Depression is often hard to spot. It can mask itself as anger or anxiety. The fatigue from depression can also disguise itself as stress or feeling sick. According to the National Alliance for Mental Illness (NAMI), about 17.7 million people (7.2%) in the U.S. will have a major depressive episode in their lifetime. Suicide, which includes depression as a risk factor, is the second cause of death in people ages 10-34. 

Treating depression can be more challenging than spotting it. Fortunately, depression can be treated, even in the most severe cases. Depending on the severity of their illness, treatment may consist of therapy, medication, or both. Sometimes, lifestyle changes like exercise and stress reduction can improve signs of depression. 

Because depression often causes feelings of isolation and loneliness, emotional support animals are an excellent way to alleviate symptoms. The Anxiety and Depression Association of America acknowledges the “pet effect.” Research suggests that having an animal improves mental wellbeing. For an emotional support animal (ESA), the pet effect can be very impactful. Additionally, ESAs are formally involved in a person’s mental or emotional therapy. They are much more than a pet. They are a treatment for a disorder. Especially in illnesses like depression, owning an ESA can change—and save—someone’s life

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Five Best Dog Breeds for Depression 

Any animal that provides warmth and companionship can become an ESA. However, dogs are famous for being “man’s best friend.” In the pantheon of human history, they hold a special place. The following are five of the best emotional support dog breeds for depression: 

1. Cavalier King Charles Spaniel

It could be the large, dark eyes that gaze lovingly at their owners. Or the fluffy ears that shake as they run to your feet. Their small size also adds to their obvious adorable good-looks. Aside from their appearance, however, Cavalier King Charles Spaniels are also very attached to their owners. They are eager to please, learn quickly, and enjoy cuddles. These dogs don’t mind sharing their personal space with their family members and are very patient with other dogs—all perfect traits for an ESA.

Although their cuteness is magnetic, it comes at a price. Grooming for these dogs can be costly because their long hair requires regular trims and cleaning. However, the cost of grooming might be a small price to pay for unconditional love. 

A Cavalier King Charles Spaniels can offer cuddles to ease depression
A Cavalier King Charles Spaniels can offer cuddles to ease depression.

2. Vizsla

Although not as fluffy or traditionally cute as the Cavalier King Charles Spaniels, a Vizsla is the opposite as far as grooming goes. A Vizsla is famous for being almost feline-like in its grooming habits, keeping themselves clean and rarely requiring grooming. They’re also very attached to their owners and dislike being alone, making them ideal candidates for people with depression. Vizslas are quick thinking and smart, learning tricks with ease and rarely requiring discipline. 

Because Vizslas require constant companionship, they’re not ideal for owners who are away from home often or are unable to provide consistent attention. 

A Vizsla is a great ESA dog breed for individuals who like constant companionship
A Vizsla is a great ESA dog breed for individuals who like constant companionship.

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3. Shiba Inu

If a Vizsla’s constant need for affection isn’t your thing, a Shiba Inu might be what you need. The Shiba Inu has a streak of independence, able to amuse themselves on their own easily. Their hijinks can lead to hilarious and amusing quirks, making their family members laugh. The silliness helps add brightness to the lives of people with depression. When it comes to their owners, they’re loyal and easygoing. A Shiba Inu brings color and zany fun to any environment they’re a part of. 

For owners who want an extremely obedient dog, a Shiba Inu may not be the best choice. That streak of independence can be fun for some owners, and frustrating for others! 

Loyal and independent, a Shiba Inu can bring brightness to any individual.
Loyal and independent, a Shiba Inu can bring brightness to any individual.

4. Golden Retriever

A Golden Retriever is the wholesome kid-next-door that everyone loves. They’d be the straight-A student and the star athlete, perhaps also the class clowns. Goldens can bring sunshine into the room and, at the same time, remain obedient. Famously easy to train, Golden’s are enthusiastic learners. So much so, that Golden’s often receive training as search and rescue and service dogs.

Because they’re very skilled at hunting, they make perfect companions for games and outdoor activities. Lastly, their love and devotion to their owners make them an ideal ESA for people with depression. 

Golden Retrievers are by default an ideal ESA dog breed for depression.
Golden Retrievers are by default an ideal ESA dog breed for depression.

5. Labrador Retriever

The American Kennel Club ranks Labradors as the most popular dog breed in the U.S. There are many reasons for that. Labrador retrievers are smart, sweet, and well-mannered. They’re also athletic and energetic, encouraging their owners to go outside and enjoy the world. Friendly and gentle, they adore children and enjoy the attention. They’re also protective and loyal, as well as quick to train.

Like Goldens, Labradors often serve as rescue and service dogs because of their ability to take direction and their eagerness to please. For someone with depression, a Labrador Retriever can be the gentle giant they need as an ESA. 

The smart, athletic and well-mannered Labrador Retrievers know how to serve individuals with depression.
The smart, athletic, and well-mannered Labrador Retrievers know how to serve individuals with depression.

The Right ESA Dog Breed for You

When it comes to choosing the right dog as an emotional support animal for depression, what matters is your bond with the animal and your individual needs. Finding a dog that fits your lifestyle, personality, and emotional needs may take some time. Once you find the right dog, however, it will be that much more rewarding and meaningful. 

If you are interested in learning more about Emotional Support Animals, you can find helpful articles below!

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