Getting a dog for depression(A furry experience)

From the article below, you will learn about the benefits of getting a dog for your depression. 

Depression is a widespread mental health issue affecting almost 264 million people globally. Talk therapy, medication, a disciplined life and socializing can help with the symptoms of depression. But getting a dog can also help you get over your low mood, feelings of worthlessness and pessimism. 

Did you know getting a dog can help with your depression? 

The furry animal will make you happy and become your emotional support at times of despair and mood fluctuation. 

Studies show that interaction with dogs makes us happy and emotionally stable. It has been found that people who spend a lot of time with dogs have low blood pressure and exhibit lesser stress and anxiety. Just playing with dogs has been shown to elevate oxytocin and dopamine, creating positive feelings and bonding for both the person and their pet.

Human-Dog Relation, an evolutionary perspective :

If you were ever given a chance to be a dog and live in the dog world for a day you would be quite efficient at understanding what they are trying to say. You can understand a nervous yip, an angry growl, a loud bark expressing annoyance and differentiate between a welcoming  bark and a get-lost-bark. Reading a dog’s basic body language is possible by anyone even if they have not spent a lot of time with dogs. This clearly states the bond that we share with them has a depth in it.

We are familiar with the emotional expressions of dogs more than any other animal. The way we grasped language, similarly we have an inherent ability in understanding what a dog has to say even if it is the first time we are interacting with them. This is because dogs and humans have been spending time with each other since time immemorial. Our world and their world are entangled together for a long time like two different shades of paint. It is believed dogs and humans share a symbiotic relationship ( based on equal benefits to both participant species) just like a shark and a remora. The difference is they don’t share a warm and loving relationship like us.

Looking at the historical perspective of our relation with dogs, we get to understand how and where it all began. Archeological evidence says, 30,000 years ago, dogs were among the first animals to be domesticated by humans.  When wolves began scavenging food wastes from humans, they were used for domestication and were provided shelter and protection in lieu of hunting facilities. Their relation was not only restricted to exchange of benefits but also an abode for love, trust, play and warmth.  As these domesticated wolves were breeding, over 1,000s of years they became dogs as we know them today. Naturalist Mark Derr said in his book-How the Dog Became the Dog — From Wolves to Our Best Friends : “That’s when they started traveling together, and they’ve been at it ever since,” he says. “The dog is a creation of wolves and humans — of two equal beings that came together at a certain point in history and have been together ever since.”

A few archeological evidences as extracted from the article named  “The human-dog relationship – a historical perspective “: “At a burial site in Predmosti (Czech Republic) a dog was discovered buried with a bone (believed to be from a mammoth) carefully placed in his mouth after death – it is believed to be 32,000 years old; In Ober-Kassel (Germany) the skeleton of a disabled dog was buried with the bodies of a man and of a woman; radiocarbon dating puts this at about 14,300 years ago”, clearly shows how our connection was becoming more emotional than just practical benefits. 

There is evidence which shows how dogs were worshipped in various civilizations. Their role was to accompany the dead to the other world.

Gradually staying and spending time with humans dogs started understanding human body language and facial expressions more readily and accurately than even chimpanzees. Canine companions quickly became an enriching and desirable commodity for humans, from the hunt to the hearth, and the benefits didn’t stop at the hallway. 

Native Australian and Indian Inuit culture has a common saying called “three dog nights” which translates to when someone is lonely and cold, you decide to sleep with your dog for warmth and companionship. The aborigines and inuits brought their dogs into the bedroom and slept with them to enhance their emotional well-being. The relationship which began as a mutual service contract between two species got transformed to friendship and thereby love.

 History and evolution quite rightfully demonstrates the mutual relationship we have with dogs since time immemorial filled with love, warmth, trust and happiness. 

Dogs can help you with depression 

Dogs can become your hope, source of happiness and motivation, especially if you are depressed. 

Let’s look at the benefits of living with a dog if you are suffering from depression :

Exercise

 Dogs need exercise on a regular basis. You have to take them on frequent walks, play with them and make them exercise, which means you will have to exercise too. You will have to maintain a schedule if you get a dog to make them exercise and take them for a walk. It will make you disciplined and organized. 

A year-long study at the Wellness Institute at Northwestern Memorial Hospital, Chicago found that walking an overweight dog helped both the animals and their owners shed unwanted pounds. Researchers found that the dogs provided support in similar ways to a human exercise buddy, but with greater consistency and without any negative influence.

Research has shown that consistency in one’s schedule can help reduce stress levels and lead to better sleep patterns and overall health.Studies have shown that dog owners are far more likely to meet their daily exercise requirements—and exercising every day is great for the animal as well. It will deepen the connection between you, eradicate most behavior problems in dogs, and keep your pet fit and healthy.

Exercise and regularity will help you produce endorphins which will further keep you energetic, happy and motivated thus help you fight depression.

Company

Companionship can help prevent illness and even add years to your lifespan, while isolation and loneliness can trigger symptoms of depression. Without socializing, your depressive episodes may become severe. 

If you start living with a dog, you will find reason to talk to people at dog parks or while on walks. Dog owners frequently stop and talk to each other on walks, hikes, or in a dog park. Pet owners also meet new people.

Keeping a dog will help you communicate with it all day and not feel lonely. It will make you quench your social needs and you will no longer feel lonely. 

A regularity

Keeping a dog is a task of regularity and discipline. Many pets, especially dogs, require a regular feeding and exercise schedule. Having a consistent routine keeps an animal balanced and calm—and it can work for you, too. Discipline helps you to lead a balanced life and aim for self-development.

Self-worth

Committing to taking care of an animal has to do a lot with how we feel about ourselves. When we are depressed, we often become trapped in anhedonia. If you get a dog, you will be able to realise you are quite capable of loving another being; this love will eventually direct towards you. You will be cuddled, loved back and respected. Dogs are the most loyal being you will ever meet. A dog will love you like the most honest and true lover. This will make you feel confident about yourself and nurture self-worth.

If you love dogs but can’t commit to or afford one, try dog-sitting! Sites and apps like Rover.com allow you to do everything from short walks and check-ins to daycare and dog boarding. It’s worth a try.

Providing sensory pleasure

Touching and stroking a dog helps in lowering blood pressure thus providing immense sensory pleasure. Cuddling a dog helps you in instantly gaining relief from stress and anxiety. 

A real life experience: 

Let’s see how Louise Taylor shares her story of fighting depression with the help of a cute brown pomeranian. She got depression after losing  2 of her family dogs. She was hopeless and on the verge of reaching rock bottom. Her fiance suggested to get another dog. When she finally got her a beautiful pomeranian, her journey to defeat depression started. Socializing, exercise, discipline helped her out of her depressive episodes as she finally comments, “I now know that he chose me for a reason, and I’m certain he came into my life to make it better and get me healthy because I’m the happiest now that I’ve been in a long long time. It’s been a long road, and a mixture of medication and therapy has also helped, but having Gus in my life has played a huge part too. Yes he is still naughty, he still poops in the house sometimes, but oh my god it’s so worth it! And I know that when his time is up, I will be heartbroken yes, but it would have been worth it to have him in my life.”

Side Note: I have tried and tested various products and services to help with my anxiety and depression. See my top recommendations here, as well as a full list of all products and services our team has tested for various mental health conditions and general wellness.

Conclusion

From the article above, the benefits of getting a dog for depression is quite well understood. With an evolutionary perspective we also got to know why human-dog relation is so pure. 

FAQs :Getting a dog for depression

Is getting a dog good for depression?

The furry animal will make you happy and become your emotional support at times of despair and mood fluctuation. 

What pet is best for depression?

Most people think about dogs for depression relief

Can dogs smell depression?

Dogs can sense depression, and many of them can respond in a loving way too.

Can dogs improve your mental health?

The furry animal will make you happy and become your emotional support at times of despair and mood fluctuation. 

Studies show that interaction with dogs makes us happy and emotionally stable. It has been found that people who spend a lot of time with dogs have low blood pressure and exhibit lesser stress and anxiety. Just playing with dogs has been shown to elevate oxytocin and dopamine, creating positive feelings and bonding for both the person and their pet.

What we recommend for depression

Professional counselling

If you are suffering from depression then ongoing professional counselling may be your ideal first point of call. Counselling will utilize theories such as Cognitive behavioural therapy which will help you live a more fulfilling life.

References:

https://www.nami.org/Blogs/NAMI-Blog/February-2018/How-Dogs-Can-Help-with-Depression

https://www.huffpost.com/entry/how-a-dog-helped-me-manag_b_9301622

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