How a dog can improve your mental wellbeing
There’s no such thing as too much mental health and wellbeing. There's always room for improvement, whether you’re currently facing difficulties or coming from a great starting position.
Pets can make a big difference in your emotional state. They can be companions, encourage healthy habits, and help you deal with difficult situations. Dogs are especially good for our wellbeing. Let’s look at why.
How dogs help with mental health
Dogs encourage more physical activity
All dog owners know their pets need daily exercise and time spent exploring outside. We sometimes forget that we share those needs. Daily walks or runs outside can improve our mental health, but it can be hard to find the motivation. Having a dog is a great way to jump-start your motivation to spend more time outside and stay active during your day.
Dogs make great companions
We live in a surprisingly non-social world. Despite (or possibly because of) the prevalence of social media, health professionals are describing our current lifestyles as creating a “loneliness epidemic”. Dogs provide a great antidote.
Dogs are empathetic animals. They notice your moods and provide a calming, non-judgmental presence.
Dogs help you meet new people
There is no better icebreaker than a pet dog, especially a puppy. Taking a walk with your dog can easily lead to enjoyable conversations and even new friends. Other dog owners will share stories, and non-owners might ask to pet your pup.
Having a rare or unusual breed kicks this advantage into overdrive. A short trip around the block can take half an hour or more as everyone wants to talk about your dog. Again, this helps overcome feelings of loneliness and isolation.
Dogs can give structure to your day
Most of us thrive with a sense of structure and consistent patterns in our day. If you work from home, losing that feeling of structure is easy. Having a dog can help you find it again.
Your dog needs you. They need to be fed, walked, trained, and played with every single day. Many dogs will even tell their owners when it’s dinnertime or when they think you should be going to bed.
The science behind the mental health benefits of dog ownership
You don’t need to just take our word for it. There’s plenty of strong scientific evidence for the power of dogs to improve our mental health.
Dogs provide companionship, which has been shown to improve day-to-day mental health. Some studies have shown that spending time with pets has a similar effect on us as cuddling a baby, including activating the same parts of the brain.
Pet owners have lower blood pressure, lower stress, better moods, and less anxiety than those without a furry friend. Obviously, issues like asthma or allergies can cause problems, but the overwhelming evidence is that pet ownership is generally good for your physical and mental health.
But what if you can't own a dog?
Unfortunately, not everyone can own a dog. You might not have enough time to look after and train a dog, not be allowed to have dogs in your home, or just want to travel more often than having a pet would allow. That doesn’t mean you can’t have the benefits of a dog in your life.
If possible, spend some time around dogs belonging to important people in your life. If a friend or family member has a dog, take the opportunity to visit. This helps strengthen those important relationships in your life and gives you the chance to enjoy some furry affection.
Another option is to volunteer at an animal charity. Lots of dog shelters are struggling with the number of unwanted pets abandoned post-pandemic and during the cost of living crisis. Walking dogs who are waiting to be rehomed benefits both of you.
Or why not find a puppy therapy event or even convince your office to try it out? Puppy therapy gives you the opportunity to spend time with some of the cutest puppies around while knowing that you’re helping their learning and socialisation.
If you’re craving some quality time working on your mental health with some four-legged friends, book a puppy therapy event with Paws in Work. And don’t forget to sign up for our newsletter for more mental health and puppy-related news and updates.
How to develop a successful workplace wellbeing strategy
! We’re here to guide you on factors to consider when implementing a wellbeing strategy at your workplace. If you’re just beginning your company’s wellbeing journey, here are some suggestions to kick-start your campaign.