How dogs and mental wellbeing are linked

Updated 09 May 2024
Read time: 5 mins
article author
Written by Elle Padgham
Lead Copywriter
article author
Reviewed by Dr. Linda Simon
Team Vet

Keeping fit and healthy:

Getting out of the house to go for regular walks helps to improve cardiovascular fitness. You can also incorporate hikes or runs with your pooch into your daily routine to mix up it up and to ensure that you and your pooch alike are getting the right amount of exercise.

Reduced anxiety:

Studies have shown that pet owners are less likely to suffer from depression than those without pets. Some of the reasons for this could include the fact that playing with your dog or stroking your dog can increase levels of serotonin and dopamine which calm and relax us. Having a pooch can certainly help us to enjoy each day and cherish the special moments with our canine companions.

Reduced depression and loneliness:
Our pooches are a great source of company and are always happy to spend their time with us.
After a long, tiring day at work, there is no greater joy than opening the door to our big bundles of love with their wagging tails waiting at the door. Guaranteed to put you in a good mood!
Pooches also love to show their affection all day long! Whether that’s a morning snuggle in bed or slobbery pup kisses throughout the day, they’re always there to show you some pooch love.

Adding structure to our daily routines:

No matter how you are feeling, our four-legged friends need to stick to their exercise and feeding routine which can lead to us having a more consistent routine in our own lives too.

What are therapy dogs and how can they boost your health?

Therapy dogs are pets that improve your health by giving emotional support. Therapy dogs can be trained to give support to yourself and/or to others.
Therapy dogs can visit a wide range of places in order to comfort people. These places can include retirement homes, schools and hospitals.
These wonderful pooches are trained to be gentle and friendly in order to best comfort those who need it.

Service dogs are a little different to therapy dogs in that they are trained to assist an individual with a disability. A great example of this is of course, guide dogs.

Some mental health challenges such as depression, ADHD and PTSD among many others, have been known to respond well to therapy dogs. Patients can massively benefit from interactions with a therapy dog and studies have shown that these interactions can increase the mood-boosting hormone oxytocin and decrease the stress hormone cortisol.

How to train your therapy dog 

Therapy dogs can be any size and breed of dog as long as they are in suitable health and have the correct temperament for all dog therapy activities.

You can train your dog to become a therapy dog for yourself or for others such as visiting elderly people in care homes or to help children to read in schools.
Therapy dogs can also be beneficial to a wide range of mental health challenges such as depression, emotional challenges result from physical health problems and ADHD.

If you would like to train your dog to be a therapy dog, the best place to start is getting their temperament tested. This will include things such as testing to see if your pooch will accept a friendly stranger, sit politely for petting and comply with basic behavioural commands.

To find out more you can get in touch with a registered charitable organisation – the largest being Pets As Therapy (or PAT dogs). They currently work with volunteers and can temperament test your dog.

“In early February 2020 I gave birth to my first son, George, however at just 2 days he sadly passed away due to a number of complications. After this my world was understandably turned upside down and I was in my very very darkest days, I went through speaking to countless amounts of people for my grief; nurses, family members, therapists yet I was still so very lost. I’m not sure who it was exactly who said “why not get a dog?” But whoever did, I owe them my life.
We got Hugo in late March 2020, right before lockdown, and he made my life worth living again, dogs have this special power where they just love you so unconditionally that you almost forget about what’s going on in the world like the love is so strong. Hugo gave me a reason to get up every morning, he gave me strength to keep going because if I didn’t, he simply wouldn’t survive either. Through him I gained confidence again, I was able to make new friends who also had dogs, I was able to start my Instagram page and I began to share my story because people should know that they are never alone in the situation me and my partner found ourselves in and through this Instagram page I was able to focus on raising a lot of money for the charity which supported my son in his short life via a raffle draw on Hugo’s page.
Dogs are simply amazing, they don’t know how much they do for us, but I just know that if Hugo wasn’t here with me, my life would still be back in that deep black hole. He gave me life again after losing what felt like everything and I can not be more grateful for that.”

We love to celebrate how wonderful our pooches are every day, but especially over the last year. For those who live alone or have been working from home, it’s been a wonderful time to truly cherish our amazing four-legged pals and appreciate the many ways they bring joy to our lives.

Dogs are not only able to understand many of the words we use but are even able to interpret our tone of voice and body language. From this, our loyal pooches will try to gauge our emotional states making them the perfect companion always ready to provide unconditional love and affection when we need it most.

How pets positively impact our health

Dogs can benefit our mental health in many ways and have been proven to reduce anxiety and depression.
Some of the way that dogs can positively impact our mental health are:

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