10 Ways Dogs Benefit Our Mental Health

January 25, 2023

When it comes to all the ways our dogs benefit our mental & emotional health, it’s hard to know where to start. From the way they greet us at the door with their tails wagging and tongues lopping to their never-ending, mischievous antics, dogs always have a way of making us feel better. With Bell’s Let’s Talk Day 2023 upon us, DNA My Dog thinks it’s only fitting to talk about some of the ways our canine companions can help improve our mental health and overall well-being. If you’re working on any wellness or mental health stories, please see DNA My Dog’s findings on how dogs can benefit our overall health. —Vita Daily

promote physical activity. Whether it’s a romp around the yard, a training session, a hike in the mountains, a swim at the lake, or a leisurely stroll around the block, our dogs have a way of getting us up and out of the house. Even the laziest of dogs needs some exercise and being active with our pups can have an overwhelmingly positive impact on both our physical and mental health. Studies have shown that physical exercise promotes the production of stress-reducing hormones and leads to a better mood, improved quality of sleep, and feeling of well-being overall.

increase positive social interactions. Taking our dogs for walks, visiting the dog park, and participating in community events and activities are great ways to get out of the house and experience some social interaction. Isolating ourselves and avoiding others can be indications that we’re struggling with our mental health. Studies have shown that positive interactions with others, no matter how brief, can have a lasting effect on our mood. Being out and about with our dogs gives us a reason to get up and go, interact with other people and pups, and maybe even make a few new friends.

boost the production of feel-good hormones. Whether it’s your own pet or a random dog off the street, research has shown that interacting with dogs boosts the production of hormones such as serotonin, oxytocin, and prolactin. These hormones reduce stress and promote feelings of happiness. Playing with your pup for just 10-20 minutes can significantly improve your mood AND lower your blood pressure.

provide friendship & reduce loneliness. There truly is no better companion than a canine companion. After a long day, most pet parents would much rather be in the company of their dogs than anyone else. That’s probably because dogs have a way of providing us with unconditional love and they never seem to judge us (unless you buy the wrong treats, of course). They’re always there to greet us and lift us up when we’re feeling down. In fact, dogs developed unique “friendly genes” (the GTF2I and GTF2IRD1 genes, specifically) that have mutated over thousands of years. These genetic developments made them exceptionally social and companionable and set them apart from other wild canids.

offer comfort. Whether we’re struggling with stress at work, relationship issues, the loss of a loved one, or we’re just having a plain old bad day, our dogs are always there to comfort and protect us. Not only can dogs seem to pick up on our moods, but they seem to know just how to remedy the problem. Simply being there is enough, but their crazy canine antics don’t hurt either!

reduce stress. Spending as little as 10 minutes interacting with dogs can significantly reduce feelings of stress for a few reasons. First of all, they’re adorable. But more importantly, interacting with dogs signals our brains to release stress-reducing hormones like serotonin. In fact, dogs can trigger the production of the same hormone associated with the bond between parents and their infants: oxytocin!

promote routine & structure. Dogs have a way of telling us when it’s time to do something and seldom let us stray from the routine without letting us hear about it. Whether it’s time for a walk, meal, treat, or bathroom break, you can bet your bottom dollar your dog won’t forget! So, even on the days when we’re feeling our worst and can’t get out of bed, our dogs give us a reason to do just that. And even though we might not appreciate it at the time, they’re always got our backs.

boost our self-esteem & make us feel needed. Lots of dog owners like to joke about how long (or rather how little) their dog would last in the wild. Let’s face it, we’ve domesticated our dogs to the point where they are entirely dependent on us for almost everything. While that can get old from time to time, we can’t deny it feels good to be needed, and our pups never fail to show their appreciation with some enthusiastic bum shaking, tail wagging, and affectionate snuggles.

reduce anxiety. Anxiety is one of the most common mental health conditions around the world, and there are various subtypes that people may experience such as social or generalized anxiety. Research has proven that having our dogs by our side significantly lowers feelings of anxiety whether we’re at home or in a public place. They provide us with a sense of security, and a supportive presence, and make us feel like we’re not alone.

dogs are great for pet therapy and make great service & support animals. Dogs make wonderful support & service pets and are often used in pet therapy among people of all ages. Whether they’re working in schools, hospitals, courthouses, long-term care facilities, or in private homes, dogs are incredibly talented when it comes to making us feel our best. Multiple in-depth studies have confirmed that pet therapy led to a noticeable improvement in the overall mental, emotional, and physical health of the people they helped. Pet therapy is becoming a lot more popular after experiencing such long-standing success in the past. Some of the most common breeds used in pet therapy include the Labrador Retriever, Golden Retriever, Great Dane, Cavalier King Charles Spaniel, and Poodle.


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