The Benefits Of Having A Dog On Mental Health

having a dog improves mental health

The benefits of owning and caring for a pet has long been recognized and studied. Dogs especially have been used for decades for therapy and rehabilitation in a variety of settings. The enjoyment and relaxation of owning a pet have almost universal appeal.

Individuals suffering from sometimes debilitating conditions such as bipolar disorder, post-traumatic stress disorder, depression and anxiety could all potentially benefit from the unconditional love of a furry companion. All ages, from young children to the elderly, can find added comfort and stability with a doggy best friend.

Seeing the wagging tail and happy demeanor of a beloved pet is a reward in itself. It is no wonder that studies continue to support the many benefits of pet ownership, especially dogs. Some breeds are especially adept at sensing stress and negative emotional reactions and are always ready to offer companionship and comfort.

Tail-Wagging Motivation

Caring for a dog can help those suffering from depression and loneliness to stay focused and anchored in the moment. Caring for a dog can create a sense of purpose and achievement, as well as being a distraction from negative thoughts.

Knowing that a furry friend will be waiting with tail-wagging happiness and anticipation can make coming home a joyful rather than a dreaded event for those who live alone. Planning for the proper care of a canine pet can help build mental stability by maintaining focus on the here and now.

Dogs need regular exercise, which is a great motivator for regular physical exercise. Staying active is great therapy for depression, whether playing with a toy at home or on a jog around the neighborhood.

Many pet owners reap the social benefits of walking their canine companion in public places. Dogs seem to attract attention everywhere they go. Pet lovers will say hello and ask to pet or interact with friendly animals, and in the process the owners also make needed social contact, lessening feelings of loneliness and isolation.

Paws for Relaxation 

Just petting or sitting next to a pet has been shown to have stress-relieving effects. Studies have shown that individuals who suffer from stress or anxiety issues demonstrate lower levels of stress-inducing and correspondingly higher levels of stress-reducing hormones. And these stress-reducing effects often take place much more quickly than with prescribed medications, many times within 5-10 minutes.

Studies also show that dog owners suffering from anxiety attacks often experience lower blood pressure, heart rate, and more regular breathing after spending some quiet time with their pets. The therapeutic nature of these four-legged companions can also be preventative, producing less anxious reactions and faster recovery times after stressful experiences.

Therapy dogs have been instrumental in assisting extreme anxiety sufferers to achieve a calmer state of mind. These working dogs recognize and act when episodes of anxiety threaten to overwhelm or decapacitate the sufferer. A physician or mental health counselor will know if such a companion is recommended.

Household pets also become attuned to the distress of their owners and offer comforting kisses and quiet closeness to ease emotional turmoil and calm overwhelmed nerves. Taking a 'time-out' with a trusted canine partner may be all it takes to get back on mental track.

Overall, many dog owners report a greater sense of well-being and confidence since acquiring their pet. The emotional support and devotion of a canine friend can contribute to a calmer, more positive mindset, making it easier to handle day-to-day stresses.

Growing Up Doggy 

Dog ownership can be beneficial for children for many reasons, from the comfort of unconditional love and acceptance to boosting the immune system for fewer allergies and lessened asthma symptoms. Pet ownership has been shown to have a positive impact on the emotional, physical, and mental health of children.

The unconditional love of a family pet can help build confidence in today's stressful world. The relentless energy and limitless patience of many dog breeds make them excellent childhood companions and protectors, adding to a sense of security in the face of social or family conflict.

Social anxiety and separation anxiety can be greatly lessened by the companionship of a furry friend. Having a furry buddy to hug in stressful situations can be an outlet for emotional stress and ease anxiety. When adult comfort or companionship is not available, a dog can be a child's best friend.

Children learning to care for a pet learn to plan and be responsible. They can enjoy self-esteem boosting confidence by knowing they are responsible for another's well-being. This can be especially helpful for children who suffer from feelings of loss from broken family relationships or a traumatic move or illness. Caring for a pet is a constant role that teaches relationship building along with self-worth.

The activity of playing with and walking the family dog can also be beneficial for kids suffering from ADHD, providing an outlet for pent-up extra energy. Child psychiatrists recommend pets for the physical and emotional outlet they can provide. ADHD children can achieve a level of calm after the exertions of playtime or the comfort of cuddle time with a beloved pet.

Ongoing studies are showing some promise for dog ownership and autistic children as well. In some cases, having a canine presence has increased social communication and resulted in fewer episodes of anxiety and a greater sense of calm.

Lasting Effects 

Studies have indicated that dog ownership may actually add to both the quality and longevity of life. The less stressful, more active lifestyle of pet owners may lead to fewer heart issues and quicker recovery time when issues to arise.

Pet owners often have a more consistent routine, which keeps them in better physical health and a more upbeat frame of mind. Disciplining themselves to ensure their dog has enough exercise to maintain healthy weight and stamina helps to encourage personal discipline in other areas as well, such as taking time to relax and enjoy the companionship of a loving dog buddy.

The positive effects of time spent between owner and pet have been shown to continue long after moving on to other things. Also, these effects appear to build up over time, leading to an overall greater sense of acceptance and well-being. In short, owning a dog can make life more enjoyable.

Faithful Friends

The many benefits of dog ownership can be especially apparent among the elderly. Owning a pet can decrease the chances of depression in the elderly by as much as 75%. Having a furry friend can provide a continued sense of purpose, as well as a greater sense of security to those who now live alone.

Elderly pet owners attest to the positive effects of having a furry compatriot to spend their days with. And again, many dog companions are attuned to their owner's needs and help to maintain their emotional and physical well-being. At a time when many may find themselves separated from family or grieving the loss of a loved one, a furry friend can be an immense comfort.

Another benefit of pet ownership sited by the elderly is ongoing social support. Studies show that many more people will stop to speak with a person who is walking pet than to a person who is walking alone. This provides increased opportunities for social contact and making new friends.

Pet care can often keep elderly owners more active as well, which helps to keep both mental and physical faculties strong and increase endurance. Elderly pet owners often require fewer medical services overall and are more content with a faithful friend always by their side. Studies also suggest that Alzheimer sufferers may suffer fewer anxiety attacks when accompanied by a calm and loving pet.

Someone to Talk To 

Everyone needs someone to talk to. Dogs are wonderful companions and listeners. They are never judgmental and are always willing to accept their owner's supposed shortcomings without criticism. They love with unrestrained enthusiasm and never tire of being a comforter for the overwhelmed.

However, if talking to a canine friend is not enough, there are now counselors and therapists available for anyone in need without ever leaving the comfort of home. When stressful situations are just too much to handle alone or deep depression seems to be pressing in, it may be time to find a human counselor to help find a way through the fog of anxiety. is an online therapy site for those who would like to receive professional counsel. Talkspace reviews are full of testimonials from satisfied users. Visit and read the reviews to determine if this therapy may be helpful.

After perusing the Talkspace reviews, just follow the instructions to be matched with a counselor for a personal session. Reasonable monthly payment plans will fit most budgets and provide you with access to your own trained specialist as often as you may need it. Along with cuddling a furry friend, Talkspace may provide what you need to live a full and healthy life.


Anna Stewart

Hello!! I'm Anna. I have many hobbies about pets and animal, especially about dogs. In this blog I will share those necessary things you need to know about your dogs like behaviors, training, favorites, health care ... and more. Visit my blog regularly and share the fun with your dogs.