How Dogs Help Depression and Health
There is No Need for a Dog to have Special Training to Help Someone Suffering
Dogs can help symptoms of depression because they are pack animals and instinctively form close bonds with other members of their "pack" or family. By their very nature, they will help provide emotional support to other members of their pack by being loyal and affectionate companions.
Physical Touch. The sheer presence of a dog is calming - you're instinctively drawn to stroke or pet them. This can be especially helpful for people suffering from anxiety disorders or panic attacks
The sense of Touch is hugely beneficial psychologically - the act of stroking your pet can be soothing, and so improve your mood if you are down or depressed. It can also lower your blood pressure and stress levels.
Affection and Self Esteem. Pets are uncomplicated - they don't have their own agendas and they love you unconditionally.
Caring for another living being and receiving affection in return is great for anyone's self-esteem - especially if you are lonely, bereaved or depressed.
Reducing Isolation and loneliness. Dogs are a talking point and "social lubricant"- small as it may seem a simple exchange of pleasantries between dog owners in the park can be hugely helpful if you are feeling isolated, depressed or anxious. They also tend to be a good supply of silly stories to help break the ice
Dog-related activities can form the beginnings of new hobbies, friendships. Activities vary from basic obedience to flyball or dog agility classes.
Taking Responsibility. In rescuing a support dog you are taking on responsibility for the care and wellbeing of another living being, even if it has four paws instead of two legs! Hugely rewarding though it may be, its also a big responsibility and not a small undertaking to be cast aside or left behind lightly. When you are feeling rock bottom your responsibility as guardian to the dog you rescued can be a lifeline.
Relationship Building. In rescuing a dog, you are effectively acquiring a new member of your family or pack, which, like any relationship, will grow with trust, respect, loving bonds but also bring its share of relationshp tension and challenges to be worked through, much like a relationship with a human family member might do.
Managing Thoughts and Feelings. Dogs don't understand our verbal conversation, they read us at a much more fundamental level of energy and emotional state - you can't lie to a dog ! They instictively know when you are projective negative energy because you are feeling down, upset and respond.
Dog's behave best when they are exposed to positive calm assertive energy, if you are stressed, tense, anxious, frustrated, or upset, your dog will be less responsive to your commands and more likely to, say, pull on the lead or not return when you call. To be a successful calm assertive pack leader for your dog, you first need to be self aware of your own emotions and state of mind and how affects your dog.