Mental Health Therapy From Dogs
There are many reports about how humans can gain positive mental health therapy from dogs.
We know that stroking a pet can reduce blood pressure and increase levels of serotonin and dopamine which reduce stress levels. Also, studies show that pet owners have lower cholesterol and triglycerides which prevent heart disease.
There are other huge benefits to general health from owning a pet, but I wanted to share how it can improve mental health too.
This post shows how owning dogs has helped on my personal journey suffering from mild depression and severe social anxiety for decades. I’m hoping that it will help others who are thinking of adding a dog to their family, but worried that they won’t be able to cope.
I enjoy my own company but never feel truly alone when my dogs are with me. A dog is always there to give a warm welcome when I return home even if I’ve only be gone for a short time.
My dogs make me laugh every day, give me cuddles and a reason to get up in the morning.
They Never Judge You
It’s normal for anyone who has mental health problems to have bad days. Sometimes you want to hide under the duvet and the slightest chore is overwhelming.
Dogs accept you for who you are and for them it really is ok, not to be ok.
They absolutely don’t care if you haven’t combed your hair or emptied the laundry basket, they never judge and love you unconditionally….no matter what!
I always state how important it is to have a routine for your dog. However, it’s important for humans too. Routine adds structure to your day, defines day and night and promotes regular meal times.
Feeding times, walks and playtimes all need to be done when you have a dog, instantly installing a routine that can be built on.
We know that physical exercise really helps mental health problems. You may not feel like throwing on running gear but grabbing a dog lead and going for a stroll around the block is much easier to tackle.
On good days that stroll will become a substantial walk, and it is then that you begin to see huge mental health benefits.
Knowing that your dog needs a daily walk will give you the inspiration and confidence to take that first step.
Making New Friends
You would never approach a stranger in the street and start a conversation. However, it’s the most acceptable thing in the world if you have dogs!
Every dog owner likes to talk about their dogs and they really love to hear that you think their dogs are well trained, beautifully groomed or just downright cute.
It might start as a friendly ‘hi’ or remark about the weather, but it still puts a smile on your face and brightens your day.
Before long, regular chats take place and the dogs get some valuable canine friendship too!
There is no better feeling than having a contented dog snoozing beside you. They are always there to offer comfort and happy to spend hours at your side. Dogs pick up on our moods and will know when you are struggling with anxiety and depression. Just stroking your pet will reduce stress levels and the company of a dog eases feelings of loneliness.
Living In The Moment
This is something that I have struggled with but my dogs have helped so much, to take each day as it comes.
We are overwhelmed with plans and activities and forget to just relax and live for today. Dogs are excited by small things like a new toy or bone, a friendly visitor or a delicious treat.
They have taught me to enjoy the simple things in life.
Since I got my puppy I have hardly ever switched on the television. I just find it fascinating to watch my puppy play, interact…even sleep!
My dogs make me laugh, fill empty hours and surprise me every day.
The dynamics in the house have changed since the puppy came along and I’m fascinated to see how the puppy will change the pack hierarchy. Over the days the puppy has become accepted by my other dogs and mutual respect has formed. It’s good to see new canine relationships form which will hopefully go on to form a tight bond.
Thinking Long Term
If you are a dog or cat owner it is a potentially a fifteen-year commitment to give the animal the care that it needs.
Therefore, you automatically start thinking about your long term health and how you can improve it.
The love and responsibility of a dog will make you rethink your diet, get a health check or join a yoga class. These are things that may have previously been pushed to the back of your mind, but now you will be spurred on to do them because you want to be healthy for your dog.
It’s not just adults who suffer from mental health problems. Children can have anxiety and a furry friend can really help restore confidence, give comfort and put the fun back into life.
Dogs teach children how to be responsible. They learn to empathise, care and be respectful in the company of animals.
This is a post that I wrote about children and dogs.
How Children Can Learn From Dogs
Borrow A Dog
If you don’t feel that you can take on the responsibility of taking on a dog yourself, why not borrow one?
You could ask a friend or neighbour if you could take their dog for a walk or tag along on a dog walk. Spending time with dogs really improves mental health even if it is just for a short time.
BorrowMyDoggy.com is an excellent UK website which has been specifically designed to connect people with mental health problems and friendly, fun-loving pooches.
Here are a few of the dogs who have helped me over the years. Some have lived with me their whole lives, belong to family members or others I have fostered for just a short time. The main thing is that they have all really helped me.
Some were clowns who made me laugh, others needed lots of exercise so we walked for miles. There are the ones who just knew when I needed a hug, one would get up in the night with me when I couldn’t sleep and a special rescue dog taught me to count my blessings!
I really hope this post has helped to show how time spent with a pet can give valuable mental health therapy.
Do you have a dog who has helped with anxiety or depression?
I would love to hear your stories.
Thank you for reading.
Thank you for sharing – an excellent post and one with which I heartily agree.
Mark and I suffered from severe depression when we both lost our jobs at the same time. Getting our first puppy, Kai, made us feel instantly better. The next three helped exponentially!
This is our story – we found that the most effective treatment for The Black Dog was A Black Dog – although dogs of other colours also work!