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How Do Dogs Help Improve Your Mental Health?

It’s no secret that humans love their pets. After all, dogs love you unconditionally! However, they aren’t just cute sidekicks that make your life fuller

Owning a dog does so many amazing things for your health. Specifically, taking care of a pet helps your mental and emotional well-being.

How do dogs help improve your mental health?

Dogs have a positive impact on human emotions. People who struggle with depression and anxiety report high improvement with an animal in their lives. They also help senior citizens stay sharp as they age.

Dogs aren’t magicians; discover how their soft fur and adorable nature make their owners feel much better!

4 Ways Dogs Improve Your Mental Health

Have you ever looked at your pup and felt your problems melt away? Pets, especially dogs, have a unique ability to cheer us up when we’re feeling down.

The things dogs know about us are truly unique. Even though we don’t speak the same language, our furry friends have a knack for recognizing intense emotions.

These feelings aren’t random! Animal experts train therapy pets to act in a way that eases our worries.

However, you don’t need a professionally-trained dog to improve your mental health. Normal pets affect your emotional state in the following ways:

Increased Neurotransmitters

Did you know that pets change brain chemistry? Caring for a dog increases neurotransmitters like serotonin and dopamine.

These chemicals are responsible for positive emotions like happiness and tranquility. Studies show that people with certain mental illnesses produce more neurotransmitters in the presence of dogs, easing symptoms.

Improved Productivity

Many people with mental illnesses report high levels of isolation and loneliness. You can combat these feelings by finding ways to be productive.

Owning a dog improves productivity by nature. You have another living thing to care for, getting you moving daily.

Your pup depends on you to eat, go to the bathroom, and feel comfortable. They must also get a certain amount of exercise.

Your pup will get you out of bed and into the sunlight at least once a day. Getting them through their daily routine gives you something to focus on other depression or anxiety.

Building Emotional Bonds

People treat their pets like their children. After caring for something day in and day out, it’s hard not to form a connection.

Dogs help us build emotional bonds by teaching their owners about empathy. They allow you to practice nurturing something other than yourself and give you something to look forward to.

Just try and resist those warm and fuzzy feelings you get every time your dog buries their head in you. They do this behavior to evoke emotional responses that help you establish a healthy connection.

Provide a Sense of Purpose

Ultimately, owning a dog gives you a reason to get up every morning. From increasing productivity to building bonds, your four-legged friend can help you feel a sense of purpose.

People often fall into depressive states when their lives become directionless. However, dogs force you to build and follow a routine.

You can’t lay in bed all day when your pooch needs breakfast, a walk, and a potty break.

Many dog owners find friends in other dog lovers. There’s a special connection between “dog people” and each other. Your pups give you something to bond over and build human relationships.

Mental Illnesses Dogs Can Positively Affect

Dogs improve your mental health even if you don’t have a mental illness. However, those living with depression or anxiety profoundly reap the benefits.

Some people register their pets as “emotional support animals” to help them function throughout the day. Your ESA might accompany you to the grocery store and other errands to ease nervousness.

Working for a vet, we saw many emotional support animals and signed off on health-related paperwork. While most dogs are trainable, these were the most common breeds we saw as therapy animals and their complementary qualities:

Dog BreedAttributes
Retrevivers (Golden, Labrador)Loyal, trainable, good with kids, loving
PoodlesIntelligent, good around other dogs, soft and soothing coat
Cavelier King SpanielsMild-mannered, intelligent, and good around children and other animals
Bichon FrisePlayful, friendly, good around kids

Since many children struggle with self-esteem, kid-friendly dogs make great service animals. They can help small children build confidence by giving them responsibility.


Depression is one of the most widespread mental illnesses dogs can help their owners through. The health benefits lie in brain chemistry and neurotransmitter production.

Cuddling and being close to something you love stimulates your brain’s “love” chemical, a.k.a oxytocin. This neurotransmitter gives you the motivation to care for your pet like they’re a kid.

Dogs also help your produce serotonin, the “happy” chemical. A boost in serotonin levels stabilizes your mood while regulating your sleep schedule.

The result? A happy, well-rested dog owner with enough energy to fight depression.


Dogs also help people who struggle with different types of anxiety. Your four-legged friend eases nerves by reducing stress hormones and giving you support to depend on.

People with generalized anxiety often use pets as a distraction from overwhelming thoughts. They also work as pressure therapy; letting your dog sleep on top of you protects you while you’re vulnerable.

Owners experiencing panic attacks can use their dogs to help ground them in reality. Focusing on something other than yourself often draws people out of their anxious feelings and back into a rational thought pattern.

Have you ever felt nervous while out in public? Emotional support dogs help people with social anxiety conquer their fear of crowds. People are more likely to follow through with their plans if they have something like a dog to look to for love and support.

 Medical professionals and dog trainers teach service animals how to de-escalate panic attacks. Teach your furry friend a few service dog tasks for anxiety if you struggle with bouts of nervousness.

Cognitive Function

Older people experience rapid mental decline as they age. This change often causes mental illnesses in the elderly.

However, pets help senior citizens retain cognitive function by engaging their minds and bodies. After all, you must be alert and in good health to take care of a dog properly!

Having a pet also helps older adults for connections and maintain social skills. This is especially important for seniors in assisted living facilities; people often lose control of their mental health as they lose independence.

Having a dog helps seniors maintain a sense of individuality. They help fight isolation, which often causes older folks to decline even further.


What kinds of dogs help with mental health?

The best dog breeds for mental include Golden Retrievers, Poodles, and Cavalier Spaniels. However, any well-mannered, trainable dog can help with your mental health! Friendly, loving pups are the best at curing “the blues.”

What will a dog do if you’re sad?

Dogs tend to recognize when their owners are sad. They might snuggle up to you, whine, or lie by your feet. Some try to climb into your lap to apply pressure therapy.

What breed of dog is best for depression?

Labs, poodle mixes, and Yorkies are cheerful pups that help fight depression. Great Danes are also good breeds since their silly, laid-back nature often makes people laugh.

Bottom Line

No matter how you look at it, dogs improve your mental health in so many positive ways. Your furry friend isn’t just a cute face and soft body; it’s a natural remedy that eases your most painful feelings.

The next time you feel down, look to your pet to solve the problem. The answer may lie in their puppy dog eyes and loving personality.