The Effects of Dog Ownership on Anxiety
What is Anxiety and How Does It Affect People?
If you’re one of the millions of Americans who deal with anxiety on a daily basis, you know how it works and how it makes you feel. However, those that don’t suffer from anxiety may not be equipped to understand the symptoms.
Anxiety disorders are the most common mental illness in the United States, affecting more than 40 million adults. Although anxiety is highly treatable, only about 37 percent of people with anxiety ever seek treatment.
Generalized anxiety disorder is characterized by excessive anxiety and fear over everyday events and activities. All people have certainly encountered anxiety in one way or another during their lives, whether it’s been while dealing with personal issues, trying to meet a strict deadline at work, or while studying at the last minute for an important exam in school. However, a person who has an anxiety disorder experiences this burden more frequently and severely.
Anxiety is capable of producing both physical and emotional symptoms, such as restlessness, irritability, difficulty concentrating, and chronic fatigue over an extended period of time. Anxiety disorders can be caused by a number of contributing factors, such as trauma, stress buildup, drug withdrawal, or a family history of mental health issues.
Dog Breeds that Best Help Anxiety
You’ve likely encountered someone in your life that has an emotional support dog or a service dog. These dogs can be trained to perform specific tasks depending on an individual’s needs, including detecting signs of an anxiety attack before it happens, grabbing medication or water during an anxiety attack, and reminding a person to take their medication.
There are a handful of dog breeds that are well known to help soothe anxiety in humans; all have similar traits and are very friendly, calm, loving, and loyal. Typically, the best emotional support dogs are standard poodles, labrador retrievers, golden retrievers, great danes, greyhounds, german shepherds, huskies, border collies, pugs, and corgis.
The size and breed of the dog you choose depends on your personal preferences. Larger dogs are better for cuddling, as well as providing a feeling of security, but can prove to be difficult to train. Smaller dogs cost less to maintain and are easier to transport, but don’t possess the strength and agility of the larger breeds.
How Owning a Dog Helps with Anxiety
If you’ve never had pets, especially dogs, it may be difficult for you to understand just how positively they impact their owners’ lives on a daily basis. The best emotional support dogs are the ones that provide their owner with consistent comfort and safety. Simply being around dogs provides plenty of benefits, including many of the following:
- Exercise. Physical activity can improve symptoms of anxiety as well as other mental health conditions, and is also vital for physical health.
- Outdoor time. Having to walk a dog means having to spend time outdoors, which can often be difficult for people who experience anxiety or depression. Spending time outdoors can boost an individual’s mental health and increase their vitamin D intake, which can drastically improve a person’s mood.
- Company. Dogs provide unconditional love, affection, and friendship. Having a dog can reduce feelings of loneliness or isolation, and spending time with dogs can reduce stress and anxiety.
Interacting with dogs can help lower cortisol levels, which are the body’s primary stress hormone, as well as heart rate and blood pressure. Petting or playing with a dog also releases serotonin and oxytocin, which are important chemical and neurotransmitters in the human body that regulate mood and social behavior, among other functions.