Do Dogs Help People With Anxiety?

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I had planned on writing this post for about a week. I sat down to get started yesterday evening and noticed that our new puppy, Elle, had a lump on the side of her face. We immediately realized she must have been stung by a bee. Within minutes, her eyes started to swell. She was visibly uncomfortable, rubbing her face on the ground as if she was trying to scratch an itch. We dropped everything and rushed her to the nearest vet. On the way there, I was panicked. I could feel my anxiety level rising yet I couldn’t help but laugh. Not because of the situation of course, but because of the irony of it all. Here I was, about to write about the ways that having a dog can help with my anxiety and I was on my way to a panic attack, because of that same beautiful dog.

So… Do Dogs Help People With Anxiety?

Obviously, getting a dog didn’t magically cure my panic disorder, but I can see why so many people believe that having a dog can help people with both anxiety and depression.

When I feel a panic attack coming on, the best thing anyone can do is distract me. They say the best way to fight anxiety is to live your life. Find a hobby that holds your attention, or an activity that you can become absorbed in. Could there be a better, sweeter distraction than a dog? Whether you are feeding, petting, walking or just enjoying your new companion, you are distracting yourself from any fears that may build in your head. You can’t worry about anything if you’re too busy living and loving.

While a similar argument could be made for people, dogs provide protection and comfort, without the drama that people usually present. This is especially necessary for those suffering from anxiety. The unconditional love you get from a dog can’t help but make you happy. Research also shows oxytocin is released and stress hormones decrease when we are petting a dog.  For me, petting Elle calms me down. For those moments, I’m only thinking of her and not overwhelming myself with my chores, my worries or my fears.

Dogs aren’t able to do most things for themselves, so there is always a sense of urgency for the people who take care of them. They need to be fed, walked, bathed, brushed, etc. Having these daily tasks to do, gives their owners a sense of feeling needed and gives them a purpose. Having this routine can completely change the mindset of someone who suffers from anxiety or depression.

Research shows that regular exercise can increase serotonin levels in your brain, lower your blood pressure and help you sleep better. All of these things help your overall mood and can help lower your anxiety level. For me, the problem was making the time to do the exercise. Having a dog has introduced an exercise routine into my life that I have to make time for. Whether we are walking around the block, running around the yard, playing fetch or tossing a frisbee, having a dog means you are exercising daily and most of the time, you don’t even realize it.

Do you need an emotional support dog?

Update on Elle

I’m happy to report that Elle is feeling much better today. The swelling has gone down considerably and we know what to do if she should happen to get stung again (but let’s hope those bees keep their distance). I should mention that my Mama bear feelings took over my feelings of anxiety quickly, especially once we arrived at the veterinarian’s office. All I could think about was making sure she felt safe and was well taken care of. Elle has become like another child to me and I’m so grateful for all of the lessons she’ll teach me and the love that she has and will bring to our family.

If you suffer from anxiety, do you find that a pet helps keep you grounded? Comment below! I’d love to hear from you!

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Obviously, getting a dog won't magically cure anxiety or depression, but I've found four reasons why a pet can definitely help!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Obviously, getting a dog won't magically cure anxiety or depression, but I've found four reasons why a pet can definitely help!

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I'm so honored that you've found us! I'm Heather, a Mom of 3 who blogs about parenting, food, occasional travel and how I overcame my daily struggle with anxiety. I miss sleeping and rely on coffee and laughter to get me through the day. I hope you enjoy and visit often!

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  1. It’s great to hear that Elle is doing better. I find that having a dog and cat around does help me relax. A good cuddle really helps.

  2. Dogs are emotional creatures. Of course they support our emotional health! Any pet is a great way to lower our stress.

  3. I think they do. Based on my experience with my fur baby, he can sense that something is not right. He would lay beside me on the floor and rest his head on my feet. He would even follow me to the toilet to check if everything is okay. He keeps me company and cuddles up when I am going through some “not so pleasant” days.

  4. I’m glad Elle is feeling better. We have a dog and a cat and I find they do help relax me. Their cuddles do wonders.

  5. YES! The answer is yes! The fact that my dog is just there for me with no questions asked is one of the main reasons.

  6. My dog definitely helps with anxiety. He’s a small chihuahua and when I am stressed that is when he loves to love the most.

  7. I totally believe dogs have this capability. There’s something soothing about petting a dog, and they’re so forgiving!

  8. So good to read that Elle recovered! Your post reminds me of something I read years ago about how volunteers take animals to nursing homes because their companionship is so beneficial to residents.

  9. I sure would think so. Even if the whole world rejects you, your pet dog wouldn’t. He or she is a friend for life. Sure is a good boost for the self esteem.

  10. That’s a great question. My kids want a dog so bad I just don’t know if I have the time or energy to upkeep one but this is good for those truly considering adding to their family.

  11. I really think that dogs or any pet that can love you back, is a great way to help with anxiety. You see it all the time when someone is having an attack and their dog comes to protect them.

  12. Dogs are proven to be the best pal and best companion especially those with anxiety. They help to keep you calm and at ease and they know if something is wrong.

  13. I love having a dog as my pet. I believe they can help in regulating our stress, tension and anxiety. Thanks for sharing.

  14. Absolutely, on both sides! As pet parents, we certainly get anxious and worried when our pets get sick or injured. But our fur babies definitely help relieve anxiety and depression, and typically bring smiles to our faces. We have 4 dogs and 8 cats – all rescues – and each of them has a unique personality and their own special characteristics. I love our fur babies!

  15. Yes, having a pet can definitely help with anxiety. I’m so glad Elle is feeling much better!

  16. I think my pet really knows how to read my emotional states. So in that way, he knows when to come when I am experiencing anxiety. And he definitely helps out.

  17. Dogs, in particular, can reduce stress, anxiety, and depression, ease loneliness, encourage exercise and playfulness, and even improve your cardiovascular health. Caring for a dog can help children grow up more secure and active. Dogs also provide valuable companionship for older adults.

  18. When anxious, it’s always best to find something to distract you before you can fall into depression so for sure, I’ll agree that with dogs around, that’s sorted.

  19. Really?! That was amazing to know all that from you. “Dogs are man’s best friend” that is the common phrase about the dog, isn’t it? And I do believe also that dogs can help people anxiety.

  20. I know my pup certainly brings me a lot of joy. I had never considered how beneficial dogs can be to help with reducing anxiety and stress. Definitely makes me extra grateful for my sweet scruffy pup.

  21. A friend of mine has a therapy dog for her son. It’s incredible the relationship that they have and the soothing effects the dog has on him. It’s such a magical relationship.

  22. Dogs are such a blessing. They instantly make you feel good. I have a cat and I feel much better ever since

  23. Dogs are really great family support especially during hard times. When my Dad passed so suddenly, his pet really comforted my Mom

  24. I think animals in general are great for those suffering with anxiety. I know I find our dog a huge comfort during panic attacks.

  25. My sister has pretty bad anxiety. I never thought about telling her to get a dog. Thanks for the advice!

  26. The distraction is the best way to get out from a panic atack. And a dog is the best distraction. Also it gives you a lot , a lot of love!

  27. Oh I know they help with anxiety. If I have had a bad day, all I have to do is cuddle up with our Ernest and life was good.

  28. I wonder if this is true or not. I have anxiety but have no dog and don’t want one. for me it’ll just use more space in my mind than do good but who knows!

  29. We have several therapy dogs at my kids’ schools. Dogs really do have a way of helping the kids calm down.

  30. Dogs can also be good friends. Just exercising might be boring but playing with the dog is entertaining. It’ll definitely help people having anxiety.

  31. 100% they do! Nothing beats coming home from a hard day’s work than your best friend jumping up and down! Love em!

  32. What a beautiful post. I have a friend who copes so much better with her dog.
    I would love to get a dog one day. I have two cats now, and they definitely bring me a lot of peace!

  33. I truly believe that pets can help with anxiety, depression and other illness. Not just dogs, but almost any kind of pet. I’ve heard of therapy with horses, cats, birds and others. They help children and adults to overcome major surgeries, conditions or emotional distress. Great post!

    XO
    Candace

  34. I definitely believe in pet therapy &it works wonders. To have an animal dependent on you and love you unconditionally teaches you so much!!

  35. yes! i have heard so many things about pet therapy! isn’t this amazing and endearing how a dog can bond and help one to improve!

  36. Oh they absolutely do, the unconditional love from our pets is just so pure. Glad she is feeling better, that’s so scary!

  37. My dogs certainly do! I can feel my blood pressure lower just seeing their cute, loving faces!

  38. What an adorable pup! I’m glad to hear that Ellie is feeling much better after the bee sting. She’s a great addition to your family, and I’m glad she helps lower your anxiety.

  39. While dogs can be a TON of work, I firmly believe that they are such great additions to our lives. They keep us healthy and truly give us something to live for.

  40. I’ve heard so much about animals helping with stress and anxiety! I definitely believe that’s true!! I’m glad Elle is doing better!

  41. We don’t have pets because of my kids’ allergies, but when I am around a dog, I do feel less anxious, so I do think they have some sort of calming power.

  42. I can see dogs helping people with anxiety. For me, I think it would be the opposite as dogs are not my thing.

  43. Yes, I totally agree! Dogs are just magical in so many ways. I work in a retirement home and our residents love when a dog comes to visit. Pure, unconditional love, and great company. Glad Elle is ok.

  44. I know a few people who suffer from anxiety and they all swear that their pets help them. Both cats AND dogs, so I think there is something to it.

  45. Dogs have such a calming way about them. Well, most of them. Not my brother’s chihuahua. That little guy drives me up a wall with his barking.

  46. I think that dogs help with a multitude of things. Especially anxiety, dogs have a way or calming various life events.

  47. A dog can really help a lot those who suffer from anxiety, I think you create a beautiful interchange between the animal and the person!

  48. I’m so glad Elle is feeling much better! Dogs are so much fun. Dogs not only calm anxiety but my dog, Max, keeps me laughing all the time.

  49. I’m so glad Elle is doing better! What a scary experience. I do think pets can help with anxiety. I know our cats come near if they see we are upset.

  50. Dogs do help people with anxiety I believe. I have chronic pain due to failed back surgery and my physician recommended I get a little dog. He has really helped me a lot and I went from being bed bound to getting back part of my life back because I’d have to get up to let him out. And one step led to another and another and today I’m giving him 100% of the credit. Laughing at his silliness is another way my anxiety takes a back burner.

  51. Well of course they do. We even take dogs into our local nursing homes to help calm and make the older ones happy. They love petting and talking to the dogs.