Canine Companion Therapy and Seasonal Depression: The Healing Benefits of Adding a Dog to Your Family


Ahh winter…

The time of year when the days get shorter, colder, and so much darker. 

And believe it or not, the lack of sunlight and outdoor time can actually lead to the “winter blues.”

It’s also called Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD).

When you’re affected by SAD, it can make you more sleepy, irritable, and have a general feeling of being down in the dumps. 

Let me be clear, SAD is something much different than depression. SAD comes and goes with changes in the weather. Major depression is not impacted by season or weather. If you think you’re experiencing depression, seek help from a mental health professional. 

Now, if you’ve been toying with the idea of adding a dog to your family, it can be a great way to help improve your SAD.

But first, let me explain a bit more about Seasonal Affective Disorder.

What is Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD)?


When winter rolls around, we spend much more time indoors due to the frigid temps and unforgiving weather. 

This means we’re probably less active, and we’re definitely not getting a lot of natural sunlight, which leads to a deficiency of Vitamin D. 

The lack of Vitamin D is thought to be a major contributor to SAD, and it throws off our circadian rhythm. Without enough daily activity to restore our energy levels we begin to experience the symptoms of Seasonal Affective Disorder. 

What are the symptoms of SAD?

They include: 

  • Low energy or increased tiredness
  • Oversleeping
  • Heavy feeling in arms and legs
  • Irritability
  • Difficulty regulating our emotions
  • Weight gain
  • A feeling of sadness

These symptoms are usually short-lived and get better when the weather improves. 

There is no scientific reason behind why people experience SAD, but it’s generally thought to be because people spend less time outside and have a lower activity level when the weather gets cold. 

If you’re experiencing these symptoms and feel like the long winter months are weighing on your mood, a dog might be just what you and your family needs.

Canine Companion Therapy: How a Dog Can Alleviate Seasonal Affective Disorder


I believe that dogs bring a lot of benefits to a family. 

After all, how can you be sad when you see those little puppy eyes staring up at you, ready to play a little game of tug-of-war? 

And getting a dog can be a big help to your mood if you’re suffering from SAD. 

That’s because dogs are so intuitive that they can often sense the mood of their doggy parents. So when they know you’re feeling down, they’ll be right by your side to offer a cuddle. That unconditional love will surely boost your spirits. 

Those puppy snuggles can help cure any sadness you might be feeling, and best of all…

Having a dog means that you need to go outside! You need to let them out to do their business and get a little exercise, which means that you get some fresh air, daily movement, and a little bit of sunlight (when it’s not cloudy and dreary). 

Even that little bit of activity throughout the day will ease the symptoms of SAD and make the cold winter months a little more bearable. 

Now, I’m not encouraging you to run out and get a dog just to help with your SAD. Owning a dog is a major responsibility, requiring a commitment to caring for another member of the family for the rest of their lives. 

It’s not something that should be done on a whim. 

But if you’ve already been feeling like your family is ready for a dog…now just might be the perfect time. 

I always encourage people to rescue whenever possible, which in itself can help you feel good about getting a dog. You’re saving a dog and giving them a spectacular life!

How can you not feel great about that?

But before you make the decision, here are a few things you should consider…

Are You Ready to Add a Pup to Your Family?


I recently wrote a blog about 5 questions to ask your family to determine if you’re ready for a dog. Check out that post to find out if you’re truly ready to add a four-legged member to your clan. 

The biggest takeaway is identifying if you’re ready for the extra responsibility, training, financial burden, and lifestyle changes that come with owning a dog. Remember…while canine companion therapy is wonderful, it still comes with a lot of commitment and work! 

After all, getting a dog is a major commitment that needs to be carefully considered before you bring that furry friend home. 

But, I’ll be the first to tell you that it’s so rewarding to go through life with a canine companion. They not only help with SAD but will always be there for you to offer snuggles or a wet kiss, and they’re always up for a walk in the park. 

And even though owning a dog is a lot of work, it’s so worth it!

Let me remind you again, if you think you’re suffering from SAD or other forms of depression, it’s important to seek help from a mental health professional. They can help identify what you’re experiencing and offer advice on other therapies, if needed. 

Because I want you, and your dog(s), to live a fulfilling and happy life together. 

From your friendly dog trainer,

Doggy Dan Signature 🙂

~ Doggy Dan

P.S. Have you recently brought home a dog and find yourself struggling to connect or teach him or her basic recall or leash training? Then check out my Dog Calming Code™ Program today.

Doggy Dan

Doggy Dan is the founder of The Online Dog Trainer, a wildly successful online training program for dog owners. His goal is to continue to share his unique approach to dog training with like-minded people who wish to make a difference in the world of dogs. His training methods focus on creating and building the connection between dogs and dog owners, and are shared and used around the world.

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