Around the world, 300 million people of all ages are suffering from depression or have suffered from a depressive episode at least once in their lives. Depression can be one of the most restrictive of mental health issues and creates problems for many people in their day to day lives. The good news is, more and more people are also finding new ways to cope with their depression, including using man’s best friend to provide stability, companionship, and comfort.
Small dogs excel at being what are known as “Emotional Support Animals” --pets that act as a comforting presence to people who deal with mental health issues--and can be a very practical solution for someone who finds themselves needing the comfort of their furry friend to get them through the day.
Not to be confused with service dogs--dogs that have been task trained and perform these tasks to assist their owners in their day to day lives, as well as being public access trained--emotional support animals only have access to privileges on airplanes and in housing, and often do not perform any tasks at all besides just being a comforting presence. They can, however, still be an invaluable resource.
Smaller dogs are the ideal emotional support companions, as they are often ready to leap into a waiting lap at any moment. It’s easy to teach them what to do when you require some assistance, as most comforting behavior comes naturally to a dog. With some time and knowledge of how to hone your small dog’s natural ability to be a lap warmer, you can have your new coping method be your best friend!
Your dog doesn’t need much to get ready to provide assistance with depression. If you require a smaller dog to hop up on furniture, you may need to offer him a small set of stairs or a ramp to prevent any injuries if his legs are a little shorter. Other than that, you can begin training as soon as your dog has enough patience to learn. In just a few weeks, he’ll be familiar enough with your routine to know when you require his assistance.
Get together a small bag of treats, if you’d like to use those as a reward, or a small chew toy to encourage the appropriate behavior. Avoid fetch toys or squeak toys, as those may rile your dog up instead of getting him to relax with you.