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6 Ways Dogs Can Help Alleviate Depression and Anxiety

May is National Pet Month - a month that is dedicated to celebrating our pets and all the benefits they bring to our lives. Everyone knows a dog is man’s (or woman’s) best friend. They’re loyal and loving, and provide endless joy to their owners, as well as anyone who comes into their lives.

But did you know there are other benefits our fur babies bring? With anxiety and depression in people on the rise, a dog can actually help people cope with this, or even help people alleviate it and put them in a better and healthier mental state. Here are six ways they can do this.

The Power of Touch
It’s scientifically proven that human beings need to touch and be touched. Hugs produce oxytocin in the body, which reduces stress. Even just putting your hand on someone else’s can provide comfort. As it turns out, touching a dog has the same benefits. Whether you’re hugging your dog or just petting them for a while, that tactile contact has a calming effect that boosts chemicals like serotonin and dopamine in the brain and helps minimize the sense of fight or flight in your mind. In essence, cuddling with and petting your dog makes you feel like everything’s going to be alright.

Stress Management & Heath Benefits
Are you or someone in your family about to engage in some sort of stressful behavior? Are your kids dealing with a particularly difficult homework assignment? Are you struggling to get the bills paid and wondering if you have enough money? Before, during, or after the task, spend some time with your dog. Petting a dog can actually help lower blood pressure and heart rate, especially if it’s a dog you have a strong emotional connection with. It can also ease physical pain and help boost your immune system.

Staying Active
Taking your dog for a walk every day gives you an opportunity to engage in regular physical activity. Getting exercise and spending time in the sun, instead of cooped up indoors, are both good for your mental health and can help fight against depression and anxiety.

Staying Positive
A dog’s presence can help distract you from the negative things you’re focusing on and even change negative behaviors. They give you something else to focus on besides your anger and frustration—something loving and constructive, like feeding, walking, or otherwise paying attention to your pet. This prevents you from dwelling on that negativity too much and lowers your likelihood of reinforcing those negative emotions with negative actions.

Instilling Responsibility
You wake up depressed. You feel terrible, and don’t want to do anything but lie in bed and watch Netflix—possibly for the next week straight. Your job doesn’t matter, your friends don’t matter… But you know what does matter? Your dog. He needs to be fed. He needs to be walked. Meeting your dog’s daily needs will help you maintain a sense of responsibility when all other tasks seem meaningless, and keep you from slipping too far into apathy and despair.

Unconditional Love
Dogs love and accept you just the way you are. No matter how bad the rest of the world seems, no matter how much other people may get you down, a dog will always be there for you. With a dog in your life, you’ll never be lonely. In fact, studies have shown that spending a bit of quiet time, alone with a dog, can help you feel less lonely, at times even more than spending that time with other people. Love is one of the best ways to fight against anxiety and depression, and there is no love purer than the love your dog has for you, and the love you give to him or her.

Giving Back

Our dogs do so much more for us on a daily basis, probably more than we realize. So what can we do for our fur baby in return? Loving them back, caring for them, and keeping them in good health are some of the obvious ways we can give back. However, just like humans, a dog’s mental health is an important part of living a healthy life. Dogs can experience a wide range of emotions beyond love - a dog will have all of the basic emotions including joy, fear, anger, and disgust.

Gift of Audiobooks for Dogs

Fear of being left alone is a common one and it can cause a lot of stress in our fur babies. Inspired by a 2015 independent academic study showing that listening to audiobooks outperformed music in reducing stress in canines, Audible conducted further research with 100 dog participants in partnership with Cesar Millan’s Dog Psychology Center. The study found that
76% of dog owners who played audiobooks for their dogs reported an increase in calm, relaxed behavior in their pets over a four-week period.” Furthermore, Audible’s research found that “dogs responded best to narrators of the same gender as their primary owner, played at average volume on an in-home listening device”.

So maybe the next time you head to work, get more out of your Audible subscription by putting on an audiobook for your fur baby to keep him/her feeling safe and less anxious. If you don’t already have an account, take advantage of being a valuable Waggit family member and enjoy 2 free audiobooks with a free trial through this exclusive offer from our friends at Audible.