Can Adopting a Dog Help Me Deal With Grief?

If you are experiencing grief — be it over the loss of a job, the death of a loved one, a major life disappointment, or the end of a relationship — you are likely seeking comfort. One way people cope with devastation is by adopting a dog.

Why do they do this? Is it just because there’s nothing like cuddling up with a furry friend? Or, do dogs intuit when their parents are suffering and provide exactly the support they need during a devastating time? Research and experts point toward the latter. Here’s why adopting a dog just might be the best way to cope with grief.

The Emotional Intelligence of Dogs

New research suggests that canine companions, regardless of whether they’re trained and certified emotional support animals or simply rescue dogs from the local shelter, positively impact their human counterparts during turbulent emotional times. Colleen Dell is the research chair of One Health and Wellness and a professor at the University of Saskatchewan. Dell is the lead author of a study showing a mere 10 minutes spent with a pooch reduced people’s pain.

“When we lose a significant other … so many people say that coming home at the end of the day, coming home to an empty house is just hard,” Hook told CNN. “Having a dog there to greet you can make a difference.”

Having a dog also motivates people to get out of the house, move their bodies, and refocus their attention.

“[Dogs] are really good at living in the moment. That takes us away from thinking in the past or even too much in the future,” Hook told CNN. “They want to go on a walk now; they want to play now.”

Once dog parents and their pups have bonded, fur babies are actually capable of intuiting their parents’ emotions — and subsequently know when to offer a much-needed snuggle. Many dogs know not to leave their parents’ side until those tough emotions have been ridden out.

Paw-some fur babies for grieving people

Just because you feel overwhelmed by grief and in desperate need of comfort doesn’t mean you should run out and adopt the first dog you lay your eyes on. You should ensure that you have the energy and ability to commit to a new four-legged family member, which will need you as much as you need him. There are also certain breeds that are better capable of providing you with emotional support.

“Whilst dogs of any breed or background can and do support their owners’ wellbeing, certain dog breeds are particularly renowned for having a calm, loyal and affectionate temperament, something which is incredibly comforting for those who are currently grieving,” Bill Lambert from the Kennel Club told Country Living.

The Kennel Club recommends breeds like the Newfoundland and Golden Retriever for those seeking emotional support dogs. The club also suggests the Staffordshire Bull Terrier, Hungarian Vizsla, Maltese, and Irish Wolfhound.

That said, you may visit a shelter where a pooch outside of the aforementioned breeds makes puppy dog eyes at you. If you fall in love, don’t discount that pup’s ability to be your new best friend.

As Lambert told Country Living, “any dog’s behaviour and attitude depend on its training, socialisation and individual personality.”

Ultimately, as long as you love your dog, that love will likely be reciprocated. The new bond will help get you through a difficult season. This, too, shall pass, but your new dog will be around for many years to come.

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