10 Best Therapy Dogs for Depression and Anxiety 

10 Best Therapy Dogs for Depression and Anxiety 


It is commonly known that Major Depressive Disorder ranks high in psychological disease burden worldwide. Into the bargain the prevalence rate of Generalized Anxiety Disorder are also significantly rising in chart. In the current population 1 out of 5 individuals have experienced major depressive episodes at least once in their lifetime. Recent conversations regarding the efficacy of antidepressant medications, particularly in cases of mild depression, have underscored the necessity for alternative and supplementary treatments that come with fewer adverse effects.

Thus several investigators have hypothesized that companion animals can significantly contribute in reducing the stress and anxiety levels and provide comfort and ease to the patient. In a pilot study conducted by Barker SB and Pandurangi AK, it was found that depressed patients waiting for electroconvulsive treatment experienced reduced stress levels after spending 15 minutes with a therapy dog and its owner. Additionally, the study also observed lowered blood pressure in comparison to relaxation training sessions.

In recent decades, research into the health benefits of companion animals has predominantly focused on their cardiovascular effects. Studies have measured biological parameters such as dopamine, cortisol, pulse, and blood pressure before and after a 15-minute interaction with dogs. These studies revealed significant changes. These biological variables hold increasing importance in understanding anxiety and depressive conditions

Related: Can Cats help us Improve our Mental Health?

What does a Therapy Dog do? 

Therapy dogs undergo training to offer comfort and affection to individuals beyond their handlers or owners. This can involve visiting diverse settings such as hospitals, schools, hospices, nursing homes, disaster zones, among others, where people benefit from love and affection. These dogs are encouraged to engage with a range of individuals and are expected to possess a friendly and welcoming demeanor. The history of this type of therapy can be traced back to Ancient Greece. Florence Nightingale presented the concept of Animal Assisted Therapy (AAT) as a form of Intervention. The healing effects of AAT are majorly attributed to “contact comfort ”, a tactile process that forms unconditional attachment and bonds between the therapy dog and the patient.

Related: Animal-Assisted Therapy: Its Benefits and Procedure

Different Types of Therapy Dogs 

The first and most common category is represented by “medical visit” dogs. These dogs are domestic pets whose owners spend time visiting institutions such as hospitals, nursing homes, shelters, and rehabilitation centers. Visiting dogs provide companionship and comfort to individuals physically or mentally internal illness or legal responsibilities separated from their pet, and the ability to motivate self-medication or self-treatment, with the ultimate goal of returning home to their pet.

The second therapy dog is called a “therapy assistance animal” dog. These dogs play an important role in helping physiotherapists and occupational therapists achieve rehabilitation goals that are critical to recovery such as improving body parts, the body improving fine limbs, or regaining the ability to care for independent pets in the home. Veterinary Therapy Dogs often work in day care settings. 

Related: The psychology of animal lovers

The latter are “soft therapy dogs,” which serve primarily in nursing homes. These dogs are trained to help keep patients with Alzheimer’s disease or other mental illnesses out of potentially harmful situations. They are handled and occupied by trained personnel. 

Top 10 therapy dogs breeds known for their unique ability to relieve symptoms of depression and anxiety. 

10 best Therapy dogs

  • Golden Retriever: Golden Retriever is regarded as one of the most intelligent and humble dogs often found in retirement homes. They are known for providing physical support, friendly demeanor and patient temperament make them ideal companions for offering emotional support and companionship. 

  • Cavalier King Charles Spaniel: This small yet affectionate breed is renowned for its gentle nature and loving disposition. Cavalier King Charles Spaniels thrive in providing emotional support and companionship to individuals struggling with mental health issues, offering comfort and solace during difficult times. 
  • Poodle: Poodles are regarded as highly intelligent and gentle dogs known for their hypoallergenic coats. They are adaptable in nature and their miniature size helps them provide the patient with a sense of comfort and gentleness. 
  • Border Collie: Border Collies can form strong bonds with their human companions due to their intelligent and attentive nature. Their keen ability to understand emotions and respond empathetically allows them to excel in providing emotional support and companionship to those in need. 

Related: What Relation Does Humans And Animals Share?

  • Beagle: Beagles are known for their friendly and sociable nature, as well as their keen sense of empathy, which makes them well-suited for providing emotional support to those in need. 
  • Bichon Frise: Bichon Frises are cheerful, affectionate dogs that thrive on human companionship, making them great therapy dogs for lifting spirits and providing comfort.
  • Pug : “Pugs live to love and to be loved in return.” Despite their perpetually grumpy appearance, pugs are actually known for their inherently positive demeanor and are quite trainable. 

Related; Animals as stress buster

Yorkshire Terrier : Due to their strong desire to be constantly with their humans, Yorkie make excellent companions for combating depression. However, it’s advisable to consider adopting a Yorkie only if you’re ready to invest ample time with them. Yorkies are recognized for their affectionate, spirited, and lively nature, earning them a place among the top 10 most favored dog breeds according to the American Kennel Club. 

  • Pomeranians: often referred to as “Poms,” are well-suited for home-bound patients and environments needing a tranquil and composed animal due to their low energy levels and minimal exercise requirements. One of the notable advantages of Pomeranians is their tendency not to engage in destructive behavior.
  • Havanese: The Havanese is a little dog with a big heart. The breed’s appearance, particularly its soft fur, gives the impression that it’s tailor-made for cuddling with people and lavishing them with affectionate gestures. Although children often adore interacting with Havaneses, this delightful canine is equally well-suited as a therapy dog for seniors and individuals in hospitals.

In conclusion, therapy dogs play a vital role in helping people cope with mental health issues like depression and anxiety. Studies have shown that spending time with these specially trained dogs can significantly reduce stress levels and improve overall well-being. From Golden Retrievers to Poodles and Yorkshire Terriers, various breeds offer comfort and companionship to those in need.

Their unconditional love and affection provide a unique form of therapy that complements traditional treatments. As the demand for alternative and supplementary treatments grows, therapy dogs continue to prove their effectiveness in enhancing the quality of life for many individuals.

Leave feedback about this

  • Rating