Anxiety, Depression, and Puppies: The Real Story
Hi there!! For anyone who is new to my blog, let me introduce the whole crew here. I’m Carson Presley, and I write the content behind Girls & Dogs, Oh My. I’m graduating college this May (err--sort-of, just not traditionally because of the Coronavirus).
The luckiest person in the world, I have two adorable Labradoodles! Scout, who is two-years-old, and Ryder, who is just 9-weeks-old.
My better half, Spencer, is the most amazing dog mom who helps me keep a handle on our two wild fur babies.
Together, we love traveling. We love packing up our Jeep and exploring new places. We’re also (until recently) first-time dog owners.
In other words, we’re young and make a lot of mistakes--which is where the inspiration for this blog came from!
I want to be able to share all of our journeys and dog mom lessons with you all--especially our mistakes--so that you all can have the best possible experiences.
Every Monday I post new content with our latest adventure, traveling advice, dog mom tips and tricks. Sometimes I post more than just Mondays, so make sure to subscribe for updates! You might also get a rockin' discount as well :)
Maybe you aren’t comfortable talking to people. You might get nervous or even just avoid the interaction all together.
Maybe you have difficulties regulating sleep or getting out of bed in the mornings.
Maybe you’re perfectly fine in social situations and you have no problems being productive in the mornings! That’s awesome--a lot of us are super jealous.
Imagine that instead of going through every day alone, you had someone there to help you.
Imagine that you had a permanent buddy who would help you get out of bed in the morning and be productive and accountable.
No, I’m not talking about a product or an app, I’m talking about a four-legged furry friend!
There are countless studies that dive into the research behind the relationship between dogs and increased mental, emotional, and physical health. Instead of sending you to read those, I’m going to break them down for you and give you an overall synopsis.
Note: You don't have to struggle with anxiety, depression, obesity, or any other related issue to benefit from having a dog! Everyone can benefit.
Mental & Emotional Health
Unfortunately, a lot of people struggle with depression and anxiety. In fact, roughly 20% of Americans experience an anxiety disorder in any given year and a lot of people probably feel alone in managing their symptoms.
Even when people have strong bonds with family and friends, sometimes they need a deeper connection... and that’s okay.
People who have pups are less likely to suffer from depression. Having a dog helps relieve symptoms of depression in a couple different ways.
First off, your dog will love you unconditionally. You take care of them and they’ll love you forever.
Related Post: Key Lessons to Learn Before Bringing Fido Home
Secondly, dogs are incredibly brilliant! They can sense when you’re sad, crying, anxious and will come comfort you. Sounds crazy, but it’s true.
When they sense you’re upset, they respond! Sometimes by snuggling with you or by giving you kisses. Either way, they’ll always be there to help you feel happier.
Dogs also help better your mental and emotional health by forcing you to get up everyday and live for something.
You know when you wake up that they need to go outside, to eat, or to go for a walk. If you don’t wake up on your own, then they will be sure to get you up.
This helps by reducing the amount of times that you can oversleep. Once they are potty-trained, their sleep cycle will help regulate yours, which helps you live a healthier life in general.
Another huge benefit to your health is that people with pups have lower blood pressure in stressful situations, as well as increased serotonin and dopamine.
In other words, people with dogs are more relaxed!
One of the most frequent reasons people get pets is because simply petting them helps reduce stress and therefore lower your blood pressure. That tactile connected alone helps lower your blood pressure in stressful situations.
When you have a pup, it’s helpful to be able to pet them or hold them when you are experiencing great stress, anxiety, or depression.
The week of finals, an important meeting, or other other important event, you can take a break from your work or studies to pet your fur baby and it will help you physically calm down and be able to recenter yourself.
People who share their lives with dogs exercise more than people without dogs!
Fido needs to walk, hike, and swim, so it forces you to get outside and explore the outdoors. These exercise sessions don’t have to be long!
Depending on the size, breed, and age of your dog, just a 10-20 minute walk once or twice a day will help them maintain a healthy weight.
You should always seek the advice of your veterinarian to suit your specific pet’s needs; however, dogs can become obese without proper exercise...just like humans. These walks will also keep you healthy or even help you lose some weight, too.
You’ll go places you normally wouldn’t.
A lot of you guys are already avid or semi-avid hikers, which is awesome! For those of you who aren’t, don’t stress. Hiking can be as simple as finding a towpath/rail trail/loop around a park and walking there!
It doesn’t have to be mountains or forests or anything too crazy. There’s likely a park nearby that you haven’t visited. Taking Fido there to walk around and explore will get you to visit a new location and be exposed to new experiences.
If you want to find a new dog-friendly area to explore, download the AllTrail apps and put a filter for “dog-friendly.” They typically specify whether your dog can be off-leash, on leash, and sometimes how long the leash should be (normally 6’ or 10’).
You can also put in other filters to meet your hiking needs, such as distance, elevation, ADA-accessible and type of trail (out-and-back or loop), and other filters.
Having a pup almost forces you to meet new people.
It’s so so so common for people to get excited when they see a doggo and ask to pet him because, let's face it, he's charming.
This opens the door for you to be in a neutral, if not positive, situation. They will likely ask their name, gender, breed, age, and when you got them. And guess what—no need for social anxiety because you already know all the answers!
I personally love this aspect of having a dog because it comes in many forms. For example, you might interact with new people because you brought Fido to a restaurant and someone says hi.
You might interact with someone on a hike and your dogs might play for a couple minutes.
My point is, having a dog helps you feel more confident in both situations you’re used to as well as new situations—it’s an all-around win!
As a bonus, this gives you confidence to talk to people even when your pup isn’t around.
In case you aren't convinced...
You will have an overall greater appreciation for life if you bring Fido home.
You watch them grow up and develop, and it really emphasizes the preciousness of life and how quickly the amazing moments can fly by.
There will be instances in your parenthood where everything is simply perfect—whether it’s those mornings when baby Fido wakes you up with kisses or when they’re cuddled up next to you asleep…
...and they force you to stop and appreciate everything about that moment.
Related Post: The Necessary Guide for Your Second Year with Fido
These moments teach you that life happens before you realize it and if you don’t ever take a moment to take everything in, you’ll miss a lot of important and sweet moments in life.
A rewarding life!
Not only will you appreciate life more, but you will have more reasons to appreciate it!
Raising a puppy, watching them hit those milestones and grow into a well-behaved doggo is amazing. When they obey a command consistently (especially in high pressure situations!) or play with another doggo for the first time, you are truly touched.
Scout was an indescribably shy puppy. She wouldn’t let anyone else touch her and she wouldn’t play with another dog because she was just too shy. She was terrified.
When she played with another dog for the first time, I seriously almost cried. It was one of the happiest days of my life.
She’s grown so much in the two years that I’ve had her and it’s amazing. When people compliment your dog on their behavior, you feel an insane amount of pride because you know that you raised them to be polite.
Responsibility and Compassion
While this point is normally stressed for households with children, it applies to young adults as well. Dogs provide you with never-ending love. Yes, never-ending love.
They won’t yell at you or criticize you. They’ll always be there for you and show you compassion and love. Raising them through their puppy years also teaches responsibility!
Many people stress that they “won’t have time” for a puppy—and some truly won’t. But oftentimes, introducing a puppy into your life can teach you greater time management skills.
Another personal anecdote here: With Scout, my first dog, I was a single dog mom and my only other responsibility was my part-time job. In other words, I had the perfect setup for having a puppy.
That being said, we brought Ryder home before the quarantine when both of us were in school full-time, Spencer had just been hired for a part-time job, and I was applying for jobs.
In other words, we were going to be incredibly busy but we could still create a schedule that allowed us to raise an awesome puppy!
Again, this doesn’t mean that you will have time or that you should get a puppy and just hope that it somehow works out—it takes work and planning to have a dog, regardless of how old they are.
Last time I’ll reiterate this (promise), but do your research, lay out your schedule and make sure you can truly provide proper care for your pup. They deserve it!
There are a ton of variables that determine if a specific dog is right for you and if you’re the right owner for them! I touched on this in another one of my articles that will help you sort through these questions.
Again, you should talk to the proper professionals if you need assistance in these areas of your life. You can consider consulting a therapist and see if having an Emotional Support Animal is right for you.
Sharing your life with a pet will help to better your own mental, emotional, and physical health. This applies even if you are not struggling with any sort of anxiety or depressive disorder.
You will find yourself less stressed and more physically active. You will go explore places you've never been and have a different level of appreciation for them.
Having a dog is a huge responsibility, but as long as you educate yourself and have a game plan, it'll be well worth it! If you're still sitting here wondering if you should get a pup, the answer is yes.
Anything I left out? Let me know in the comments below!