Service Dogs Against Anxiety and Depression


  • Author Laura Iesse
  • Published January 3, 2022
  • Word count 826

Can a cat's purring or a dog's tail wagging help us if we suffer from anxiety or depression? In some cases, the answer is yes.

"Pets offer unconditional love that can be very beneficial to people with depression," said Ian Cook, psychiatrist and director of the Depression Clinic and Research Program at UCLA.

If you have a cat or dog at home, you will agree that they are not only excellent roommates, but often unwitting therapists. Several studies have confirmed that pets help lower blood pressure and relieve stress. For those suffering from anxiety and depression, animals are often a great help in coping with the day and the difficulties that are encountered on a daily basis. This is true for both adults and children.

How can dogs help manage depression, anxiety and stress?

More than other animals, dogs are particularly attuned to humans, their behaviors and their emotions. While on the one hand they are able to "learn" many of the commonly used words, on the other hand they have a high sensitivity to the tone of voice used, body language and gestures. And as happens with the best of our human friends, a faithful dog can look you in the eye, catch an emotion and try to understand how you feel and what you think (doing their best while waiting for the next walk or meal, of course).

While most people who own a dog are very clear about the joys of having an animal friend, on the other hand some are not well aware of the enormous physical and mental benefits that far outweigh the pleasure of company. Only recently has a number of scientific studies begun to explore the benefits of the link between humans and animals. The American Heart Association has linked the presence of an animal friend (especially the dog) to a reduction in the risk of heart disease and an increase in lifespan.

The studies also revealed that:

  • Those who have a dog are less likely to suffer from depression than those who do not.

  • People who have dogs show lower blood pressure in stressful situations. A study also found that people with threshold hypertension experienced a drop in blood pressure levels in the five months following the adoption of a dog in a kennel.

  • Playing with a dog or cat can increase serotonin and dopamine levels and consequently allow for greater calm and relaxation.

  • Anyone who has a pet has, compared to others, a lower level of triglycerides and cholesterol.

  • Patients who have suffered a heart attack tend to have a higher survival rate if they have an animal friend.

  • Those over 65 who have a pet have about 30% fewer medical visits than those who don't.

One of the reasons for the therapeutic effects is that dogs satisfy one of the basic needs of the human being: contact. Even criminals locked up in prison have shown long-term behavioral changes after interacting with the dogs. Caressing, hugging and in general touching the beloved animal friend can quickly calm and comfort us when we are anxious or under stress. The company of an animal can also relieve a sense of loneliness, and many dogs can also help us get healthy exercise, all of which are essential for alleviating depression.

Psychiatric Service Dogs

Dogs can improve people’s daily life with just their presence and contact, but they can actually do much more than that. Dogs can be trained as Psychiatric Service Dogs to assist people with physical or mental impairment, such as depression, PTSD, anxiety, panic attacks and other mental conditions that affect daily life. They play a key role in helping improve their lives, making it easier for them to do stuff they won’t be able or would find it very difficult to do alone.

Dogs trained to be Psychiatric Service Dogs learn to carry out a great variety of tasks, such as turning on/off lights, help their handler get some space in a crowd if feeling overwhelmed, or even guide the handler away from the crowd to a more isolated spot, alerting of a upcoming panic attack, so that the handler can take medication, use body pressure to calm down the handler (deep pressure) and even help their handlers discern hallucinations from reality.

Some tasks PSDs perform are requested by their owner, but some others are cued by the situation and environment, and their execution rely in part on the dogs best judgement.

The incredible thing is that dogs are so smart that if thought in the right way they can learn all these tasks at home with their family, with just the guidance of an experienced instructor. Service Dog Training School International proved this already with their online service dog training courses, which have received much praise by the students enrolled in the courses and have successfully trained thousands of professional service dogs. All you need is commitment and love.

I am a dog lover. I strongly believe that pets are an important part of people's lives, providing unlimited love, comfort and fun.

I work for a service dog training school, SDTSI, whose mission is giving the opportunity of benefiting of service dog assistance to all people in need, by providing high quality service dog training courses at affordable prices.

Psychiatric Service Dog Online Course

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