If you ask any dog owner about their four-legged companion, they will lavish praise on them. Dogs’ unconditional love and loyalty may brighten anyone’s day, but can they also help you cope with anxiety? Yes, in a nutshell.
Anxiety is the most frequent mental disorder among adults in the United States, impacting around 40 million people annually. Anxiety can be a symptom of other mental illnesses such as depression, bipolar disorder, and obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD).
Any mental illness can be complex, but having a dog can immensely assist. Over the last two decades, numerous scientific studies have shown the favorable impacts of the human-animal connection on physical and mental health.
While the many advantages of owning a pet are well known, let’s look at how dogs can help with anxiety and which breeds are best for anxious owners.
How Can Dogs Assist People With Anxiety?
First and foremost, we must comprehend how dogs assist with anxiety.
Restlessness, persistent concern, weariness, and self-doubt are some of the most typical symptoms of anxiety. Positive hormonal changes result from human-animal interactions, which help alleviate these problems.
According to the Human-Animal Bond Research Institute (HABRI), positive human-animal interactions result in lower blood pressure, a slower heart rate, and less stress due to increased synthesis of hormones, including cortisol, oxytocin, dopamine, and others.
The neuropeptide oxytocin, for example, is known as “the cuddle hormone.” It controls social bonding as well as stress alleviation. Dog interaction has been demonstrated to raise oxytocin levels in the brain. Increased oxytocin levels cause a slower heart rate, a reduction in stress hormone production, and a decrease in fear and anxiety.
Recent research from the Journal of Psychiatric Research and Queen’s University has found that pets can help persons with mental illnesses. Overall, there is sufficient evidence that bonding with a dog can improve your mental health by reducing anxiety and depression symptoms.
Top 10 Best Dogs to Reduce Anxiety
1. Poodle Standard
Poodles with the fancy “Continental Clip” fur pattern are mainly known as show dogs. However, contrary to popular thought, poodles make excellent friends. Poodles are energetic, athletic, and affectionate.
The poodle is the appropriate dog for you if you want an intelligent dog that adjusts to your demands and is always upbeat. Poodles were first used in Europe for duck hunting. They are simple to train, flexible, and get along with others.
They are a good breed for psychiatric care because of their intelligence, enthusiasm to comply, and superior obedience training. Poodles are also a low-shedding breed with hypoallergenic coats, making them appropriate for most humans, including those allergic to animal fur.
The excitement of a standard poodle is sure to cheer you up when you’re down. Poodles are also noted for being inherently friendly and sensitive to their owners’ feelings, even if they were uneducated. Those suffering from anxiety, depression, and other mental diseases will benefit from this attribute.
2. Labrador Retriever
Labrador retrievers are among the most popular companion dogs. They have appeared in several Hollywood blockbusters, including Marley and Me. They’re also a popular selection for guide dogs. You’ve probably seen them assisting blind or disabled people. Labradors are chosen for this duty because they quickly grasp and obey directions and have a calm and stable temperament.
These loyal canines are incredibly bright, and their continual attention and devotion make their owners feel safer. For those suffering from anxiety, the capacity to make owners feel safe in their surroundings is a crucial asset.
They used to assist hunters in retrieving their kills and walking across rugged terrain to deliver them to their owners, much like poodles. They’ve since been retrained for a variety of tasks. Their calm temperament and obedience help their worried owners feel secure in their surroundings. It is a massive help for anxiety-bound persons easily overwhelmed in new situations.
Labradors are also employed in other psychiatric services, including assisting children with autism or people suffering from Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADD). Labradors are also quite lively and can be used to distract owners.
3. Golden Retriever
The golden retriever is another Hollywood favorite. These canines are loyal buddies to their owners because of their beautiful coats and endearing liveliness. Golden retrievers are known for their distinctive golden coat and placid temperament. They can readily socialize with different people and pets.
Golden retrievers, like Labrador retrievers, are popular companions and guide dogs. They were developed to aid hunters and are highly obedient creatures. They are simple to train because of their obedience.
Retrievers are quick learners who may easily adjust to the needs of their owners. Almost everything may be taught to them. The loyalty of golden retrievers is well-known.
Another distinguishing feature is their almost limitless vigor. All-day long, golden retrievers will cheerfully stroll about or fetch. So, suppose you need someone to go out with, and physical activity helps you relax. In that case, a golden retriever is the most excellent choice.
4. A Pug Is an Excellent Choice if
Suppose you enjoy small dogs with uncannily human-like expressive. While this breed is not for everyone, they are devoted companions that are usually very upbeat.
Pugs are lively and a joy to be around when adequately taught, making them a popular choice for anyone with any ailment. Pugs are known as the “clowns of the dog world” because of their weird yet endearing grunts and sniffles that make everyone around them laugh.
Pugs soothe concerned owners not just by looking silly and cute. Still, they also have a happy disposition and are always up for some affection. Another of their robust features is that they are easy to get along with. If you’ve ever met one of these sweet little furballs, you know how much fun they can be. Pugs are also great with kids.
Pugs are adorable, active canines that can help people with anxieties and spirits and smother them with cuddles. Pugs can go almost anywhere and get along with everyone in the room.
5. Yorkshire Terrier
The Yorkshire terrier is another tiny bundle of joy that can help those with anxiety. The Yorkshire Terrier, or “Yorkie,” is famous for therapy and service dogs. These tiny balls of energy have a unique ability to lift people’s spirits.
They have a cute appearance and are small enough to be taken almost anywhere without difficulty. Create strong ties with their owners and are easily transportable in pouches or bags. They’re a popular choice for assistance dogs because of their portability.
According to Animal Planet, the world’s first therapy dog was a Yorkie named Smokey. During World War II, Smokey was employed to cheer up ailing soldiers. Dr. Charles Mayo of the renowned Mayo Clinic began taking him on his daily rounds.
Since he was good at helping the soldieDespitepite, their small statuYorkies re, are fearless, lively, and easy to socialize with. They adore their owner and are quite affectionate. Yorkies are ideal for delivering unconditional love and attention to their worried owners.
Consider a Havanese if you want a dog that will stay by your side at all times and is always prepared to give attention. These little critters are very loving and have a calm demeanor.
This breed is recognized for its friendliness and outgoing personality, making them ideal family pets. They’re also appropriate for folks who share a room with many people. You won’t have to worry about taking your dog out on the town because Havanese thrive in social situations.
Anxiety patients frequently experience restlessness and insecurity. A consistent partner who likes to stand by you, no matter what, is a terrific approach to relieve these feelings; Havanese are highly loving when you’re feeling loving and will smother you in love.
If properly trained, Havanese dogs can be an excellent companion for persons suffering from mental illnesses. They are wonderful therapy dogs since they are sensitive to their owners’ emotions. They’re always willing to soothe your fears and keep you grounded.
7. Bichon Frise
If you’re looking for a fluffy companion, a bichon frise is your dog. These dogs are constantly upbeat and cheerful. This breed is perfect for folks who enjoy socializing.
Bichon frises are regarded as being one of the friendliest breeds of dogs. They get along well with other dogs and are equally charming to people. Bichon frises are very social dogs who enjoy being near their owners and showing them affection.
Bichon Frise training is simple, and they adore their owners. They have a happy disposition and can quickly adjust to your demands and habits. A bichon frise can be your cuddling friend on the couch or a lively puppy to play with.
Bichon Frise’s shed extremely little, making them perfect for allergy sufferers. The sole disadvantage is that this breed is extremely fluffy, necessitating extensive grooming. Owners must schedule grooming appointments regularly.
8. Welsh Corgi
Because of their diminutive appearance, Welsh corgis are often ignored as service dogs, although they make excellent guide dogs. Corgis are also utilized as therapy dogs since they are very intuitive about their owners’ moods.
Originally, Welsh corgis were bred to herd cattle. They’re bright, curious, and eager to please. They get along well with other people, but it takes time to adjust to other canines.
Corgis are one of the most loving and loyal pets a person could have. They like being with their owners and are frequently used as companions in nursing homes and other care facilities.
Corgis are lively dogs who enjoy resting, so they’ll link frequently drag you out of the only. It may not be appropriate for those who prefer to stay inside. On the other hand, haCorgis is ideal for those who enjoy walks and want a lively companion to help with anxiety symptoms.
Corgis are smaller than retrievers but larger than Yorkies. Thus they cannot be carried everywhere. Although these medium-sized canines are too large to sit on your lap, they will happily sit at your feet.
9. German Shepherd
A German shepherd is likely to come to mind when considering service dogs. German shepherds are obedient and disciplined. They are quite quiet, and they rapidly learn and adapt to their owner’s needs.
German shepherds are extremely intelligent and are used in a variety of capacities. They work as police dogs, guide dogs, and other types of dogs. Some have even received training to assist persons with diabetes and PTSD (PTSD).
German shepherds can be trained to sense impending panic episodes and give a distraction by pawing at you or offering to cuddle anxious individuals. Their strong protective instincts aid them in this endeavor.
Any dog owner’s dream is to have a German shepherd. They are dependable, enthusiastic, and pleasant to be around. They’re appropriate for folks who live alone or in groups. A well-trained German shepherd is a wonderful companion for owners with mental illness.
10. Border Collie
Border collies are considered to be one of the most intelligent dog breeds. They are obedient and helpful pets who strive to please their owners. They are incredibly attached to their humans and like playing with them.
Border collies were bred to herd cattle because of their intelligence and ease of training. They have a contagious enthusiasm that will get you out of bed and moving about. Their cuteness also contributes to their goal of cheering you up.
Like many other service dogs, Border collies are sensitive to their masters’ emotions. They also enjoy cuddling. When they notice their owner is upset, they try to soothe them or divert them by showing physical affection.
Some people with anxiety may find their seemingly endless energy irritating. Still, everyone’s requirements are different, and some people may like a border collie’s playful attitude.
Choosing the Best Dog for Anxiety Relief
Let’s delve a little deeper to help you narrow down your choices now that you know the finest breeds to aid with anxiety.
Should You Get an Emotional Support Dog, Therapy Dog, or Service Dog?
It would be best to consider whether you want a service, therapy, or emotional support dog. This decision is based on your daily requirements.
Service Dogs for Psychiatrists
Psychiatric Assistance Dogs are carefully taught to assist owners with mental problems by specific groups. They can recognize triggers and take the appropriate actions to help their owner.
A psychiatric service dog, for example, can assist their owner during a panic episode by:
- Bringing the required medications or water
- Getting a phone so that their owner can contact their therapist or other resources
- Using physical actions such as licking or pawing to prevent emotional overload.
- Recruiting people to assist a person in need.
A mental service dog is not available to everyone. Because the canines are trained to assist persons with severe disabilities, this is the case. Only a tiny percentage of the 40 million people who suffer from anxiety each year are eligible for a service dog. Individuals with less severe or incapacitating disorders are recommended to seek emotional assistance or therapy dogs.
A registered medical expert must recommend a service dog.
The Americans with Disabilities Act gives service dogs legal protection (ADA). It means that businesses and organizations must make arrangements to allow these dogs to accompany their owners everywhere they go. They can fly with their owners, and landlords must provide the required accommodations for the dog to live with them.
Therapy dogs are taught to provide physical comfort to people. They help people cope with anxiety, loneliness, and stress in nursing homes, hospitals, schools, and other care facilities. They also assist traumatized combat veterans and accident survivors.
These canines do not need to be certified, but they must undergo training. They don’t receive the same level of training as assistance dogs. They are educated to be calm, gentle, and affectionate rather than executing specific activities because they provide help to a large number of people.
The Americans with Disabilities Act does not protect therapy dogs since they are viewed as pets (ADA). It means you can’t take a therapy dog on flights or where pets aren’t permitted.
Emotional Assistance Dogs
You should adopt an emotional support dog if you want someone to be there for you when your anxiety flares up. These dogs provide comfort to their owners and assist them by being their loving, lovely selves.
Emotional support dogs are considered pests, and the Americans with Disabilities Act protects them (ADA). If you wish to take your dog into a simple, you must first obtain permission from the store’s proprietors.
You can also fly with your emotional support dog or request that your landlord make specific changes to your living circumstances with a letter from your therapist, doctor, or another competent medical expert.
Emotional support animals can technically be any animal. They do not have to register, but it is suggested because it aids in the resolution of difficult situations in public spaces. You may even get a service dog vest for your four-legged friend to make things easier.
You can choose the type of dog you want based on the intensity of your anxiety. A psychiatric service dog is required for severe and crippling anxiety. In contrast, emotional support or therapy canines are needed for mild and moderate pressure.
Should You Get a Big Dog or a Little Dog?
Size is another important consideration when choosing a four-legged partner. It is essential in your daily life, and everyone has their tastes. Here are some things to think about when making your decision:
Small dogs are great for folks who enjoy being active. Yorkies, for example, may easily be packed into a backpack and taken with you wherever you go. They’re also small enough to fit on your lap.
Small dogs are also ideal for people on a budget because their care is frequently less expensive. Crates, vet visits, and foods are less costly for small dogs than for their larger counterparts. A tiny dog may also be easier to handle for first-time dog owners.
Larger dogs are usually calmer and quieter, but smaller dogs may become overly enthusiastic and bark frequently. If noise levels are a significant concern, a larger breed is recommended. Large dogs are also better suited to providing you with a nice, big snuggle when you need it.
A key advantage of owning a large dog is that you may feel comfortable in almost any situation. Owners who are easily overwhelmed by their surroundings or constantly concerned about their safety should choose a larger dog.
Choosing a breed is a big step in the right direction. After that, you might consider other elements that impact you and your dog. Please think about the following aspects before buying a dog:
Pet Ownership and Responsibilities
You must be able to supply your dog’s fundamental demands, whether you choose a large or tiny dog. These requirements include feeding them regularly, taking them for daily walks, playing with them, and visiting the veterinarian regularly. There are also financial considerations.
Because you’re dealing with worry, it’s normal if you skip a walk or put off a vet appointment. Do not punish yourself excessively; however, these requirements must be accomplished gradually and quickly.
You might solicit the support of your loved ones if these obligations become too much, for perhaps owning a pet isn’t for if this isn’t doable for you.
Taking Care of Your Own Mental Health
Dogs can considerably improve your mental health, but you are ultimately responsible for your well-being. Do not use your dog as an excuse to avoid therapy or medication visits. Instead, utilize your dog to motivate you to stay on track.
While a support or service dog will unconditionally love you and assist you anytime you need it; they cannot compensate for poor mental health. Owners must make an active effort to discover the triggers, symptoms, and alleviation techniques for their anxiety in addition to adopting a support dog.
Do Not Abuse the System
While most people are sympathetic to disabled people and animals, taking advantage of others’ generosity will get you in trouble. Both you and your dog may suffer as a result.
Many pet owners, for example, falsely claim their dog is an emotional support animal to gain easy access to planes. It affects not only the airline and other passengers but also your dog.
Abusing people’s trust and empathy makes life more difficult for those who rely on their service dogs. It generates unwelcome suspicion and forces disabled people to jump through more hoops.
Where Can I Get An Anxiety-Relieving Dog?
You can visit local groups to meet your prospective four-legged friend if you’re ready to obtain a dog to help with your anxiety.
You can visit local shelters if you want an emotional support dog to show you affection and keep you grounded. Many of the breeds mentioned above can be found at local shelters or breed-specific rescue organizations.
Consider adopting an older dog instead of a puppy because older dogs are frequently gentler and easier to handle, especially first-time dog owners. Older dogs are more likely to be housebroken and have plenty of affection to give. Getting younger puppies means you’ll have to devote more time and effort to training and preparing them for their new home.
Emotional support dogs can be purchased from breeders as well. Local breeders can be contacted through classified advertisements or social media to assist you in finding the ideal pet. Verify that your breeder is registered correctly. A significant advantage of purchasing a dog from a breeder is that they may provide extensive medical information and breed history on your potential pet.
A letter from a licensed medical expert, such as a therapist or a psychologist, is required if you wish to have a psychiatric service dog. You can contact groups that supply service dogs once you obtain the letter. These organizations specialize in service animal training and can assist you in finding the ideal one for you.
Learn more: 5 Things You Don’t Know About Service Dogs
Choosing the proper dog can significantly reduce your anxiety, especially if you select one of the above breeds. Teach and treat your dog appropriately, and you’ll have an unwavering support system by your side for many years.