How to Train Your Dog to Help With Depression

Medium
3-6 Months
Work

Introduction

Let's face it, puppy kisses are one of the best medicines when you find yourself having a bad day or feeling depressed. And one of the best things about an emotional support animal is that, by law, there are no special requirements with regard to age, gender, or breed. For the most part, all that is needed is for your pup to pass a puppy temperament test to ensure your pup has the right temperament to be a support animal, and he needs to be in good overall health.

For those who suffer from depression, it has been scientifically and medically proven that an emotional support dog can make a huge difference in their lives. In fact, a number of medical professionals now prescribe Emotional Support Animals (ESA) as one part of the overall treatment protocols used for those patients with depression issues. 

Defining Tasks

The job is to train your dog to first recognize when you are feeling depressed, but also to provide much needed emotional support until you begin to "feel" better. Sometimes, all; it takes is having your furry friend sit by you, allowing you to pet him and run your hands through his fur. Other times, your dog may need to engage in deep pressure therapy (DPT) in order to help reduce the strength and duration of the situation and resulting depression. 

Since most dogs are tuned into their owner's moods and are truly devoted to their owners, training them to provide the necessary emotional support should not be overly difficult. You should consider starting your pup's training at around one year of age, a point at which he should have mastered the basic commands and knows what it means to be calm and relaxed in nature. 

Getting Started

The biggest requirement before you should consider training your dog to be an emotional support animal is to ensure he has mastered the four basic commands; 'sit', 'stay', 'come', and 'down'. He should be around one year old, and he should have passed a puppy temperament assessment to ensure he will always be there for you. You may also need a few supplies, depending on the method of training you plan to use.

  • Treats: For training and reward purposes.
  • Couch: A couch or bed to be used both for training purposes and as part of your therapy.
  • Patience: No matter how smart your pup is, you will still need plenty of this.
  • Time: It will take time for you to train your dog to recognize when you are depressed and how he should behave when this happens.

The best part of training your pup to be an emotional support dog that can help with depression is the amount of time you get to spend with your furry four-legged friend. Nothing can beat the feeling that comes with getting lots of support and love from your pup. 

The Smaller Dog DPT Method

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Step
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On the sofa
If your pup does not get up on the couch, use a few treats to lure your pup up on the couch. Show him the treats in your hand, move your hand to the back of the couch while giving him the "Paws up!" command. This may take a few attempts, or your pup might get it right away.
Step
2
Positions, please
Smaller dogs can be taught to jump all the way onto the couch. Keep practicing until you are sure your pup knows exactly what to do when he hears the 'paws up' command. Be sure to practice until you no longer need treats to get him to follow the command.
Step
3
Retreat
The next step is to teach your pup the 'paws off' command. To do this you simply work the 'paws up' command in reverse. Use a treat as a reward and as a lure to train your pup to get down off the couch. Again, practice until he will follow the command without the need for treats.
Step
4
On the couch
DPT works best when you teach your small or medium size dog to lay on your chest with his paws on your shoulders and his head laying right next to yours. So, go ahead and lay or sit down on the couch.
Step
5
Paws up
Give your dog the 'paws up' command to bring your dog up, assist him into position, and give him the 'down' command. Give him the 'down' command and then give him a treat. This pressure is the important part of this method.
Step
6
Signs, signs, everywhere signs
After your pup has mastered the above behavior the rest involves letting him see the signs that you are dealing with depression while you are doing okay. Use the signs and the commands together frequently, soon he will pick up on when you are feeling depressed and be right there where and when you need him.
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The Big Dog DPT Method

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Step
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Not on the sofa
Most people don't necessarily want to teach their big dogs to get up on the couch, let alone lie across their chest. This time you will be teaching him the 'paws up' command means putting his front paws on the couch. Using a treat, encourage him to do this and give him a treat when he does.
Step
2
Keep working at it
Keep working at the above training until your dog will follow the 'paws up' command without question and without the need for a treat.
Step
3
The right position
Have a seat on the couch and give your pup the "paws up" command, patting your lap to show him where you want him to put his paws or head. With a big dog, the pressure needed will be applied when he lays his head or legs in your lap and relaxes. Again, repeat this step until he will do it without treats every time.
Step
4
The 'paws off' command
Each time you want your pup to get off your chest or lap, simply give him the 'paws off' command as you use a treat to lure him down. Repeat this at the same time as you are working on teaching him the 'paws up' command for the best results.
Step
5
You've got to know when to hold 'em
Or in this case, your pup needs to know when to hold you. Try to recreate to the best of your abilities how you sound and behave when you are truly depressed. Each time you practice these signs, work your dog through his training. This will teach your pup what to look for, which will help him make the right decision and act to help you.
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The In Place Method

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Step
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Gather supplies
In order for this training to work, you need a large supply of your pup's favorite treats.
Step
2
Choose your spot
Depending on the size of your pup, choose your training site. If you have a smaller to medium sized dog, you can teach them to lay on your chest. With a bigger dog, you should try to train him to lay his head on your feet or lap.
Step
3
Starting positions, please
Assume your chosen position and do your best to demonstrate the way you typically act when you are very depressed. This could be weeping, crying, pulling at your hair, anything you typically do when you are depressed.
Step
4
Paws up
The standard acceptable cue phrase is 'paws up', using this cue call your pup over and guide him into place. For smaller breeds, the preferred position is laying on your chest with their head and paws on your shoulders. For bigger breeds, it can be with their head on your lap or even on your feet as you sit. Keep practicing until your pup gets it right. Repeat this in reverse using the 'paws down' command to teach him to get down.
Step
5
And in the end
With plenty of practice, your pup will learn to pick up on the signs of depression you have been using to train him and be ready to assume the correct position anytime he notices you are depressed, which in turn should help you to feel his unconditional love and help with your depression.
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Success Stories and Training Questions

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