Sometimes when you’re down, all it takes is a lick to the face or a furry cuddle to lift your spirits. But what if your stress runs deep, if you’re anxious and nervous to leave the house, and find yourself depressed or even suicidal—can a dog still help bring you back?
There are many stories about how dogs have helped individuals with depression; Julie Barton’s poignant memoir Dog Medicine is among the best-known. What’s exciting is that formal research also shows that service and companion animals are effective at treating depression and anxiety, as well as improving overall health.
It’s possible to train a dog for service certification without going through an organization, though it takes a lot of work. A well-reviewed guide like this one is a good starting place. Also, certain breeds are more commonly used for service work, but many different breeds can make wonderful therapy animals. Not sure of a dog’s breed makeup? Dog DNA tests can provide valuable insight. This test receives high marks for accuracy.