The Mental Health Benefits of Owning a Dog
Whilst asking for nothing in return, our lovable canines always offer us their undivided attention, supporting us in so many ways they couldn't even comprehend. They play a significant role in our lives and the importance of dog companionship hasn’t gone unnoticed, with many professionals exploring the ways in which dogs help our mental health and wellbeing.
Since the rise of depression and anxiety during lockdown, many owners have turned to their pets for support. It is said that the bond between owner and pet is similar to the neural pathways that many parents experience with their babies.
Their therapeutic value is undeniable and since dogs are a huge part of Betty & Butch, we thought we would explore how these adorable fur balls boost our welling being and support our mental health.
Stress and Anxiety
Everyone experiences anxiety from time to time, whether it’s social or generalised anxiety, it’s a negative feeling to wave over you. Most often than not, anxiety results in a risen heartbeat, trembling, muscle tension, nausea and sweating. Whilst anxiety and stress is different from person to person, there is one common solution that brings our heart rate down.
Petting and playing with our dogs is scientifically proven to reduce stress-related hormones like cortisol and cuddling releases the oxytocin chemical in the body which lowers heart rate and blood pressure. There’s a reason why animal assisted therapy is widely popular, helping people in ways that medication couldn’t help.
Whilst feeling down is part of normal life, depression comes in many forms, often described as a spectrum like many mental health conditions, depression commonly consists of a persistent feeling of sadness and a lack of interest, motivation or desire for any activity or goal.
For those who suffer with depression, dogs are great motivators because they need to be fed, walked, watered and played with; giving owners a structured routine and life. They encourage us to get outside because they need to be walked at least once a day. Even if we don’t feel like caring for ourselves, the act of caretaking for our dogs gives us purpose in life and helps people with depression find a sense of achievement which they often struggle with alone.
Feeling lonely has a negative effect on our mental health, especially if the feeling lasts a long time. As a result of the coronavirus pandemic, lockdown has made society feel trapped and lonely, as we were unable to socialise as much as we wanted to.
There is a reason why there was a huge spike in pet adoption during lockdown: people wanted a new companion to spend their new spare time with. However, animal experts have warned that this has raised the concern of pet abandonment, particularly when people have started back work in the April month. It is important to learn how to prepare your dog for the end of lockdown.
Although dogs offer great companionship, making us feel less lonely and help us socialise with other dog owners when we take them out for their daily walk, dogs sole purpose shouldn’t be to solve our problems. Dogs are a valuable companion that should stay part of the family for their whole doggy life. Dogs and owners benefit each other when it comes to loneliness, counteracting social isolation and offering friendship for both parties.
Dogs make great social pals. Check out our previous blog on our Top 5 Dog-Friendly Pubs in Manchester which you can now visit since the 12th of April when lockdown progressed to stage two.
Dogs are pack animals and their social structure means they are very loyal to their pack leader – you. Their loyalty gives you a great sense of comfort and protection, especially people who are elderly or live alone. They let you know if anything is wrong and are particularly beneficial for people who suffer with post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD).
PTSD is an anxiety disorder that can happen to anyone who experiences a traumatic or distressing event which causes a rise in anxiety, stress, panic attacks and they can relive the event through flashbacks and nightmares. A terrible condition to experience, service dogs have been used for emotional and physical support for this disorder because they help owners feel supported and protected.
There are so many benefits of having a dog for children, especially for children who experience anxiety, depression, ADHD and autism. Besides helping them learn to be responsible by taking on tasks like feeding and walking, dogs are very active animals who love to play and playing with a dog burns excess energy that children typically have a lot of with ADHD. More energy is burnt which means they will likely be calmer and more relaxed in the evenings.
Being around dogs also helps to manage many other health conditions in children. Dogs are non-judgemental towards social skills or athletic ability which means they offer unconditional love, making children feel wanted and adored especially children who struggle with mental health issues. Interacting with a pet like hugging, stroking or playing, can reduce hormones linked to stress in children and increase the ‘happy’ brain chemicals - dopamine and serotonin.
Dogs are Amazing!
It is almost like there is nothing a dog can’t do. Aside from the physical and health benefits they offer through exercise which lowers the risk of cardiovascular disease and increases our immunity to allergies, leading to fewer visits to the doctor.
The impact of dogs on mental health and wellbeing hasn’t gone unnoticed as animal assisted therapy has become one of the most beneficial therapeutic options for people who have mental health issues. Moreover, dogs are widely used as assistant dogs to support disabled people with many disabilities such as blindness, hearing impairments, autism and physical disabilities.
Having a dog that is part of the family is a great way to enhance your quality of life and at Betty & Butch, the list is endless on how our dogs have helped improve our mental health and wellbeing as dog owners.
We would love to hear how your fluffy best friends have improved yours, so let us know down in the comments!