How to Train My Dog to Help With My Anxiety

Anxiety can be a challenging and overwhelming condition to live with. It can impact various aspects of daily life and make simple tasks feel insurmountable. However, did you know that training your dog to help with your anxiety can provide substantial support and relief?

Having an anxiety support dog can make a significant difference in managing your symptoms and improving your overall well-being. These specially trained dogs are capable of providing emotional support, assisting during panic attacks, recognizing anxiety triggers, and even applying deep pressure therapy to alleviate stress.

In this article, we will explore the many benefits of having an anxiety support dog and how they can help alleviate anxiety. We will delve into the various roles these dogs can play in reducing symptoms, whether it’s through recognizing triggers or performing trained skills to comfort you during moments of distress. Additionally, we’ll discuss how to choose the right breed based on their traits that suit your specific anxiety needs.

By understanding the benefits that come with having an anxiety support dog, you’ll be better equipped to train them effectively and build a strong bond with them. So let’s delve into this fascinating world of training our furry friends to become our steadfast companions on our journey towards managing anxiety.

The Role of Anxiety Support Dogs

Anxiety support dogs play a crucial role in alleviating anxiety for their owners. These specially trained dogs provide emotional support and assistance to individuals suffering from anxiety disorders. They are not just pets, but rather vital companions that can help their owners navigate through daily life with more confidence and stability.

One of the primary ways in which anxiety support dogs help alleviate anxiety is through their calming presence. These dogs have a calming effect on their owners and can sense when they are feeling anxious or stressed. They offer comfort and reassurance by providing physical affection, such as cuddling or leaning against their owner, which can help reduce feelings of panic or anxiety.

In addition to their calming presence, anxiety support dogs are also trained to perform specific tasks that directly address the symptoms of anxiety. For example, they can be trained to recognize signs of an impending panic attack and take action to redirect their owner’s focus away from the triggers. This can involve gentle nudging, pawing, or bringing a toy or object for distraction.

Moreover, some anxiety support dogs are trained in deep pressure therapy. This technique involves the dog applying weight or pressure on certain parts of the body, such as leaning against the legs or sitting on the lap. The applied pressure can have a grounding effect and provide comfort and relief during moments of heightened anxiety or panic.

Overall, it is important to note that while anxiety support dogs can play an invaluable role in helping alleviate anxiety, they are not a substitute for professional treatment or therapy. They should be seen as part of a comprehensive treatment plan that may include medication, counseling, and other therapeutic approaches. The combination of these interventions with the loving presence and assistance of an anxiety support dog can greatly enhance one’s ability to manage and cope with anxiety disorders.

Anxiety Support Dogs’ BenefitsExamples
Calming presence – Offering physical affection to reduce panic or anxiety
Recognizing and redirecting triggers – Nudging, pawing, or bringing a distraction toy or object
Deep pressure therapy – Applying weight or pressure for comfort during heightened anxiety or panic

Choosing the Right Dog Breed

When it comes to choosing the right dog breed for anxiety support, it is important to consider the specific traits and characteristics that would best suit your anxiety. Not all dog breeds are equally suited for this role, as each breed has unique qualities that can enhance or hinder their ability to provide assistance and comfort. Here are some factors to consider when identifying traits that align with your anxiety:

  1. Size: The size of the dog can play a significant role in its ability to assist with anxiety. Larger breeds, such as Golden Retrievers or German Shepherds, have physical presence and strength that can offer a sense of security. Conversely, smaller breeds like Cavalier King Charles Spaniels or Pomeranians may be more suitable if you are looking for a dog that can provide emotional support through cuddling or lap-sitting.
  2. Activity level: It’s crucial to consider the activity level of a dog breed before bringing them into your life as an anxiety support companion. High-energy breeds like Border Collies or Australian Shepherds require ample exercise and mental stimulation, which could be beneficial if you prefer an active lifestyle and want a dog that can engage in activities like running or hiking as part of their anxiety-reducing routine.
    On the other hand, low-energy breeds like Basset Hounds or Bulldogs may better suit individuals who prefer a more relaxed pace.
  3. Temperament: Different dog breeds have varying temperaments that can greatly impact their ability to provide comfort during times of anxiety. For example, some breeds like Labrador Retrievers or Poodles are known for their friendly nature and eagerness to please, making them ideal choices for individuals seeking dogs with gentle dispositions. Other breeds, such as Beagles or Terriers, tend to be more independent-minded and might not respond as well in specific situations requiring immediate attention.

It’s essential to thoroughly research different dog breeds and speak with professionals such as breeders or trainers who have experience with anxiety support dogs. They can provide invaluable guidance in helping you identify dog breeds with the traits that align with your specific anxieties and needs. Remember, finding the right dog breed is a crucial step toward building a strong and effective relationship with your anxiety support dog.

Building a Strong Bond

Building a strong bond and establishing a trusting relationship with your anxiety support dog is crucial in maximizing their effectiveness in helping alleviate your anxiety. When you have a strong bond with your dog, they will be more attuned to your emotions and better able to provide the support you need.

One way to build a strong bond with your dog is through regular positive reinforcement training sessions. Training not only helps teach your dog obedience skills, but it also creates an opportunity for you to spend quality time together and strengthen your connection. Use rewards such as treats or praise to motivate your dog during training sessions, making it an enjoyable experience for both of you.

In addition to training, engaging in regular playtime and exercise is another great way to build a strong bond with your anxiety support dog. Physical activities like walking or playing fetch not only help keep your dog healthy and fit but also provide valuable bonding opportunities.

To further strengthen the bond, make sure to spend quality time simply being present with your dog. This can include cuddling, grooming, or just relaxing together. Showing love and affection in these quiet moments will reinforce the trust between you and create a solid foundation for the therapeutic partnership.

By investing time and effort into building a strong bond with your anxiety support dog, you will lay the groundwork for a trusting relationship that can enhance their ability to effectively assist you in managing your anxiety. Remember that each interaction with your dog is an opportunity to strengthen this bond, so make every moment count.

Basic Obedience Training

Basic obedience training is an essential step in training your dog to help with your anxiety. By establishing a foundation of obedience skills, you will be able to effectively communicate with your dog and guide them through more advanced assistance tasks. Here are some key sub-sections to consider:

The Importance of Basic Obedience Training

Before diving into the intricacies of anxiety assistance, it is crucial to ensure that your dog has a solid understanding of basic obedience commands. Commands such as sit, stay, come, and leave it will not only help you maintain control in various situations but also provide a framework for advanced tasks. Obedience training will also strengthen the bond between you and your dog and establish you as the trusted leader, further enhancing their reliability as an anxiety support companion.

Positive Reinforcement Training Techniques

Positive reinforcement is widely regarded as the most effective method for training dogs, including basic obedience skills. This technique involves rewarding desired behaviors with treats, praise, or play, while ignoring or redirecting unwanted behaviors. When training your dog for basic obedience skills, make sure to use consistent cues and rewards to reinforce their understanding of each command. Patience and consistency are key during this process.

Gradual Progression to Advanced Skills

Once your dog has mastered basic obedience commands, you can gradually introduce them to more complex tasks related to anxiety assistance. This progression should be done at a pace that is comfortable for both you and your dog.

Start by incorporating simple tasks that build on their existing skills, such as retrieving an item or paw targeting for tactile stimulation during panic attacks. As they become more proficient, you can move on to teaching them specialized skills like deep pressure therapy or recognizing anxiety triggers.

By focusing on basic obedience training, you are laying a strong foundation for advanced assistance skills that will benefit both you and your dog in managing your anxiety. Remember to be patient, consistent, and always use positive reinforcement techniques. This training will not only enhance your dog’s abilities but also deepen the bond between you, making them a reliable and comforting source of support during moments of anxiety.

How to Train Your Dog to Be Good Off Leash

Recognizing Anxiety Triggers

One of the key roles of an anxiety support dog is to help their owner recognize and respond to anxiety triggers. By being able to identify these triggers, the dog can proactively assist in reducing anxiety levels and providing comfort. In this section, we will explore techniques to teach your dog how to recognize anxiety triggers and respond appropriately.

Understanding your own anxiety triggers

Before you can train your dog to recognize anxiety triggers, it is important that you understand what causes your anxiety. Keep a journal or make a list of situations, environments, or specific actions that tend to trigger your anxiety. This self-awareness will not only help you in identifying your own triggers but will also serve as a foundation for training your dog.

Scent training

Dogs have an incredible sense of smell, making scent training an effective technique for recognizing anxiety triggers. Start by associating a specific scent with a calming activity or environment. For example, use lavender oil during deep breathing exercises or while sitting in a quiet space. Over time, your dog will learn to associate the scent with relaxation and calmness. Whenever they detect the scent in other situations, they will be able to identify it as a potential trigger for anxiety.

Body language recognition

Dogs are excellent at reading human body language, so teaching them to recognize signs of stress and anxiety can be highly beneficial. Pay attention to subtle changes in your body language when you are feeling anxious, such as increased heart rate, tense muscles, or shallow breathing. Once you have identified these physical cues, work on training your dog to recognize them through positive reinforcement techniques like rewards or clicker training.

“Find it” game

The “find it” game can be an effective way to teach your dog to identify specific items or actions that trigger your anxiety. Start by hiding an object associated with your anxiety trigger and encourage your dog to find it using their sense of smell. When they successfully locate the object, reward them with treats or verbal praise. Repeat this process regularly, gradually increasing the difficulty level by hiding the item in different locations or using more challenging scents.

By training your dog to recognize anxiety triggers, you can empower them to intervene and provide support when you need it the most. Remember to have patience and consistency during the training process, as it may take time for your dog to fully understand and respond appropriately. With practice and reinforcement, you and your anxiety support dog will become a strong team in managing anxiety effectively.

Training Techniques for Anxiety Assistance

Once you have established a strong bond with your anxiety support dog and laid the foundation of basic obedience training, it is time to incorporate specific skills that will help alleviate your anxiety. These training techniques focus on teaching your dog to respond to your specific anxiety triggers and provide you with the assistance you need during challenging situations.

One effective technique is called “counter-conditioning.” This involves associating a positive stimulus with the anxiety trigger in order to change your dog’s emotional response. For example, if your anxiety is triggered by crowded spaces, you can gradually expose your dog to these environments while providing treats or praise when they remain calm. This helps them associate crowded places with positive experiences, reducing their own apprehension and potentially alleviating your anxiety as well.

Another useful technique is “task training.” Task training involves teaching your dog specific actions or behaviors that are directly related to your anxiety symptoms.

For instance, if you experience panic attacks, you can train your dog to interrupt the attack by nudging or licking you, which can help ground you and redirect your focus away from the panic. If you tend to become overwhelmed in public spaces, task training may involve teaching your dog to create physical space around you or lead you to a quieter area.

In addition to counter-conditioning and task training, incorporating relaxation exercises into your routine can also be beneficial. Progressive muscle relaxation techniques can help both you and your dog relax during moments of heightened anxiety. You can teach your dog to lie down beside you and practice deep breathing exercises together. This not only encourages their calm behavior but also helps reinforce deep pressure therapy, which involves using their body weight to provide comfort and reduce anxiety symptoms.

By incorporating these specific skills into their training regimen, your anxiety support dog will become equipped with the tools necessary to assist in alleviating your anxiety. Remember that consistency, positive reinforcement, and patience are key throughout this process. Each dog learns at their own pace, so be sure to tailor the training techniques to your dog’s individual needs.

Deep Pressure Therapy

Deep pressure therapy is a technique that involves teaching your dog to apply gentle body weight comfort to help alleviate anxiety symptoms. This technique can provide a sense of grounding and security for individuals experiencing anxiety or panic attacks. It is an effective tool in managing anxiety, as it helps regulate the nervous system and promote relaxation.

Understanding Deep Pressure Therapy

Deep pressure therapy, also known as weighted touch, works by stimulating pressure points on the body. This stimulation releases endorphins, which are natural chemicals that promote feelings of calmness and well-being. By teaching your dog to apply their body weight during moments of distress, you can create a calming and comforting environment.

Training Your Dog for Deep Pressure Therapy

To train your dog for deep pressure therapy, you will need a designated spot where they can comfortably lie down next to you. Start by teaching them the command “settle” or “pressure.” When you give this command, gently guide your dog to lie down beside you on their designated spot. Gradually increase the duration of time they spend in this position.

Once your dog has become comfortable with the settle command, you can begin to introduce gentle body contact. Apply light pressure with your hand or forearm on their shoulders or back while giving them praise and rewards. Repeat this process multiple times until your dog associates the physical contact with a positive experience.

Applying Deep Pressure Therapy During Anxiety Episodes

When an anxiety episode occurs, give your dog the settle command and guide them onto their designated spot next to you. Gently place light pressure on their shoulders or back using your hand or forearm. Maintain this position for several minutes until you start to feel a sense of relief.

It is important to remember that each individual is different, and what works for one person may not work for another. Some dogs may naturally gravitate towards deep pressure therapy while others may require more training and encouragement. Patience and consistency will be key in successfully incorporating deep pressure therapy into your anxiety management plan.

Redirecting Anxiety

In order to train your dog to help with your anxiety, it is important to teach them how to redirect your anxious thoughts and provide reassurance. This section will focus on the specific techniques you can use to accomplish this.

One effective way to redirect anxiety is through the use of toys or games. Introduce interactive toys, such as puzzle toys or treat-dispensing toys, that require your dog’s attention and problem-solving skills. By engaging their mind and providing a distraction from anxious thoughts, these toys can help reduce anxiety levels.

You can also train your dog to perform specific tasks that redirect your focus away from anxiety. One example is teaching them to retrieve an object on command. This can be particularly helpful during moments of high anxiety when you feel overwhelmed and need a physical distraction. By training your dog to fetch an object and bring it back to you, they are providing a tangible way for you to redirect your attention.

Reassurance is another important aspect of training your dog to help with your anxiety. One technique is teaching your dog comforting behaviors such as nuzzling against you or laying their head on your lap. By associating these behaviors with comfort and safety, you can create a system where their presence alone can help alleviate anxiety.

Additionally, training basic obedience commands like “sit” and “stay” can reinforce the sense of control and security for both you and your dog. When you give these commands during moments of heightened anxiety, it helps establish a routine and gives both of you something concrete to focus on.

By utilizing these techniques for redirecting anxiety and providing reassurance, you can further strengthen the bond between you and your anxiety support dog while improving their ability to assist you in managing anxious episodes.

Introducing interactive toysProvides a distraction and reduces anxiety levels
Training to retrieve objects on commandOffers a physical distraction during moments of high anxiety
Teaching comforting behaviorsAssociate specific behaviors with comfort and safety
Training basic obedience commandsEstablishes routine and provides a sense of control in anxious situations

Emotional Support

During panic attacks, having a dog that can provide comfort and emotional support can be incredibly helpful. These loyal companions have a natural ability to sense their owner’s emotions and offer comfort when needed. In this section, we will explore techniques for training your dog to provide comfort during panic attacks.

The first step in training your dog to provide emotional support during panic attacks is to teach them specific calming behaviors. This can include gentle licking, nudging, or sitting close by. Reinforce these behaviors with positive reinforcement such as treats or praise. It’s important to note that each individual’s needs may vary, so it’s essential to tailor the training to suit your specific situation.

Another technique that can be useful is creating a safe space for your dog during panic attacks. This can be a designated area where your dog can retreat to, such as a comfortable bed or crate. Train your dog to recognize this space as their own and encourage them to go there when they sense you are experiencing anxiety or panic symptoms.

Can Dogs Still Be Trained at Any Age

In addition to providing comfort during panic attacks, it’s crucial to train your dog not to inadvertently reinforce any anxious behaviors you may display. For example, if you tend to pace or hyperventilate during a panic attack, it’s essential to teach your dog not to mirror these behaviors but instead remain calm and supportive. Training techniques such as desensitization and counterconditioning can be valuable in helping your dog respond appropriately in these situations.

Training Your Dog: Providing Comfort During Panic Attacks

Teaching Calming BehaviorsTrain your dog specific calming behaviors like licking, nudging or sitting close by using positive reinforcement.
Creating a Safe SpaceDesignate a specific area where your dog can retreat to during panic attacks, and train them to recognize it as their own.
Avoid Reinforcing Anxious BehaviorsTrain your dog to remain calm and supportive during panic attacks, not to mirror any anxious behaviors you may display.

Public Access Training

Once you have established a strong bond with your anxiety support dog and laid the foundation with basic obedience training, it is important to move on to public access training. This crucial step will prepare your dog to assist you in various environments, ensuring that they can provide the support you need wherever you may be.

During public access training, the focus shifts from teaching your dog specific anxiety assistance skills to helping them navigate different settings and situations. Start by gradually exposing your dog to new environments, such as parks and crowded areas, while closely observing their behavior. This will help you gauge their comfort levels and identify any areas that need further work.

It is important to continue reinforcing obedience commands during public access training. Practice commands such as ‘sit’, ‘stay’, and ‘leave it’ in different locations to ensure that your dog can obey them even when distractions are present. Remember to use positive reinforcement techniques, such as treats or verbal praise, whenever your dog successfully complies with a command or exhibits desired behavior.

As part of public access training, it is also important to familiarize your dog with various modes of transportation. You should expose them to cars, buses, trains, and airplanes if possible. Gradually increase the duration of these outings so that your dog becomes more comfortable with longer journeys.

Additionally, consider enrolling in a public access training program or working with a professional trainer who specializes in this area. They can provide expert guidance and support as you expose your dog to new environments and work on their socialization skills.

By focusing on public access training, you are equipping your anxiety support dog with the necessary skills to accompany you confidently in any situation. With time and consistency, your furry companion will become an invaluable source of comfort and assistance no matter where life takes you.

Maintaining Your Dog’s Wellbeing

Regular Exercise and Mental Stimulation

Taking care of your dog’s physical and mental health is essential to maintaining their overall wellbeing as an anxiety support dog. Regular exercise not only keeps your furry companion physically fit, but it also helps to release endorphins that can improve mood and reduce anxiety for both you and your dog. Incorporate daily walks or play sessions into your routine to ensure that your dog gets the physical activity they need.

In addition to exercise, mental stimulation is equally important. Engage your dog in interactive games, puzzle toys, and training sessions to keep their mind active and prevent boredom. Providing mental challenges will help to alleviate any potential stress or restlessness that may arise in your anxiety support dog.

Proper Nutrition and Health Care

Another crucial aspect of maintaining your dog’s wellbeing is ensuring they receive proper nutrition. A balanced diet that meets their nutritional requirements will contribute to their overall health and vitality. Consult with a veterinarian to determine the best diet for your dog’s specific needs, taking into consideration any allergies or sensitivities they may have.

Regular visits to the vet are vital for preventive care and early detection of any health issues. Keeping up with vaccinations, parasite control, dental care, and regular check-ups will help keep your anxiety support dog in optimal condition.

Attention to Emotional Wellbeing

Consideration of your dog’s emotional wellbeing is just as important as their physical health. Anxiety support dogs often become attuned with their owners’ emotions, so it is crucial to create a calm and positive environment for them. Establish a consistent routine that includes plenty of quality time together, positive reinforcement training methods, and lots of love and affection.

Be vigilant about recognizing signs of stress or burnout in your support dog. If you notice changes in behavior such as decreased appetite, increased irritability, or excessive panting, consult with a veterinarian or a professional dog trainer who specializes in anxiety support dogs. They can provide guidance and support to address any emotional concerns that may arise.

By prioritizing your dog’s exercise, mental stimulation, proper nutrition, health care, and emotional wellbeing, you are ensuring that they are able to provide you with the best possible assistance as an anxiety support dog. Remember to take care of them so they can take care of you.


In conclusion, training a dog to help with anxiety can be an incredibly rewarding and life-changing experience. Throughout this article, we have explored the various aspects of preparing for and training an anxiety support dog. From understanding the benefits of having an anxiety support dog to choosing the right breed and building a strong bond, each step is essential in creating a successful partnership.

By laying the foundation through basic obedience training and recognizing anxiety triggers, you can begin incorporating specific skills and techniques to assist with your anxiety. Techniques such as deep pressure therapy and redirecting anxiety can provide comfort and reassurance during challenging moments. Moreover, encouraging emotional support and teaching your dog to provide comfort during panic attacks are crucial in helping you cope with your anxiety.

Once your dog has been trained in these essential skills, it is important to focus on public access training for them to assist in various environments. This will allow you to navigate different social situations without compromising your own wellbeing. Remember that maintaining your dog’s wellbeing is also crucial, so make sure to provide adequate self-care for them.

Overall, embarking on the journey of having an anxiety support dog requires dedication, patience, and love. However, the rewards are abundant. With their unwavering presence by your side, these exceptional animals have the ability to significantly reduce anxiety levels and improve overall mental health. So don’t hesitate – begin your journey today and experience the life-changing benefits of having an anxiety support dog.

Frequently Asked Questions

Can I train my dog to help with my anxiety?

Yes, it is possible to train your dog to help with your anxiety. Dogs are known to be incredibly perceptive and can sense changes in our emotions and behavior. With proper training, you can teach your dog specific tasks that can assist and support you during moments of anxiety.

For example, you can train your dog to interrupt anxious thoughts or behaviors by providing a distraction or engaging in deep pressure therapy. It is important to work with a professional dog trainer or seek guidance from a qualified therapist who specializes in animal-assisted therapies to ensure that the training is effective and safe for both you and your dog.

Can dogs sense anxiety attacks?

Dogs have an exceptional ability to detect subtle changes in our body language, scent, and behavior, which enables them to sense anxiety attacks. Many people have reported that their dogs show signs of sensing their anxiety even before they themselves are aware of it. These signs may include becoming more attentive, staying close by their side, or exhibiting restlessness or unease themselves.

Dogs have also been trained to respond proactively when they sense an anxiety attack occurring in their owners by offering comfort through gentle cuddling or nudging techniques. However, it is important to remember that not all dogs possess the same level of sensitivity or skills when it comes to sensing anxiety attacks.

How do I approach my dog with anxiety?

When approaching your dog with anxiety, it is crucial to remain calm and patient as dogs can pick up on our own emotional states. Start by creating a safe space for your dog where they feel secure and relaxed. Provide them with a comfortable bed or blanket that they can retreat to whenever they feel anxious. It is advisable not to force interactions but instead allow your dog to approach you when they feel ready for reassurance or affection.

If your dog exhibits anxious behaviors such as pacing or panting, avoid punishing them as this will only worsen their anxiety levels. Instead, try redirecting their focus onto positive activities such as playing with their favorite toys or going for a walk to help them relax and release pent-up energy. Consulting with a professional dog behaviorist or trainer can also provide valuable guidance on how best to approach and manage your dog’s anxiety.

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