Do dogs help highly sensitive people?

Highly Sensitive People (HSPs), make up about 15% of the population and tend to adore animals. If you are an HSP or empath, find out how dogs help reduce stress.


Katie Abendroth

2/2/20244 min read

photo of man hugging tan dog
photo of man hugging tan dog

Do dogs help highly sensitive people?

I saw an article the other day about the best dogs breeds for HSPs, and it really inspired me to consider how dogs help highly sensitive people (HSP). Keep reading to learn more.

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What is a highly sensitive person (HSP)?

I have known for years that I was a HSP, and recently learned skills to cope well with this trait. In an overstimulating world, some individuals find themselves deeply affected by their surroundings.

Highly Sensitive People (HSPs) possess a finely tuned nervous system and often experience emotions and sensory input intensely.

Highly Sensitive People (HSPs), make up about 15% of the population, so this is quite common. We possess sensory processing sensitivity (SPS), which means a heightened awareness of subtleties in our surroundings, increased emotional responsiveness, and deeper empathy towards others.

Dr. Elaine Aron, a researcher, created the term “Highly Sensitive Person.”

Here are some examples of my own HSP traits. Can you relate?

Crying (as an adult) when our fish died…

Getting physically ill from violent movies (and not being able to stop thinking about it)…

Constant headaches from fluorescent lights…

Physical distress from interpersonal conflict…

Deep and instant calm when out in nature or around animals…

Feeling a deep connection with all animals (domestic or wild)…

Matching reactions and emotions to others…

Hyperventilating and getting ill from a true crime podcast…

I love people and I’m an extrovert, but get physically exhausted after long interactions. As a kid I was often daydreaming or completely absorbed in a book.

Recently, I couldn’t stop crying because I realized all the dogs I had ever known as a kid were no longer alive! These types of ruminations are very common, so I have to force myself to be present. Don’t even get me started on grief after the death of a pet dog.

Despite these challenges, Dr. Aron describes HSPs as having strengths such as strong empathy, conscientiousness, attunement to children and animals, resilience, humor, and deep processing.

We can experience physical symptoms to stress, overwhelm from stimulation, extreme reactions to gore and violence, and deep emotions that are hard for others to understand. Fortunately, dogs help highly sensitive people in a number of ways.

How Dogs Help Highly Sensitive People

Dogs, horses, and cats serve as invaluable companions for HSPs, but I will focus on how dogs help highly sensitive people here. Dogs offer unwavering support and understanding, consistency, and companionship in a world that can often feel unpredictable.

Emotional Support

Dogs have an uncanny ability to sense their owner’s emotions, almost like empaths themselves, and offer support during times of distress. For HSPs, who experience heightened emotional intensity, having a loyal dog by your side can provide immense comfort.

Stress Reduction

Research has shown that interacting with dogs can lower cortisol levels, reduce stress, and promote feelings of relaxation and well-being. For HSPs who tend to isolate when they are overwhelmed, dogs force you to walk and care for them, increasing positive social connections.

Non-Judgmental Companionship

Dogs are non-judgmental creatures who accept their owners unconditionally, flaws and all. For HSPs, who may be sensitive to criticism, the companionship of a dog provides a safe and nurturing environment where they can be themselves without fear of rejection.

Grounding Presence

Dogs ground us in the present moment, helping to alleviate anxiety about the future. For me, who is prone to overthinking and analysis paralysis, simply walking my dog Roro is a powerful mindfulness practice. Sometimes a dog is like a weighted blanket as they rest on your lap.

Do dogs help highly sensitive people if they are also sensitive?

Dogs can also be highly sensitive, so it is important that you and your dog are a good personality fit. If your dog is prone to anxiety or hyperactive, it may be exhausting for you as the owner. Puppies and their constant energy can also be a challenging, although temporary stage.

If you have an anxious or reactive dogs, these tips can help:

Weighted Blanket

For you and your pup, weighted blankets can be calming. I wrote previously about thundershirts which serve a similar, calming function for dogs. Dogs should only wear thundershirts for a few hours at a time, not all day.

Interactive Toys

A busy dog is a happy dog, so keeping them mentally and physically active will help reduce anxiety. These lick mats are the best, inexpensive option I have found for my dogs- spread peanut butter on them and freeze for a few hours for a long-lasting treat.

Choose the Right Breed

Some breeds have much more energy than others, so calmer companion breeds like Shih Tzus and Cavalier King Charles Spaniels make great choices for HSP dog owners. You can find more recommendations here and here for best calm dogs for HSPs


The bond between HSPs and animals runs deep, and dogs help highly sensitive people by offering mutual support, understanding, and companionship in a world that can often feel overwhelming.

By embracing the unique strengths of HSPs and recognizing the profound impact dogs have on our lives, we can make the most of this pawsome relationship.

So whether you’re an HSP considering getting a new pet or an owner who appreciates the unconditional love of their dog, let’s celebrate this remarkable bond.