Speaking as someone who has struggled with anxiety for a long time and currently shares a townhouse with her two cats, I can tell you from experience that the mental health benefits of having pets far outweigh any personal sacrifices you might have to make to give them the life they deserve. This is perhaps even more true if you suffer from depression. However, while cats are obviously awesome, there are certain breeds of dogs that can help you fight depression better than cats likely could — namely because dogs are usually more active and affectionate toward their owners.
To be clear, most types of pets can help you fight depression, because animals of almost any species can offer us companionship, affection, and structure. Dogs are particularly special, though, because they’re almost always affectionate, active, and co-dependent (in a good way). Moreover, specific breeds of dogs can help you fight depression better than others, simply because different dog breeds have different personality traits.
So even if you feel like you can’t help yourself right now, much less a pup, you should know that adopting a dog could be a super effective, rewarding addition to your treatment. As WebMD put it, “Taking care of yourself may seem hard enough. But experts say that adding a little responsibility can help. It adds a new and positive focus to your life.”
If you’re still unconvinced that adopting a dog could help you recover from depression, then read on. Here are seven of the best dog breeds for fighting depression.
1. Cavalier King Charles Spaniel
Aside from their obvious cuteness, King Charles Spaniels can help their owners fight depression in many ways — one being that they love to cuddle. (They were the preferred lapdog breed of noble Scots back in the 1500s, and King Charles II liked these fluffy little love machines so much that he named them after himself.) In fact, as Animal Planet put it, the Cavalier King Charles Spaniel is so cuddly, that it's been nicknamed "The Love Sponge." On top of being super affectionate, these pups are supposedly easy to train and great with the kids, too.
Unfortunately, these little guys are particularly susceptible to heart problems, and require a lot of grooming. So before you adopt a one of these babes, be sure you can commit to providing them with the kind of care they need to stay happy and healthy.
2. Labrador Retriever
Personally, I love labradors. This is partially because they're a bigger breed and I like big dogs, but it's also because they're just so damn sweet. (They chew on everything, though, so don't leave anything valuable within their reach.) My dude's dog is a labrador mix, and he's pretty much always in a good mood, so I can see why The Daily Positive suggests this breed to people who are suffering from depression.
In addition to being happy dogs, Labrador Retrievers are very loyal, eager to please, and super trainable. Labs love to get outside and be active, too, which encourages their owners to do the same. Adopting a dog who needs to go on frequent walks can be a great motivator for anyone who genuinely wants to take advantage of the mental health benefits of exercising in nature, but needs the support and drive of a loving pup to get out the door.
As you can see from the above photo, poodles are pretty cute. (Especially when they're not groomed to look like a walking Q-tip.) They're also relatively active, because before poodles were typecast as The Cute Parisian Girl's Dog in every movie ever, they were the preferred hunting dog of northern Europe.
Perhaps more importantly, though, poodles love being around their person. They also have the same people-pleasing personality traits that Labs do, and they're high level of intelligence lands them all kinds of work as service dogs. As you can imagine, all of these characteristics combined makes poodles invaluable allies in the fight against depression.
Poodles are also born performers, super social, great with kids, hypoallergenic, excellent at adapting to their surroundings, and they typically live longer than most other dog breeds, too. However, like the Cavalier King Charles Spaniel, poodles require some serious grooming. (Their hair literally never stops growing, and they don't shed.) If you don't mind being responsible for a dog who's more high maintenance than you are, then you should seriously consider adopting one of these cuties.
4. Golden Retriever
As Shadow from Homeward Bound proved to all of us '90s kids back in 1993, Golden Retrievers possess a capacity for love and devotion that few dog breeds can boast. They're famously well-behaved, too. So much so, in fact, that Golden Retrievers were the first ever American Kennel Club Obedience Trial Champions. Additionally, Golden Retrievers are extremely athletic and playful. They'll joyfully swim, run, and fetch all day if you let them, making them an ideal pet for anyone dealing with depressive symptoms. They shed a ton, though, so be prepared for that.
5. Yorkshire Terrier
First of all, just look at that face. I mean, I can't be the only person who gets heart eyes for these little Wookies. Being ridiculously cute isn't the only way Yorkies can help ease the symptoms of depression, however. Their intelligence and tendency to form strong bonds with their owners makes them one of the most loyal, loving, and trainable breeds out there. Also, since Yorkshire Terriers are so little, they're an especially great type of dog to have if you live in an apartment and don't have an outdoor space. Plus, their toy status means you can take them literally anywhere.
On top of all that awesomeness, a female Yorkshire Terrier named Smoky was one of the first ever documented therapy dogs. She was found in a foxhole by an American soldier in World War II, and went on from there to backpack through the jungles of New Guinea with Corporal Bill Wynn — visiting wounded soldiers and boosting morale along the way.
According to Animal Planet, Viszlas are nicknamed "The Velcro Dog" because they like being near their owners that much. They're also well-known for being as passionate about self-care as cats are, so they might actually be the only dogs that never smell like dogs. Additionally, Vizslas aren't genetically pre-disposed to any major health problems, and they're incredibly smart. When you combine all these pros with the fact that Vizslas like to exercise for about two hours everyday, it's really not surprising that they're listed as one of the best types of dogs to adopt if you're dealing with depression or depressive symptoms.
That said, keep in mind that a dog as naturally athletic as the Vizsla won't thrive in an urban environment. Vizslas are the descendants of Astro-Hungarian hunting dogs, so they need a ton of space to run all of their energy out. (Also worth noting: though Vizslas aren't malicious by nature, experts advise against leaving them alone with small children.)
Although pugs naturally look like they're in a perpetual state of grumpiness, (and it's adorable) they are actually some of the most naturally positive dogs around. According to The Daily Positive, pugs are an excellent breed for anyone suffering from depression, because they generally possess a steadily positive temperament and funny personality. (I guess Percy from Pocahontas must have been the exception to that rule?) They shed quite a bit, though, so be prepared for that. Also know that pugs can't handle hot temperatures for very long, and it's not uncommon for them to suffer from breathing problems, either.
Of course, none of this should discourage you from adopting a pug if you want to — but being aware of your pet's needs before you adopt is super important. This way, you can keep your dog safe while they help you live your happiest, healthiest life.