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How Do Dogs Help with Anxiety? 6 Vet-Approved Ways They Reduce Stress

Written by: Sarah Psaradelis

Last Updated on May 6, 2024 by Dogster Team

Cute young woman kisses and hugs her puppy jack russell terrier dog

How Do Dogs Help with Anxiety? 6 Vet-Approved Ways They Reduce Stress

VET APPROVED

Dr. Marta Vidal-Abarca Photo

REVIEWED & FACT-CHECKED BY

Dr. Marta Vidal-Abarca

Veterinarian, BVSC GPCERT (OPHTHAL) MRCVS

The information is current and up-to-date in accordance with the latest veterinarian research.

Learn more »

Dogs can have a major positive influence on those who experience anxiety. Dogs can help ease our anxiety in many ways, whether it’s by providing us with unconditional love, stress relief, or companionship. There have been studies done on the anxiety-reducing effects dogs have on us, and dog therapy is sometimes used for people with social anxiety.

There are many ways dogs can help us live better lives and handle our anxiety better, and this article will go through them.

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The 6 Ways Dogs Help with Anxiety

1. Offering Emotional Support

Dogs offer us emotional support because they bring us comfort and help us feel less lonely. Dealing with anxiety can make you feel like you are alone or misunderstood, but having a dog around can help support you through your emotions. Furthermore, some studies suggest that petting a dog releases oxytocin, which has been linked to positive emotional states.

Dogs are so good at offering us emotional support that they can be recognized as emotional support dogs to help individuals cope with certain mental health conditions. One of the conditions emotional support dogs can help with is anxiety. Emotional support dogs don’t usually require any special training and, in order to be considered as such, they need to be prescribed by a licensed mental health provider for a patient with a diagnosed psychological problem.

hipster man snuggling and hugging his dog
Image Credit: Daxiao Productions, Shutterstock

2. Companionship

Dogs can teach us the value of companionship, which can be great at helping us deal with our anxiety. It can be helpful to know that your dog is there to comfort you and make you feel secure when you are anxious. They can help us feel supported and less alone with our overwhelming emotions.

Our dogs can be there for us even when people can’t—they are named “man’s best friend” for a reason.


3. Helping You Feel Understood

Dogs can help us feel understood even though they cannot speak the same language as us. They offer us unconditional love and unspoken understanding. Dogs don’t judge us in the same way humans do, so you might feel more relaxed around them and not be afraid to be yourself when you are anxious.

They seem to know exactly how to make us feel a bit better and more understood to help ease our anxious thoughts. Dogs are sensitive to our emotions and can understand how we are feeling to a certain extent.

owner holding or hugging a happy puppy Labrador
Image Credit: Helen Sushitskaya, Shutterstock

4. Having Someone to Talk to

Speaking about our anxiety and how it makes us feel can be helpful, and dogs are great listeners for times like these. You can talk to your dog about your anxiety without having to worry about being judged or spoken back to. Sometimes, dogs can be easier to talk to than people, especially when dealing with anxiety.

Knowing that your dog is always there to listen to you when you need them can offer some relief for your anxious thoughts.


5. Reducing Stress

Studies have shown that dogs can help reduce stress, which can be helpful if stress is making you feel more anxious or vice versa. Petting a dog not only increases oxytocin as we mentioned above, but endorphins and dopamine too. Dogs are also known to help reduce the stress hormone cortisol and increase the feel-good hormones.

Researchers have found that short interactions with dogs could decrease circulating cortisol concentrations and subjective stress. Furthermore, positive interactions between owners and their dogs have been known to increase oxytocin which has a buffering effect on cortisol secretion.

Not only is that helpful when dealing with anxiety but can help strengthen the bond between you and your dog.

young-woman-hugging-her-jack-russel-terrier-puppy-at-home
Image Credit: evrymmnt_Shutterstock

6. Encouraging You to Take Part in Activities That Help Reduce Anxiety

It can be difficult to find the motivation to do activities that can help with your anxiety when you are feeling anxious. This could be exercising, exploring outdoors, or going on an evening walk. Having a dog can be the encouragement you need to start exercising since you could take them with you for a walk or jog. Playing with your dog can also keep you active, which can be helpful for anxiety.

You might even feel more inclined to start socializing or get out of the house if you have your dog because you feel more comfortable with them around. Sometimes all we need to feel a bit better is to take our dog to a park and spend time with them when we feel anxious.

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Conclusion

Dogs can be great at helping us manage our anxiety and feel more at ease. They provide us with companionship which can help us feel less lonely. They seem to understand us in ways that people can’t and offer us unconditional love. Dogs can be good listeners when we need to speak about our anxiety and provide us with a sense of security.

Furthermore, petting a dog may help reduce stress hormones and increase the feel-good hormones that can reduce our anxiety levels in return.


Featured Image Credit: Ovchinnikova, Shutterstock

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