I give him commands because if I'm grounded, he behaves better.

Being grounded is like being in the moment, where dogs live. Have you ever met a dog who is embarrassed about that mistake two days ago? Me neither.

To Beat Depression, Love Yourself the Way Your Dog Loves You

Digby isn't a harsh judge if I make a mistake; he loves me no matter what. No matter how awful I'm feeling about myself, Digby looks me in the eyes with a love so strong that even my hard-set self-criticism starts to falter. Digby reminds me to give myself a break and just have fun.

To help with your depression, I recommend just finding a way to spend time with a pet. Definitely do some research before committing to getting your own pet to make sure you can handle the constant care they need. If a dog seems like a good fit, find a breed that suits your lifestyle and go from there.

For less commitment, visit with a friend's pet or look for therapy dog programs in your area. Even watching some animal videos on YouTube will give your spirit a lift.

Animals are wonderful. Let them into your life.

You can also find Erin Schulthies on Twitter, on Google+, on Facebook and on her blog, Daisies and Bruises: The Art of Living with Depression.

APA Reference
Schulthies, E. (2014, April 24). Dogs Can Help Overcome Depression, HealthyPlace. Retrieved on 2024, July 15 from

Author: Erin Schulthies

November, 20 2014 at 5:22 am

I have been dealing with depression for over 15 years and I have often thought about owning a pet to help me through my depression, but I'm very worried about how I'd get through loosing that pet when he or she passes. What advice do you have on that aspect of pet ownership?

Ingrid Baumer
May, 3 2014 at 6:30 am

I got my shih tzu just as I was ending a course of cbt. I've been happily married for nearly 14 years and we have a 16 year old son. I love them both unconditionally but the one thing who is always there for me is my dog!! If I'm having a crap day she curls up on my lap and won't move. Just that feeling of cuddles with her makes me feel better. I dread social occasions but if I can take Trixxy I'm fine and have a lovely time. People say hurtful things like I love my dog more than my husband and son but they don't suffer with depression and realise how much impact they can have on your day to day life. I'm having a bad day today and she's just snuggled up beside me. That's all she has to do to make me feel a bit better.

In reply to by Anonymous (not verified)

Erin Schulthies
May, 4 2014 at 2:11 pm

Hi Ingrid! Thank you for your comment. :) Trixxy sounds like the best of best friends! It's great that you can take her out on special occasions to have a steady companion to help you feel better. Digby is sitting beside me as I type this too - he says hello to your pooch! Erin

Ruth A.
May, 3 2014 at 5:27 am

Dogs have a way to make us better. I wholeheartedly believe so.

In reply to by Anonymous (not verified)

Erin Schulthies
May, 4 2014 at 2:09 pm

Hi Ruth,
I believe it too! I'm so glad you've felt the doggie love too! Thanks for your comment. :)

Ruth A.
April, 28 2014 at 9:08 pm

I find this to be very true, when I received my official diagnosis of major Depression and anxiety I had to drop out of college my right before my last semester. I found myself at my parent's house, newly medicated and going though all the motions of being diagnosed. I then decided to get a Golden Retriever pup who changed my life, a year later I rescued an English Springer spaniel...needless to say after 3 semesters I went back to college, finished my degree and enjoyed 8 years of (remission).
I landed an amazing job after college that took me across the country, I took my Golden with me, my mom had fallen in love with the rescue and kept him because he helped her with her emotional issues as well.
Just as they arrived to my heart and home both passed of natural causes at 12 years of age.
I was not prepared for this loss and checked myself into a hospital soon after. It's been 2 years but I'm not ready to find another furbaby...the pain of loosing them was just too much. Maybe some day I'll gain the strength to welcome another pup or rescue.

In reply to by Anonymous (not verified)

Erin Schulthies
April, 29 2014 at 6:38 am

Hi Ruth!
Thanks so much for your comment. It sounds like you had a lovely support in your Golden. I wish dogs lived longer! You know yourself best, in knowing what you're ready for. I hope that soon you will be ready for another fur baby or have time to visit with one that isn't your dog. Take care! Love Erin

In reply to by Anonymous (not verified)

Erin Schulthies
May, 5 2014 at 2:42 pm

Hi Kelly!
Spending one-on-one time with a dog is so great because you really get to know their personality! Then those little sideways glances of mischievous glee are so much funnier! Thank you for your comment and for linking my post! Your blog post is fabulous!

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