This is a question that only a daft hooman could ask. Of course dogs help mental health! Whether you have a big pupper or a small pupper, there are many ways these gorgeous creatures can bring benefits to your life. OK, for the sake of balance, we’re going to have to admit that having a dog may not be all belly rubs and Scooby snacks, but with the correct preparation, owning a dog can undoubtedly change it for the better.
The Science Bit – How are dogs good for your mental health?
You know you’re onto a good thing when scientists say you should have a dog. Dogs are used in all kinds of medical capacities to help hoomans, sorry, humans, function on a daily basis. Just take a look at guide dogs, without whom many people would be unable to safely leave their homes or carry out daily tasks.
Delve deeper into the science and you discover there are such things as seizure dogs. Dogs that help those with epilepsy predict when they are about to have a seizure. Not only is having one of these dogs massively beneficial for your physical health if you are epileptic, but there is reassurance in being able to get into a safe position because your dog has forewarned you of an impending seizure. These types of dogs are trained to protect their owners during a seizure and to even alert others of the situation. In-flaming-credible!
Dogs are great for when you’re feeling down
This may well be stating the bloomin’ obvious to many, but dogs can actually help people who suffer from depression. Besides being the best cushions to cry into when you’re having a bad day, dogs are sensitive creatures who react to our moods and offer comfort when we need it. Stroking the soft fur of a dog provides a tactile sensation and the repetitive motion of stroking allows us to become calmer. A common cause of depression is the feeling of loneliness, and with a dog to come home to every day you’ll never feel alone (even when you’re going to the loo…). According to the Mental Health Foundation, pets are especially beneficial for older people living alone.
Shhhhh! Don’t say it out loud! If you’re a new dog owner you may have only just discovered that once you’ve uttered the word “walkies”, there’s no turning back. Fortunately, a dog is the best personal trainer you can have, as there’s no way you can get away with not going on at least one walk a day. Going for regular walks can increase your heart rate and oxygen levels, reduce blood pressure and help to release those feel-good endorphins you need to elevate your mood. You also get to show off your four-legged friend, which is an added bonus.
With great power comes great responsibility…
All these superpowers do come at a price, and that price is recognising the huge responsibility that comes from owning a dog. Yet even this knowledge can have mental health benefits. It is said that children with autism and ADHD benefit from the routine and responsibility associated with dog ownership. Looking after a dog requires forward planning, which can help focus your mind. Knowing you’re responsible for another living being also helps with empathy and feeling wanted.
To find out more about how dogs can help with your mental health, visit the Mental Health Foundation. If you want to find great dog walks, there are some fabulous places in the UK such as the Lake District, Peak District and Yorkshire.