How can dogs help our mental health?

July 01, 2022

From cosy evening snuggles to long adventurous walks, dogs enrich our lives in so many ways. But a perhaps lesser known superpower is their ability to improve our mental health.

This notion was really brought to light with the arrival of the pandemic. A 2020 study showed that, during the first lockdown, people felt a sense of support from their pets and that they helped to alleviate some of the psychological stress brought on by lockdown. 

The pandemic aside, many of us view our animals as companions rather than pets - particularly dogs. And one of the most amazing things about dogs is their ability to pick us up when we’re down. But how do they do it?

Increased exercise

Every dog requires daily exercise, so as a dog owner, it’s likely your activity levels have spiked since acquiring your pooch. Whether your dog enjoys short, relaxed strolls or lengthy, playful runs, physical activity can do wonders for your mental health. As well as helping to relieve tension and stress, exercise also prompts the release of endorphins in our brains  - a chemical that makes us feel good.

Focus, motivation, a sense of achievement and a boost of energy are just a few of the other benefits of exercising, and these will all contribute towards a sense of mental well-being. Not only do our pooches provide us with a motivation to exercise, but they also offer great company along the journey, making it that bit more enjoyable.

Companionship

Often described as ‘man’s best friend’, dogs are widely considered to be the best pets for companionship. Feeding, walking and generally looking after our dogs makes us feel wanted and needed. We receive a sense of satisfaction when caring for them and, whether we’re feeling on top of the world or down in the dumps, a dog is always there to share these moments with us.

That sense of connection and feeling relied upon can help to elevate one’s mental health and alleviate feelings of loneliness. Whether you’re cohabiting or living alone, a dog can feel like a member of the family, so no matter how many people are in your home, you’re never alone with a loving pooch by your side.

Meeting fellow dog owners

Socialising offers a sense of happiness and well-being for many, and it’s something that a dog can help facilitate. People often stop dog owners on walks to ask about their pooches and have a quick stroke, and fellow dog owners frequently chat to one another to trade stories about their four-legged friends.

These interactions, whether fleeting or in depth can be highly beneficial to one’s mental health. Meeting new people is something that’s exciting and energising for many, and pups can be the perfect icebreaker to get the conversation flowing.

Structure and routine

Though these words may not fill you with excitement, research has shown that routine can help to alleviate stress and anxiety. Duties such as walking, feeding and generally caring for our pups helps to add structure and definition to our days, making us feel more grounded and focused.

Checking things off a mental ‘to do’ list inspires a sense of achievement, which in turn helps to elevate one’s mental well-being.

A small brown and white dog wearing a Dogstar bandana stands against a grass background. The caption reads: Go Walkies Challenge.

Join our July Dog Walking Challenge!

Go Walkies with your favourite puppy pal and help us raise some funds for the street dogs you love!

Sign up to walk 50, 75 or 100KM throughout the month of July and claim your FREE doggy bandana today.

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