Poppy the Lhasa as a watercolour painting on the beach

Dogs: Powerful allies in boosting mental health

Owning a dog isn't just a source of joy, it's a major boost for mental health. Our furry friends offer companionship, get us moving, teach us to appreciate the present, and make us feel loved.

Imagine this: you’ve had a day that would try the patience of a saint. Office politics, deadlines looming, and then the dreaded commute home. You open the front door, and who’s there? Your cute and happy doggo! All of a sudden, that tail starts wagging, and those eyes light up, as if you’re the most marvellous thing in the world.

Well, if that doesn’t make you feel special, nothing will! It’s as if our four-legged friends have an innate ability to turn our frowns upside down. This post will take a deep dive into the heart-warming, mood-lifting world of dogs and mental health.

Dogs: therapists we need

There’s something special about the bond we share with dogs. Take our own dog, Poppy. She always seems to know when we’re in need of a pick me up. Her big, puppy eyes seem to say, “I’m here for you, no matter what.” It’s this kind of emotional support that can work wonders when you’re feeling low.

Research has shown that spending time with dogs can help reduce feelings of anxiety and depression. Here are some examples of studies that support this claim:

  • A controlled trial found that spending just ten minutes with therapy dogs improved hospital patients’ overall well-being. Compared to patients who hadn’t spent time with therapy dogs, those who did reported significantly lower levels of anxiety and depression following the visit.
  • Animal-assisted therapy has been shown to improve mood in children and adults with physical or mental health problems. There are also a number of studies demonstrating various effects of animals on self-reported anxiety in humans.
  • Another study found that animal-assisted therapy reduces anxiety for a wider range of patients than the comparison condition of therapeutic recreation.
  • A survey of dog owners found that they had lower depression scores compared to potential dog owners. There were no differences in anxiety and happiness scores between the two groups. Dog owners had a significantly more positive attitude towards and commitment to pets.
  • A clinical trial is currently underway to test whether animal-assisted intervention is better than conversation with another person, in reducing depression, anxiety, and loneliness among hospitalised children.
  • The first formal research involving animal therapy began in the 1960s when Dr. Boris Levinson found that his dog had a positive effect on mentally impaired young patients. Specifically, he discovered that these patients were more comfortable and likely to socialise with his dog than with other humans.

Overall, research suggests that spending time with dogs can have a positive impact on mental health by reducing feelings of anxiety and depression.

Dogs: your personal fitness cheerleader

Ever tried to skip a walk with your dog? Good luck with that! There’s something about those eager eyes and wagging tails that just makes it impossible to resist a good old stroll around the park. Dogs are like your personal fitness cheerleaders – always ready and raring to get you moving.

Poppy loves her daily walks. It’s not just about the exercise for her, though – she loves the sense of adventure, the new smells, and the chance to meet other dogs. For us, these walks are a chance to switch off, get some fresh air, and just enjoy being in the moment. It’s a win-win situation, really – we get a mental break, and Poppy gets to explore to her heart’s content.

Dogs teach us to live in the moment

One of the most important lessons we can learn from our dogs is to live in the moment. Dogs don’t worry about yesterday or tomorrow – they’re all about the here and now. Whether it’s chasing a ball, enjoying a belly rub, or savouring a tasty treat, dogs know how to make the most of every moment.

Take a leaf out of Poppy’s book – when she’s enjoying a cuddle, nothing else matters. She’s not thinking about that squirrel she chased yesterday, or wondering when her next meal is. She’s fully present, relishing the affection, and, in the process, reminding us to appreciate the little things in life.

Dogs encourage social interaction

Ever noticed how people seem to become more friendly when there’s a dog around? Suddenly, strangers strike up conversations, and before you know it, you’re chatting away like old friends. Dogs are like social glue – they bring people together, helping us feel connected and less alone.

Dogs: offering unconditional love and companionship

Let’s face it, the world would be a much lonelier place without our doggos. They’re there for us through thick and thin, offering a level of companionship that’s hard to beat. Dogs love unconditionally – they don’t care what job you do, what car you drive, or how many followers you have on Instagram. All they care about is being with you.

Our little Poppy’s a prime example. No matter how the day’s gone, she’s always there, with a wagging tail and a face full of happiness. It’s that dependable, unfaltering companionship that can make all the difference when you’re feeling down.

Dogs give us a sense of purpose

Life can sometimes throw us curveballs that leave us feeling a bit lost and directionless. But, having a dog can provide us with a sense of purpose. Knowing that there’s a little creature that relies on you can instil a sense of responsibility and fulfilment. It gives us a reason to get up in the morning, even on those days when we’d rather stay under the duvet.

Take Poppy’s morning routine, for instance. She’ll always give a gentle reminder when it’s time for breakfast, followed by a nudge for her morning walk. These little routines help set the rhythm of our day, and knowing she’s relying on us brings a fulfilling sense of purpose.

So, next time you see a dog happily bounding around the park, chasing their tail in the living room, or simply nuzzling into you for a cuddle, remember, they’re not just our pets. They’re our companions, our therapists, our personal trainers and so much more. They’re pivotal to our mental health and wellbeing, making our lives infinitely better in so many ways.

Now, if that’s not a reason to give your furry friend an extra treat tonight, I don’t know what is!!

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