The Canine Therapist

If you deal with depression and anxiety, psychotherapy, medication, and self-help practices such as meditation may help you manage your mood. And an increasing body of research also suggests a puppy prescription.   

Pet Owner Perks

Indeed, there’s evidence that therapy dogs, service dogs, and regular companion canines can all help boost people’s moods. For example, scientists have found that dog owners who interact with their animals show increased levels of oxytocin, a hormone that promotes positive feelings, trust and bonding. What’s more, studies also show the dogs have elevated levels of the hormone after gazing into their owners’ eyes.

Dogs can improve people’s physical health as well. In fact, research cited by NPR showed heart attack patients who owned pets lived longer than those who didn’t, and that petting your own dog can reduce your blood pressure. Oxytocin, the bonding hormone that interacting with dogs promotes, also increases the body’s readiness to heal. 

Other People’s Pets

You don’t need to be a dog owner to reap some of these rewards. For instance, you could sign up to be a dog walker in order to get more exercise and increase your social interactions while you’re walking other people’s pets. Both regular exercise and increased interactions have been shown to help manage and mitigate the symptoms of depression. Plus, you’ll be earning extra money, a boon to your body and your bank account.

Or you could find a human therapist who uses therapy dogs during sessions. These specially-trained dogs can help people deal with anxiety and stress. They often encourage patients to be more open during sessions, according to the American Psychiatric Association, perhaps because they provide a calming, non-judgmental presence in the therapy room.

So, whether you already have a dog of your own or want to increase your connection with other people’s pets, mutts can be good medicine at home, in the park, or in your therapist’s office.