If you’re wondering how do dogs help your mental health, we’re here to reveal how man’s most loyal companion can enhance your mental well-being. Dog owners know there’s no greater joy than interacting with a playful, loving dog. As a result, humans have developed bonds with dogs that are rooted in love, joy, and comfort — feelings that strengthen the beautiful connections we share with our pets.
In the coming section, we explore why dogs make such amazing companions and their benefits to our mental health.
Mental Health Benefits of Having a Dog
You might have noticed that our pets can become incredibly attuned to human behaviors and emotions. They look for cues such as tone of voice, gestures, and language to gauge and understand what you’re thinking and feeling.
So, how do dogs benefit your mental health? Having a dog can help ease loneliness, curb depression, and encourage physical activity, among other health perks. They make great companions for children and older adults.
Here’s why dogs are beneficial to a person’s mental health:
Stress is a reaction we have towards tense situations where we feel overwhelmed or under pressure. Friendly interactions and playful moments with a dog can help reduce it. When you engage with a dog, dopamine and serotonin production goes up, making you feel calm and happy.
An hour a day of stimulating playtime with your dog can help you feel better and soothe your nerves. Feeling on edge? Simply stroke a dog for several minutes or take a moment to lay close to him or her.
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Makes People Feel Needed
Many adults feel lonely, depressed, and even abandoned when they enter old age. But when older adults have a dog to care for, they have a sense of renewed purpose and meaning.
Dogs’ readiness to express love, affection, and genuine concern can brighten up an adult’s life. They also need to be fed, cared for, and walked which can distract people from their problems as they tend to the needs of their pets.
Taking care of dogs requires owners to pay attention to their pets’ needs: bathing them, taking them on walks, what they can and can’t eat, and more. For example, can dogs eat spinach? What is your dog allergic to? How much exercise does your dog need?
Dogs bond with humans almost immediately when they feel cared for and wanted. In turn, pet owners will feel needed and can spend their days feeling happy and loved in the company of their four-legged buddies.
Lowers Childhood Anxiety
How do dogs help with anxiety? For a better idea, let’s refer to an experiment conducted by the Centers For Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). During the research, 643 children were closely monitored. Over half of the children owned a pet dog. Parameters such as screen time, anxiety, BMI (body mass index), and physical activities were measured.
Interestingly, 21% of children who didn’t own dogs tested positive for anxiety while a mere 12% of those who had pet dogs were diagnosed with it. Ultimately, the study showed that owning a pet can lower the risk for childhood anxiety.
Children aren’t the only ones turning to dogs for comfort. According to these statistics, 70% of US households have pets. Thirty percent adopted one at the height of the COVID-19 pandemic, a period that was stressful for many Americans who had to stay home due to the lockdowns.
If you’re wondering, can having a dog help with depression, the answer is yes. Dogs have been known to reduce feelings of loneliness and improve the symptoms of depression. Being around a dog can raise oxytocin (also known as the love chemical) in the brain, helping people manage pain better. Pet owners who experience depression will find that dog breeds such as whippets, greyhounds, Labrador retrievers, Havanese, and spaniels are great all-around companions.
If you suffer from depression, it’s a good idea to seek help through therapy and look into getting a service dog. Psychiatric service dogs (PSDs) are trained to assist individuals with everyday tasks such as getting out of bed, learning how to cope in crowded places, and encouraging participation in daily activities.
Improves Overall Well-Being
Dogs can improve a person’s overall well-being, a fact that was studied and proven by Canadian researchers in a journal published on PLOS One. It’s a significant study that sheds light on how dogs can be beneficial to emergency facility patients and those recovering at home.
They found that hospital patients who spent just ten minutes a day with therapy dogs experienced improved well-being, reduced anxiety, and a better mood compared to patients who didn’t receive visits.
At the end of the study, the research found that patients who spent time with therapy dogs also experienced less pain while recuperating.
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Dogs Help Your Mental Health
How Can Pets Make You Happy and Improve Your Life?
Having pets such as dogs can make you feel loved and good about yourself. Dogs can encourage and help us to:
- Develop healthy habits such as walking, jogging, and spending time outdoors
- Bond better with those we love
- Build social connections with other pet owners and overcome social anxiety
- Grow closer to our pets through doga (dog yoga), nature walks, celebrations such as birthdays, and doggy playdates
Whether you’re looking for support for your therapy, service dogs, or pet dogs, the influence our furry friends have on our mental health is irrefutable.
How do dogs help your mental health? Dogs aid our mental health with their loving and delightful ways. They reduce stress and anxiety, make us feel needed, ease depression, and improve our overall well-being.
If you’ve been thinking about getting a dog for yourself or someone you care about, these four-legged bundles of joy may just be what you or they need.