Can dogs sense depression and anxiety?

Did you ever feel your dog is trying to reach to you in hard times? We know we did and for a while, it looked like a simple reaction, something dogs tend to do either way. Still, a comforting human is not something they’re taught to do, which brings out the question, whether a dog has a sixth sense, to come in just when needed. Well, they do, but it is a bit different than we think. Is it something they live through as well while they’re trying to help us? Definitely. How, and why are the questions which follow, and after a long research we found the answer to them as well. Here is why a dog is man’s best friend, in both the happy days and the sad ones.

The triggers and the communication

The smell gives you away

Dogs may be oblivious if they’re out for a walk or spending time with a dog sitter, but once they get to see you, they can sense something is wrong just by the smell of it. Literally, dogs smell when you’re not at your happiest, whether that’s anxiety or depression, and they look for a way to reach you. However, there is a slight difference when they deal with anxiety and when they deal with depression from your side. Subtle, but worthy of a mention, their reaction speaks of the intelligence and once again proves how dogs form relationships based on loyalty. Here are the some of the keynotes on their reaction to depression and anxiety.

Dealing with depression

Something that we found impressive when cracking the code of how is it they know you’re being depressed, apart from you crying or showing signs of physical discomfort. Well, it all comes back to the smell, but also is connected with sense. Dogs have the ability to sense when there’s a drop in serotonin in your body, and sometimes it can be from quite a distance. Here is a video as an example of the attention they give to you when they sense you’re being distant.

When it comes to reaction to it, it often is quite subtle. They tend to evaluate whether the owner wants them close or not, and based on that they offer their help. Most of the dogs will simply walk to you and sit by your legs, waiting for you to notice them. Once they draw attention to themselves, they lean in, not expecting to be petted, but simply for you to see they’re there for you.

Dogs are sensitive to their owners being sad, and if they cannot draw your attention slowly, they’ll try to take your mind off things by inducing a game of fetch. In any case, the reaction will not be something violent, but rather slow, so you have more time to process it.

Dealing with Anxiety

Anxiety is common with dogs as well, which means they adjust their reaction as much as they can. So, how can they tell difference between depression and anxiety? Well, this comes back to sweat production in humans, one of the main indicators of someone being anxious. They cannot sense sweat from far away, but once they draw near, they’ll instantly know what to do.

Dogs react to anxiety differently, by leaving the room and entertaining on their own. This was proven to be a good technique when it comes to dealing with anxiety. Humans can even fall to destructive behavior which can result in the unwanted consequences, which is why dogs feel they need to be elsewhere.

Still, they also make difference between the anxiety and stress, and they know when they need to hide just as much as much when they need to simply leave you alone for an hour or two.

Training

Since the discovery of dog’s reactions to certain states, vets also found dogs can be trained to react to it faster, in order to serve people with these issues. Even though the training is for now mostly limited to treating veterans, it still is something which potentially opens the chance for dogs being introduced to medical care when it comes to depression and anxiety.

With proper training, dogs can even react when a person is experiencing a severe anxiety attack, but their main role is primarily focused on comforting, and being there for us when we need them, even if that means only sitting quietly in the room so we don’t feel alone.

Conclusion

A dog is surely a friend we wouldn’t replace as their natural instincts are rarely selfish, and mostly orientated to please us. We concluded they do have a sense for when you’re depressed or anxious, and they act upon it. If you have a story of your dog comforting you, share it with us in the comment section below. Also, if you have any additional questions, make sure to ask, and we’ll do our best to answer those.

SOURCES:
https://www.doghealth.com/behavior/how-and-why/1994-how-dogs-sense-emotions

https://greatist.com/live/dogs-help-my-anxiety

 

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