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The impact of dog ownership on mental health

Shot of beautiful lovely golden retriever dog looking the laptop while her smiling owner working with him in living room at home.

What drives many people to seek out owning a pet is the desire to have a new furry best friend. But owning a dog comes with far more benefits than just a built-in friend. Owning a dog positively influences your mental health, even if you don’t think you need any help. 

That’s because dogs can understand more than just the words we use. They pick up on our tone of voice, mannerisms, and gestures. And when they sense that something is off, your pet will try to help remedy that situation. This all stems from social recognition, which is a bond that forms between the dog and owner because both have identified each other as being significant to one another. 

Want to learn more about the positive impact your dog will have on your mental health? Below we take a deeper dive into six benefits. 

Dogs provide you with companionship 

When people feel isolated or lonely, not only does their mental health suffer, but they are more at risk for depression. When these same individuals own a dog, they now have a feeling of being wanted and needed. There’s no better feeling than having your dog run up to you with their tail wagging, or simply petting your furry friend, as physical touch goes a long way in combating isolation. 

Dogs help you meet new people 

Whenever people pass a dog walking down the street with its owner, you’ll find that people always stop to ask questions and pet the dog. Beyond just walking down the street though, you now may meet fellow pet owners in pet stores or training classes as well. Having a dog allows you to form and maintain new friendships and even be included in a specific social group with people who have similar interests!  

Dogs help you exercise more 

Just like with a human workout partner, dogs help provide support and consistency with your workout routine. Whether you opt for taking a walk, hike, or run, you’ll find that you begin to simply exercise more than you previously did. When you exercise you are not only working out your body, but you are working out your mind and helping keep your brain healthy. Having someone else that you have to take care of will also incentivize you to be more active more often! It is easier to do something if you know it is going to benefit someone else as well as yourself.

Dogs help you reduce anxiety

Anxiety can be triggered by a variety of factors but having a dog can help combat some of these reasons you may experience stress. Dogs are free-spirited and live in the moment, which helps their owners find joy living in the present and helps them be mindful of where they are spending their time. On the other hand, if someone’s anxiety keeps them indoors, having a dog will help them go out into the world more, simply because they will need to meet their dog’s needs!

Dogs add structure to your day

Many don’t realize how a lack of structure can be detrimental to mental health. Dogs require routine feedings, walks, and more. Having your dog on a schedule will help bring you onto a regular schedule. This will force you to have to get out of bed each day to tend to your pet, which can help if you are feeling depressed, anxious, or stressed. 

Dogs can fill your life with meaning

If you opt to adopt or save a dog from a shelter, caring for this pet will provide you with a sense of fulfillment. This is especially beneficial for individuals who may have been struggling with finding meaning in their life previously. This is particularly true if someone goes through a big life stage such as retirement, or having children move away. When you adopt a pet, you’ll find that your life has a purpose for you again. 

Choosing to own a dog is a personal decision and only you can determine if now is the right time for you. However, if you are experiencing any symptoms of mental illness, dog ownership has a variety of benefits that have helped many and could possibly help you too! 

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