Are you a dog parent or planning to get one? If you are a dog owner, then you already know how awesome dogs are! They can fill your life with a lot of love, loyalty, cuddles, and companionship. As if this was not enough, they come with some great health benefits as well.
The bond between humans and dogs is powerful and beneficial to both. Most pet parents will tell you that they consider their dogs a family member and treat them as one. The positive interaction and relation between dogs and their owner’s mental health are undeniable.
Dogs And Mental Health
Researchers have proven evidence that prove the fact that owning a dog helps lower anxiety, control depression & stress by providing companionship and easing loneliness. It is their unconditional love that makes and keeps people happy.
Most dog owners know about the joys which are a part of sharing life with dogs. However, many people are still not fully aware of the health benefits of owning a dog that accompany joy and pleasure. Many studies and research are being carried out to study the bond between dogs and humans and the full extent of health benefits for humans.
Dogs Understand Us!
Over the centuries, pets and especially dogs have evolved and are now quite attuned to human emotions, language and behavior. They can even understand a lot of words we use and interpret our tone and gestures quite accurately.
Like our human friends, they may look into our eyes and gauge our body language to read our feelings and thoughts. This helps them to guess when their next treat or walk is coming up, but at the same time, this understanding of emotions creates a deep connection between humans and their dogs. This is very beneficial for dog owners and plays an important role in their mental well-being.
How Do Dogs Help?
We generally know that all pets and dogs cause a reduction in stress and anxiety and encourage playfulness and exercise. Caring for animals helps children evolve into more compassionate adults. Dogs make for great companions for seniors. All this is information that we are generally aware of but do you know, “What impact do dogs have on humans’ mental health?” Studies have shown that having a dog can:
- Make it less likely for owners to have a bout of depression.
- Lower the blood pressure even in difficult situations.
- Increase levels of dopamine and endorphins, which help in relaxing.
- Bring the levels of cholesterol down for better heart health.
One reason for such benefits could be the need for touch, which is basic to all humans. Studies have shown that even criminals who are in prisons show behavioral changes after interaction with pets. Hugging and stroking a dog can soothe anyone anxious and make them calm.
Connection Between Physical And Mental Health
It has been proven with several studies and tests that physical and mental health are connected quite deeply. Any up and down in one affects the other and vice versa. A lack of exercise and physical activity can immediately affect mental well-being.
If you are ill and feeling tired, it will automatically make you feel anxious and even bring on depression. This will make you uninterested in anything, including any physical activity, which will lead to more anxiety and severe mental problems. So, the connection between the two, physical as well as mental health, is undeniable.
How Can A Dog Help You In Making Healthier Changes In Lifestyle?
It would be best if you looked into the beautiful eyes of your dog to have a sense of calm and feel a rush of dopamine. Just having a dog as a pet is so joyful that mental well-being seems like a natural thing. However, having a dog can help you in making some lifestyle changes that translate to better mental health.
1. Increased Exercise
When you have a dog, you need to take it out for walks. Dogs love the outdoors, and the more you take them outside for walks, hikes, runs, to the park, etc. they love it. As a dog owner, you are far more likely to achieve your physical activity goals this way. These excursions also help in creating a deeper bond between you and your dog.
Loneliness and isolation are the main causes for a person to feel anxious or depressed and can even cause certain illnesses. Companionship can prevent these problems and even prolong a person’s life. When you look after another living being, there is a sense of being needed and moreover, the daily routine can make you look beyond your problems. Most pet parents love talking to their pets, and some even discuss their problems. Most of all, what can you say when you come home and see your dog wagging his tail!
Pets are great social icebreakers. They can help you in meeting new people and help you in maintaining relations with other pet owners. Dog owners tend to stop and talk to other dog owners and exchange notes while out for a walk. There are chances of you meeting other pet parents at the vets, dog-training classes, dog restaurants, etc. Dogs are especially good for shy or introverted people and find it difficult to make friends easily.
4. Reduce Anxiousness
The friendship and loyalty offered by a dog can soothe and reduce anxiety. It can also help in building self-confidence in people who generally avoid going out or suffer from anxiety. Dogs don’t remember what happened in the past and will love you unconditionally in the present. This can rub off on people who worry excessively and make them live in the present.
5. Bring Structure To Your Daily Routine
All pets, including dogs, need a fixed schedule for eating and exercising. For them to be in good health, you need to stick to a daily routine, which can work equally well for you. When a dog wants to go for a walk, it does not matter if you feel anxious or depressed. Just the pleading eyes of your dog will make you immediately look after their needs.
6. Sensory Benefits
Touch is a healthy way to control stress. When you stroke your dog, it can bring a sense of inner peace. Caressing a loved one is one sure-shot way of increasing endorphins in the body, and it is the same with pets. Dogs love being stroked, and this activity can make both the owner and the pet happy and connected. This works both ways because it has been proven that dogs that are touched and stroked are happier and less anxious.
7. Dogs Bring Us Closer To Nature
Being close to nature has a calming effect, and it is a good remedy for stress and anxiety. Dogs love going for walks, and on a day-to-day basis, you would take your dogs for walks more than once. What is great is the fact that a dog will encourage you to think of green spaces, maybe a park, beach, or woods nearby. As a pet parent, you want to see your pet happy. Knowing that your dog would love such places, you would be more inclined to travel to these areas.
More Specialized Benefits Of Dog Ownership
All dog owners will agree that their dogs bring them a lot of happiness and help keep them to stay physically and mentally fit. There are a few areas where having a dog can work wonders psychologically and can even transform lives.
1. Service Dogs
For people with physical disabilities, the world can be a tough place. Not being able to move freely or independently can make a person lonely and depressed. With a service dog, life becomes easier as they are trained to travel and go out with a disabled person and keep them safe.
2. Support Dogs
Young children who have autism or have some abuse history find it difficult to express themselves freely, which can lead to many psychological problems. A support dog is trained to be patient and can sense the inner feelings of these children easily. They help the children manage their problems better and make them feel like they have a true friend.
3. Older adults and seniors
Older adults living alone find it difficult to socialize or go out often. Owning a dog can give them some relief and bring companionship as well. An older adult retires from a career, and their children can also move away. So, an older adult may get a morale boost and a sense of worth by caring for a dog. It is also possible to overcome many of the physical ailments that aging brings because dogs expect playfulness and exercise. This can help older adults in better mental health and mentally agile.
The comfort and love that dogs can bring to our lives is an incredible thing. Various studies conducted over the years have consistently shown that owning a dog is beneficial in many ways, including mentally. Owning a dog can transform lives in more ways than one. It is rightly said that “the best therapist has fur and four legs.” Learn to truly appreciate your pet’s value to fully understand how big a contribution they make towards or mental health.