(Nutley, NJ)—Dogs may be a key to helping the millions of people in the United States who are affected by depression and anxiety each year.

Researchers at the University of Missouri-Columbia noticed particular hormonal changes that occur in humans when they interact with dogs. The study revealed that petting a dog even for a few minutes creates "feel good" hormones in humans, such as serotonin, prolactin and oxytocin. This discovery, experts believe, could help people cope with depression and certain stress-related disorders.

It seems that dogs have the ability to provide consistent psychological and physical comfort to their owners. In fact, it was found that a pet can be even more calming and protective than a spouse or a friend.

“From my personal experience I know that depression is a very dangerous disorder. It would have ruined my life if it weren’t for my dogs—especially my pit bull, Shelby,” says Joe Dwyer, dog trainer, owner of four dogs, motivational speaker and author of the new book “Shelby’s Grace.” “Shelby motivated and encouraged me to do things that helped me get out of my depression and see the world from a different prospective. She is magical.”

In his book, Mr. Dwyer describes his remarkable odyssey with Shelby, an abused pit bull he saved from a shelter. In return, she saved him from terrible depression and anxiety, and together they recovered their senses of purpose. Now Shelby is a certified therapy dog who helps people in difficult times.

It’s a proven fact that people around dogs tend to be calmer, more relaxed and softer. They smile more often and are happier. For these and many other reasons, therapy dogs are now widely used in nursing homes and psychiatric clinics.

“Good companionship that can calm you and lift your spirit is the key to overcoming depression and anxiety," says Mr. Dwyer. “Dogs can provide this for us. They also keep their owners on track and disciplined because they live in their homes and always available.”

Depression is a mood disorder that interferes with everyday life for an extended period of time. The most common depression signs are:
• Sadness
• Feeling worthless
• Feeling unloved
• Having no purpose in life

“Daily worries and problems create a lot of stress, and there is no doubt that dogs can be a powerful distraction. Mine naturally shift my attention when they are around. As soon as I see my dogs wagging their tails, I am relaxed and I smile," says Mr. Dwyer. “Hopefully more people will realize that having a pet is more than just a hobby.”

For more information, contact Joe Dwyer at joe@shelbysgrace.com.

Author's Bio: 

Joe Dwyer is a motivational speaker, a life coach and a member of the National Speakers Association. He is also a dog trainer and a martial artist. Previously, he worked as a chemical engineer and an executive for Verizon and the Archdiocese of Newark. Joe is a man of faith and spirituality, and he supports rescue groups and therapy dog training. He lives in Nutley, NJ, with his family and four dogs.