How My Dogs Help Me Cope with Depression

May 31, 2023 Rachel Craft

In the 15 or so years that I've lived with depression, I’ve built a metaphorical toolbox of techniques and relationships that help me keep the darkness at bay. Two of these depression coping tools are my dogs. Here’s how bundles of fur and slobber, known as dogs, help me cope with depression.

Dogs Help Me with Depression by Keeping Me Active

Time outdoors has always been a crucial part of my mental self-care. Smelling flowers, watching the snow fall, or listening to birds reminds me of the beauty of the world and helps me detach from the negativity that often grips my mind. Similarly, regular exercise—even walking—helps boost my mood and calm my anxiety

When I’m in the throes of a depressive episode, it can be hard to motivate myself to go for a run or hike. But my high-energy dogs help me with depression by demanding at least an hour of walking each day, so even if I don’t feel like it, I’m forced to do it—and I always feel a little better afterward.

Dogs Help Me with Depression by Providing Structure

If you’ve ever had dogs, you know they love their routines. If they’re used to breakfast at 8:00 a.m., they’re not going to let you sleep in until noon. If they’re used to walking after dinner, they’re going to whine, pace around, and give you their best sad eyes until you get the leashes out. 

When I fall into a depressive episode, this structure helps me limit it to a few hours rather than a few days. I can’t lie in bed all week because I have to take care of the dogs. They need me. Depression often brings on feelings of worthlessness, and knowing these two creatures need me reminds me that I am worthy.

Dogs Help Me with Depression by Knowing What to Say

My dogs always know what to say when I'm depressed—which is nothing. My dogs help me with depression by just being there. Snuggling with them comforts me. Hearing their breathing and feeling their heartbeats next to me reminds me that I’m not alone.

In a touching article about loving someone with mental illness, Juliana Sabatello said:

“Loving us in dark times doesn't mean rescuing us from the darkness. Instead, it means stepping into the darkness with us and loving us just as we are.” 

Dogs know how to do this better than any human. They don’t ask questions or struggle to understand why we feel sad when we should be happy. When we’re in our darkness, they climb in with us and exist there with us as long as we need.

APA Reference
Craft, R. (2023, May 31). How My Dogs Help Me Cope with Depression, HealthyPlace. Retrieved on 2024, July 23 from

Author: Rachel Craft

Find Rachel on Twitter and her personal blog.

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