Lisa Mulholland
About Author
January 11, 2023
Pet Therapy

For The Love of Dogs

One of the primary ways in which dogs benefit mental health isthrough their ability to reduce stress. Stress is a common issue, particularlydue to societal expectations and the pressure to balance multiple roles, suchas being a parent, a partner, a worker, and a caretaker. Having a dog by theirside can help us cope with the demands of daily life. Petting a dog can lowerthe levels of cortisol, a hormone associated with stress, in the body, and theact of walking a dog can help to clear the mind and provide an opportunity tofocus on the present moment. This can be particularly beneficial for those whoare juggling multiple responsibilities and can find it difficult to switch off.

Dogs also have a therapeutic effect on those who suffer fromdepression. The companionship and love that a dog provides can help tocounteract feelings of loneliness and isolation, which are common symptoms ofdepression. Additionally, taking care of a dog can provide a sense of purposeand meaning, which can help to improve mood and self-esteem. It gives you a purposeto get out of bed each morning and go outside. Getting out in the fresh air forthat first walk of the day starts your day with positive steps. Saying “hello”to people you pass, chatting in the park to other dog owners, can give somecomfort in what could be a lonely day.  Forthose who are struggling with depression, the simple act of playing with orspending time with a dog can be a powerful antidote to the feeling ofhopelessness that often accompanies this mental health condition. Studies haveshown that interacting with a therapy dog can be beneficial for those experiencingdepression and may result in improved mood, and a reduction in depressionsymptoms.

For those suffering with anxiety, dogs can provide a sense ofsecurity and protection. Many find comfort in the mere presence of their dog,and the act of petting or cuddling a dog can help to reduce feelings ofanxiety. Additionally, having a dog can help to improve social interactions,which can be beneficial for those with social anxiety. A dog can also be agreat companion for those who prefer to stay home, providing a sense ofcompanionship, even when they don't feel like socializing. There are many psychiatricstudies that have reported that dog owners had lower levels of general anxietydisorder compared to non-dog owners, this might be due to the sense of securityand comfort they get from having a companion.

Dogs can also promote feelings of happiness and well-being. Thesimple act of playing with or spending time with a dog can release feel-goodchemicals in the brain, such as serotonin and dopamine. These chemicals canhelp to improve mood and promote a sense of overall well-being, which can beparticularly beneficial for those who are going through difficult times orexperiencing stress in their lives. The therapeutic effects of a dog on mentalwell-being might be explainable by the fact that the bond between human and dogis an emotional one, which can have the power to alleviate feelings ofloneliness, anxiety, and depression.

It's important to note that the benefits of dog ownership varyfrom person to person, and are contingent on the individual's circumstances andlifestyle. Not everyone has the ability to own a dog due to health, financial,and time constraints. However, even if you don't own a dog, you can stillbenefit from spending time with them by volunteering at an animal shelter,going to a pet-friendly café, borrowing a dog from a service like Borrow MyDoggy or by going onto the Pawshake App, where dog owners pay you to pet sit.

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