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Why having a dog is the equivalent of therapy for your mental health

Adding a dog to your family can change your life and stress level. There’s a reason people have emotional support animals. Dogs are good for mental health and here are some reasons why.

older woman leaning over to scratch her dog's neck

Dogs Offer Constant Companionship

Dogs are there for you all the time, every day. Their support never wavers, and they’re supportive of your life choices, no matter how weird they might seem to other people. Dogs don’t care if you’re a crazy dog person who spends all day watching TV in pajamas.


They never judge or criticize your lifestyle choices and are always there to support you with unconditional love and constant companionship. Whatever thoughts you’d like to share or whatever you need to get off your chest, a dog is there to listen without judging.

They Help You Stay Active

Dogs need physical activity every day. Dog walks are an ideal opportunity to get outside and enjoy fresh air. The simple act of walking with your dog relieves stress and helps clear your head. Exercise has the power to calm emotions and improve mental health but people without dogs are less likely to take advantage of the benefits walking outdoors offers.


And playing with your pup -- whether it’s a game of fetch or just wrestling around on the floor is a fun way to bond, have fun and get some exercise.

Dog owners are also more active. Research shows dog owners spend around 300 minutes each week, about 5 hours, walking with their dogs whereas non-dog owners only spend about 100 minutes each week walking.


Owning a dog may be particularly beneficial for seniors. A study found that seniors with a dog spend 30 fewer minutes sitting each day. That’s important since too much sitting is linked with health problems, both physical and mental, including depression. Plus, companionship is important for mental health and well-being.

Dogs Are Non-Judgmental

Dogs never judge you, make fun of you, or reject your presence like other humans. A dog will accept anyone unconditionally as a friend and companion, even if that person is sometimes moody, or too busy to give the dog all the attention it deserves. They have undying loyalty that’s good for your soul and mental health.

Your dog will never give you a judgmental look like a friend might. Dogs don’t mind if you talk about anything, like how your boss was mean today or how someone started a rumor about you at the office. It makes no difference to them, because they are tolerant and accepting of you, even with your flaws.

They’re a Source of Unconditional Love

If you’re having a bad day, it’s comforting to know that your dog will be there for you and respond with affection whenever you need it. Dogs also encourage their owners to take frequent walks, which can reduce stress levels, improve blood circulation, and improve cardiovascular health. Such unconditional love is important for mental health too.

Dogs Can Help You Meet People

Dog owners often feel a special bond with other dog owners, but there are other ways that a dog connects you to other people. Owning a dog makes you more likely to go outside, and when you’re outside, you’re more likely to meet people -- especially if you have a friendly, energetic dog. Then there’s the opportunity to take your canine family member to a local dog park and interact with other dog owners and their dogs. Such positive interactions are beneficial for mental health.

They Reduce Stress

Study after study has shown that interacting with animals can reduce stress, lower blood pressure, and improve self-esteem. Studies also reveal that having an animal companion reduces feelings of isolation and depression in older adults and children. The unconditional love and non-judgmental companionship of dogs is therapeutic for humans and dogs alike.

Having a furry companion can also help reduce your risk of depression and anxiety. Studies show pet owners are less likely to suffer from high blood pressure and obesity than non-pet owners.


In fact, a report from the Human-Animal Bond Research Institute revealed that dog ownership may account for a million fewer obesity cases annually in the United States. Pets also offer emotional support and companionship, which can help prevent loneliness that leads to isolation and depression.

dog  paw in someone palm

Dogs Make You Laugh

Who doesn’t feel less stressed after spending time with a dog? Their silly antics make you smile and appreciate the little things in life. Dogs live mindfully and with gratitude, enjoying every moment, and can teach humans to do the same.

The Bottom Line

Now you know why dogs are good for mental health, and if you adopt one, you’re doing something positive for the dog you bring into your home too. It’s a win-win situation.

References:

“Dog Owners Get More Exercise - The New York Times.” 29 May. 2019, nytimes.com/2019/05/29/well/move/dog-owners-get-more-exercise.html.

“Study Finds Seniors Who Own Dogs Lead Healthier, More ....” 08 Aug. 2017, studyfinds.org/dogs-seniors-elderly-health/.

“Can Pets Really Help Fight America’s Obesity Epidemic ....” psychologytoday.com/gb/blog/animals-and-us/202005/can-pets-really-help-fight-americas-obesity-epidemic.

The Health Care Cost Savings of Pet Ownership: habri.org/assets/uploads/HABRI_Report_-_Healthcare

Cost_Savings_from_Pet_Ownership_.pdf


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