Dogs and Mental Health: Here are 5 ways the experts say an adorable pup can improve your mental wellbeing

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Dog ownership has soared since the start of the global pandemic and many new owners feel that their four-legged friend has helped them get through the turbulent times.

Research by the University of York found that of almost 6,000 people surveyed, around 90 per cent of pet owners said their pet had helped them cope better emotionally during lockdown.

To help pet owners across the nation understand the true mental health benefits of owning a four-legged friend and how they can boost your mood, Dr Ciara Clarke, in-house vet from fresh dog food brand Butternut Box shares her expert insights.

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Here’s how she says your adorable pup can help you feel better.

Improve mobility and physical activity

Dogs need exercise just as much as their owners do, but as humans we can often neglect our own health and the need to move. When you spend time outdoors, it can improve your mood, reduce stress and count towards your daily step count, making it a valuable form of exercise.

Dogs are active animals and need to exercise regularly – the recommended guidance is 30 minutes of exercise outside per day, although this will alter slightly depending on the size or breed of dog, as some will need more. This is a great excuse to get out of the house and start moving, meaning your pet pooch is not only keeping active, but you are too.

Provide companions for life

Welcoming a pet dog into your home can have a range of positive effects on your mental health.Welcoming a pet dog into your home can have a range of positive effects on your mental health.
Welcoming a pet dog into your home can have a range of positive effects on your mental health.

Owning a dog means you will always have company, be sociable and feel safe in your home, particularly if you live alone. The sound of paws pattering on the floor is an instant reminder that you are not alone.

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Whether you’re going through a breakup or have experienced the loss of a family member, dogs are there to help support you through any challenging times. Being around dogs or even pets in general can also lower the stress hormone, cortisol, which helps to reduce feelings of anxiety and can boost your mental health.

Reduce mental health issues

Dogs are a great source of comfort and motivation, often helping us to live mentally healthier lives without even realising it, as their wagging tails and furry faces brighten up each day.

Dogs can also boost your self-confidence. Typically, when people suffer from low self-esteem issues, positive affirmations can help to lift their spirits. Ultimately, dogs always offer unconditional love to their owners, and this support and loyalty is often a great help to boost your mood. Not only that, but dogs are great listeners too, allowing you to vent in peace after a hard day.

Improve your social skills

When you first get a dog and begin to train them at home, the Google searches begin with lots of ‘puppy training classes near me’ and ‘dog Facebook groups’, as most people are looking for advice and expertise from other dog owners.

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Booking your pet pooch onto a dog training class not only gives them a chance to socialise and meet other four-legged friends, but you get to socialise too. Socialising is important for us all and by creating conversations and discussing favourite interests and pup facts – there are sure to be friendships formed.

Not only that, but trips to your local park will become a bigger social event after getting a furry companion as you chat with other dog walkers and share your training tips and techniques.

Add structure to your life

Dogs thrive and are generally better behaved when they have structure to their day. For example, creating a set feeding time in the morning and evening each day is one of the first steps to making a routine.

It’s important to know that by applying the dog’s routine into your life, it benefits you as well. Creating good routines for yourself and those around you allows you to be more organised, which in turn can boost your mood as you feel more accomplished with your day as tasks are completed. As well as this, it also creates a consistent supplement of good behaviours for both parties.

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