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Sunday, June 08, 2008 J Day, Community Member, asks

Q: are dogs beneficial for teens with bipolar?

My 14 y/o daughter is in a residential treatment center. We are trying to make changes at home that will help her when she gets back home. Would having a dog help calm her?

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Answers (16)
John McManamy, Health Guide
6/ 9/08 8:16pm

Hi, J Day. This is really going to depend on your daughter, and you know her best. Some general rules that may or may not apply:


1. Pets are generally beneficial. Senior citizens with pets live longer.

2. Pets help kids build emotional attachments. When you consider how this illness socially isolates kids, this can be extremely beneficial. The catch is your daughter needs to emotionally bond with the dog.

3. Dogs are preternaturally sensitive to their owner's emotional needs. With little or no training they may become psychiatric service dogs. This may be extremely useful in helping your daughter establish a regular sleep pattern and getting her out of bed in the morning. You don't have to tell me about your daughter's bad sleep - this is one of the hallmark features of child and adolescent bipolar. You may want to think of a small dog that is allowed to sleep on her bed.

4. Pets help kids become responsible. Bipolar kids can use an assist from every department in this category. The downside is your daughter may shirk her responsibilities and you are stuck with the dog.

5. Your daughter has an unconditional friend. The social isolation factor again. It's very important that your daughter feels affection from at least one source besides her immediate family.


Okay, it looks like I made out a very strong case for a dog in your daughter's life.


I've talked to 100s of bipolar parents in the course of my research and writing. I know you're a hero. I know you have tried everything, and are willing to consider all possibilities. This one sounds like a low-risk, low-cost, potentially high-benefit option to me.


Woof! Woolf!


PS: We have two cats in our house. I'm a huge fan of pets.


Rosebud, Community Member
6/ 9/08 11:05am

I was officially diagnosed with Bipolar II last year following a suicide attempt.  I am 18 now.  I spent 3 months in an intensive out patient treatment center in a program specifically designed for teenagers in crisis.  It was very very stressful for my parents.  It was hard on me too, but I had people, both professionals and peers to talk with (about everything under the sun) every day.  I am also blessed with a Mom who I can talk with about anything and everything.  Anyway, I know what you and your daughter are going through right now. I went through alot a hard emotional times just getting myself back on track and even after I aged out and graduated from the program, I still had to work very hard at keeping myself positive.  I had a few fall backs during that first year after diagnosis and even now with medication there are times when I still felt like I'm on an emotional roller coaster.


Should you get a dog???


We have a german shephard.  She will be three in August, 2008.  She is a purebread and very smart, but she was a wicked puppy.  My Mom worked with her and it took a year before she calmed down and moved out of that crazy puppy stage.  My point is, with all the stress you are under at this time, a puppy may not be good for the house.  Now, a older, more settled dog would be perfect.  It will give your daughter a feeling that something is dependent on her and there is nothing like laying on the floor next to your dog and just petting her up and down when you are sad.  Dogs are very intuitive.  They seem to know when you are upset, and they comfort and they know when you are happy and they want to be a part of that too.  Dogs are always happy to see you no matter how sad you or how mean you talk to them.  They will never dessert you like friends will do and maybe that's the most important thing when a person is so vernable.  Dogs don't judge people. 


Good luck,


BiPoPastor, Community Member
6/10/08 9:25am

By his mere presence, my dog brings a quiet peace when I am manic, and an unconditional love when I am depressed.

Kimberly Laipple, Community Member
6/10/08 10:11am

My daughter is a 17 year old with bipolar disorder. We got a cat due to our living restrictions but it has been a wonderfully theraputic for her and I cannot say enough about the benefits of a pets unconditional and consistent love.

Jen, Community Member
6/10/08 10:26am

I am bipolar I found unconditional love from my dog to be extrememly helpful;however teenagers in general esp. with mental issues can be self centered or irreponsable about the pets care. So they would require assistence in that area.

katysara, Community Member
6/10/08 12:25pm

I'm not a teenager anymore but I am bipolar - and I was in my teens (no dog, very ill). One problem I had living alone (sleeping alone etc) was overcome by getting a dog. It has really helped me a great deal. It's someone who doesn't answer back and who loves me whatever. There are some good arguments below so I wont go on, other than to say I think it is a good idea and I wish you and your daughter well.




Poppy, I love you, my dog! xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx

JM, Community Member
6/10/08 2:08pm


          Yes dogs are beneficial and all of my animals would agree to.  Through me they could tell you that we love you , we will always be there for you and no matter what might be wrong we are there to help!  I have lived with Bipolar since I  was 6 years old and now 23 years later I still find that having my dogs or other types of Pets can make a world of difference in the lives of others.  I even bring my pet to work to give others the same feeling of love that I am shown through my Pets.

                  sincerely, JCool

JM, Community Member
6/10/08 2:09pm


          Yes dogs are beneficial and all of my animals would agree to.  Through me they could tell you that we love you , we will always be there for you and no matter what might be wrong we are there to help!  I have lived with Bipolar since I  was 6 years old and now 23 years later I still find that having my dogs or other types of Pets can make a world of difference in the lives of others.  I even bring my pet to work to give others the same feeling of love that I am shown through my Pets.

                  sincerely, JCool

Mattsmom, Community Member
6/10/08 2:36pm

Hi J Day,


     As a mom of a 20-yr-old BP, my answer is yes, a dog or cat would be great!  Advice:  wait for a puppy if you've never had one, but a small adult dog is a good idea (as someone suggested) because they LOVE to sleep on beds!  I might also suggest calling your local shelter/humane society and asking them to recommend a quiet, lovable but needy adult dog.  A dog like our dachshund would be perfect--but let your daughter pick out the animal if you can (even by emailed pictures if necessary).  Your vet is a good resource for breed types that might work well with your child.  Good luck, and hang in there--residential treatment DID help my son.  --Mattsmom

HeyJude, Community Member
6/10/08 6:41pm

If your daughter likes animals, I would say ABSOLUTELY YES.  We have a labrador retriever and I cannot tell you how many times he has come to my rescue with this illness. 


I would recommend you pick one of the service dog breeds, they are very calm, gentle, and nurturing animals. 


Good Luck and I wish your daughter well.



nurz, Community Member
6/10/08 11:04pm

my golden retriever calms me when I get out of control with her subtle ways.

|When PRecious lays on my~my feet, legs, lap, and arm I kn ow that I am on the verge of or getting out of control.  She calms me better than my husband, better than me and than any medication.

Sometimes we walk and this calms me too!  I can talk to mine which helps too.

Yes definately, get a dog.  Train a service dog if possible, so it is with your daughter if need be. Mine is! 

Infact just 3 days she was on me all the time, and again my doctor was glad Precious was able to precieve something I would not.  Best of luck!  Mine has been a life saver literally!


Lynn2061, Community Member
6/10/08 11:18pm



I have an 18 year old son that has bipolar, but not so severe.

I am actually a situationally depressed person who does not have 1,

but 4 dogs... They are extremely keen on when I am down, and will be right

by my side, just being there or being affectionate.  It is very, very helpful and

will usually bring me back up.

Dogs each have their own personalities and their own

special way of being able to read someone.  My son used to make my

previous dogs quake with fear, when he was like 10 years od.... especially if he was going to go into

a rage or be angry over something.. As he has gotten older, and with

the dogs I have now, he sometimes goes to them if he just needs to be

with them. 

I would suggest this to you, There are so many, many good exceptional dogs at

your local animal shelter...  I would give them a call, and make a visit to see the people at the

shelter, say a week before your daughter comes home, so you can get a feel for how many dogs they usually have there.... When you get your daughter from the center, let her know that you have heard that there are some dogs at the shelter in need of homes immediately and what would she think of going there and taking a look?  This might really give her something to look forward to, something you can all do as a family....  If she says no, give it a day and let her think about it... tell her you would really like to help out an animal in need....  Take her to the shelter when she wants to go.  Most animal shelters will let you go there, and actually take the dog out for a walk and bond a  little....  Your daughter will be able to tell if "her dog" is there when she is with it... Dogs sigh when there is an immediate bond... if you hear that dog sigh.... You have a winner....  And believe me, it doesnt' have to be a puppy... Too much work there for a teenager and a family trying to help the teenager cope...


I have saved a 6 month old sheperd mix, and neither her or I feel we missed out because we weren't together when she was a puppy, (by the way, she was already named Faith, and she is now 6 years old).


I wish you the best of luck in your search, and with your daughter coming back home.






gb, Community Member
6/11/08 11:53am

hi, i am the mother of a daughter who was diagnosed at age 14 with bipolar I.  she is now 24 and doing very well. we did get a dog when she was a teen.  he was already train and no longer a puppy.  she did love him and he her.  however, when it would bother her occassionally, ie having to take him for a walk when she had no energy or his occassional barking when she was sleeping or otherwise occupied she had no tolerance for him.  i am now the owner of the dog and have been since she no longer was interested in taking care of him.  a dog does need a lot of care and if your daughter loses interest someone else needs to take on the responsibility because it is a committment to take on an animal.  so i guess you have to know yourselves and know your daughter.  good luck.

banathyj, Community Member
6/16/08 10:01pm

I am a 33 year old BP patient and I cannot state strongly enough how dogs have saved my life NUMEROUS times. I've always lived with dogs, and I cannot imagine living without one. For the past twelve years, I have worked with dogs at veterinary clinics, humane societies/whelters, or doggie day care centers. I've found that dogs keep me balanced and are extremely therapeutic. I depend on them for love, support, serenity, and of course, many laughs! Dogs have a great sense of humor!


Taking care of a dog is a big responsibility, but I've found that I feel a sense of purpose and that what I put into my dogs I get back in tenfold. More than anything, dogs just want a friend to hang out with: someone to love on them, take them for walks, and play with. They are happy to be with us and eager to be a part of our "pack." When I am with my dogs, I feel calm, relaxed, and very HAPPY! If I have a bad day, I always know I can go home and have three wonderful dogs waiting to greet me and wash away my troubles with their enthusiastic doggie kisses.


As far as I'm concerned, dogs are a wonderful gift for the mentally ill. Their ability to adapt to our emotional states and loyally remain by our sides is amazing. Dogs can offer support that no human being can. Somehow, they understand us. And they always want to please us. Dogs keep me emotionally and physically in check. I feel that I owe my life to the many dogs I've parented and worked with. They give me the companionship that I sometimes feel is lacking with people due to my BP disorder.


I also strongly recommend going to a shelter and finding a dog there. The doggie population is out of control and there are so many dogs that need a good home. Spend some time with each dog you are interested in. See who "clicks." It may take more than one visit, so be patient. You are finding a lifelong friend for your daughter. This is not something to be taken lightly. Dogs are a REAL commitment. Their wellbeing depends on our love and care and this cannot be ignored. I am commited to my dogs one hundred percent. They are counting on me to be their mom for the rest of their lives. And I am very proud to be in that role!


Try looking for a more mature dog. Puppies are great, but they are a HANDFULL and can often lead to more frustration than satisfaction if you do not invest a ton of time and effort in their upbringing. Shelters are overrun with adult dogs, many who have some background with basic obedence skills. Try to get as much information about the dog's past as possible. From my experiences working in shelters, I've discovered that shelter dogs are so appreciative that we are saving them from a terrible life in a shelter, or even worse. The dogs that I've adopted or rescued immediately bonded with me and were so happy to be in a loving, supportive home. It feels wonderful to know I am saving a dog's life and giving him the life that he so deserves. Dogs are undoubtedly pure and have no alterior motives. All they want is a great friend! you have read, I am in favor of finding a dog for your daughter. I would involve her in the process as much as possible. She needs to take ownership in this, so make sure you find a dog that she can truly relate to and bond with. Also, always keep in mind that if your daughter cannot fulfill the responsibilitis of taking care of a dog, you are next in line. Dogs are not disposable. When we bring one home, we are commiting lifelong care to that dog. No dog deserves anything less.


I wish you and your daughter well. I hope that she finds dogs to be as therapeutic and invigorating as I do. As the saying goes, "Dogs are a man's (or woman's) best friend."  So true!


Sincerely a proud doggie mom,


phychdog lover, Community Member
8/ 7/08 6:31pm

YES!! i an 16 and have depression and anxiety. i have a psyhciatric service dog and he is amazing. last year i had a collie, but she had to be retired due to her hip displaysia. she would come to school with me and everything. and this year my rescued Jack Russel will do the same. ive had him for 4 months and he is already tuned into my panic attacks and will snap me out of it. so id definitly say its a good idea.

broadwaygirl694, Community Member
9/12/08 4:21pm

if you are looking for a great dog think about a bernise moutain dog. i have one... i am 14... i dont have bipolar but i have some type of deprsion and have been on lots of anti deprsents.  my dog loves me no matter what... she doesnt judje me just loves me no matter what.  and if i am ever upset or crying she will come a nuzzle me to try to make me happy again. she also loves my whole family... but is closer to me especialy when i am upset.  they also never snip or are viscious in any way and are great with new people... i have had my dog 11 years and only once has she growled at somone and that was because to mean dogs were trying to get to me. so a dog would probably  be great i am not a doctor but i know my dog helpped me.


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By J Day, Community Member— Last Modified: 06/14/12, First Published: 06/08/08