All dog lovers can vouch for how fun it is to have a four legged friend around the house. What you might be less aware of, are the positive benefits that a dog can have on your mental wellbeing. Aside from just being cute, dogs have actually been shown to have a practical impact on improving mental health in the following ways:
A dog is a great companion, particularly for those who live alone. It’s easy to build a strong sense of companionship between dog and owner, and having a friendly face around the house can prevent feelings of isolation and loneliness. Loneliness can be a particularly large problem among older adults, and for those suffering from dementia, pet companionship can help provide a sense of security, support and stress-relief.
Expanding your social network
Pets offer company at home, however they are also great for helping you expand your social network outside of the house. Taking your dog out for a walk presents a great opportunity to chat to other dog owners and provides a common interest for interacting with others. Dog training groups, pet shops and walking groups all offer a chance to interact with new people who you might not have got the chance to meet if you didn’t have a dog.
Studies have shown that interacting with a dog for as little as 5 minutes reduces stress-related hormones and that the sensory act of stroking a dog instantly lowers blood pressure and makes you feel relaxed. Playing with a dog also increases ‘happy hormones’ like serotonin and dopamine that boost your mood and help combat feelings of anxiety and depression.
Providing routine and purpose
Owning a dog automatically introduces a sense of structure and routine into your life. The dog will need feeding and walking at regular intervals giving owners a reason to get up and crack on with their daily routine. Being responsible for a pet provides a focus that helps people stick to a routine and can be particularly beneficial for people suffering from depression.
Increasing physical exercise
Dogs need exercising everyday meaning that as an owner, you’re going to be exercising too. Having a dog gives you a reason to get out of the house and exercise, and physical exercise does wonders for your mental health. Regular exercise can help reduce the symptoms of anxiety and depression as well as helping to give you more energy and improve the quality of your sleep.
Dogs show their owners unconditional love and this can act as a form of emotional support and positive affirmation for dog owners. Being responsible for the care of a dog can increase people’s sense of significance and self-worth which are all important for boosting confidence. Not to mention, dogs get their owners exercising and interacting with others which is of course another important factor for fostering a person’s self confidence.
So really, we’ve got quite a lot to thank our canine companions for!