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The 9 Different Ways Dogs Help Improve Our Mental Health

The 9 Different Ways Dogs Help Improve Our Mental Health

Initially, people consider getting a pet because they just want to liven up the household a bit.

However, the thing people soon realize is that almost all pets, dogs in particular, help improve our mental health as well as physical[1].

It’s a very Don’t knock it till you try it sort of deal for those who’ve never had to take care of a pet.

Though, a lot of pet owners end up understanding that dogs are often healthier for their psyche than people because they don’t judge them as harshly.

They’re generally more agreeable than humans and often react to our emotions better.

And, their inherently friendly nature makes us less reserved around them, probably because they can’t exactly talk back.

But how exactly do they help us feel better and why? Let’s take a closer look.

1. Having An Emotional Attachment

woman holding a basenji puppy

It all starts from that first contact. When the pup first walks into your life and over to you, when he sniffs you and accepts you as his new family.

I dare say that it almost feels like magic, some odd feeling of contentment that washes over you in that particular moment.

And that feeling always resurfaces when you hang out with him, only growing stronger with time if you treat each other well.

That magical emotion is the release of those feel-good chemicals like serotonin and oxytocin in particular.[2]

The release of said chemicals is also what helps improve our mood and what can make even the worst of days just a little bit better when you interact with your pooch.

2. Physical And Mental Health Go Hand In Hand

woman walking her french bulldog

There’s a level of responsibility expected of us when we get a pet, one that we strive to meet in order to take proper care of our furry friends.

The particular activity in question are the daily walks which not only benefit your dog, but you as well.

You see, there’s a direct correlation between physical fitness and better mental health which is why people often suggest exercise as a means of combating depressive stints.

However, you don’t need to go through the effort of signing up for a gym membership if you already have a dog.

These daily walks are often enough to maintain a somewhat healthy lifestyle.

The responsibility of walking him, even if it’s just for 20-30 minutes a day, adds that extra bit of physical activity that helps a lot of people maintain a healthier weight and to just get out of the house for a bit.

This is particularly true for any of us who are stuck in desk jobs where we sit for long periods of time.

The dog helps break that monotony and allows us to enjoy the outdoors and not find this “exercise” as some sort of chore, but rather as an enjoyable activity to spend in the company of our trusty canine.

3. Acting As Emotional Support

woman hugging her maltipoo dog

Somewhat tying into #1, pets can practically sniff out when you’re feeling under the weather as their keen sense of smell picks up on the particular hormones.

Should your trusty doggo manage to get a whiff of stress, he’s likely to come over to you to try and break you out of your slump.

He does this the only way he knows how, by giving you his attention and offering cuddles and companionship.

Sure, dogs can’t speak, but they express their compassion through their body language and acts, and they do it real well.

It likely comes from millenia of experience in the pet department, the effect only made stronger the deeper the bond between the two of you is.

4. Fighting Loneliness Off

owner hugging his dog

Another big reason revolves around having someone be around the house. After all, we all go a little stir crazy if we spend too much time alone, but having a dog can fill your home with life and can stave that eerie feeling off.

It does wonders in helping pet parents feel better about themselves and provides them with someone to interact with, especially if they’re stuck doing jobs with little to no social interaction.

This is particularly effective with elderly people who are often left to fend for themselves, especially if their significant other had recently passed and they need someone to fill that void.

Them getting a small pet that doesn’t require too much maintenance is often seen as therapeutic and can help them feel less lonely, improving their overall health.

5. Helping You Socialize

dog sits between man and woman

That’s right, caring for a pet is yet another hobby after all.

It’s a lot easier to find like-minded folk doing it as it’s a very public interest. This is especially true considering how often you’ll be taking him out for a walk.

You’re a lot more likely to meet new friends and maybe even a potential future partner, it doesn’t matter which, but the fact that the chances are increased speaks volumes.

And not just other dog owners, but a lot of people are likely to stop to ask whether they can pet your pupper or not which can be a great conversation starter.

6. Adding Structure To Your Life

owner feeding his cane corso pet

When you’re alone or stuck in a rut, it’s often the case that you find yourself disorganized which makes getting out of said rut even more difficult than it normally would be.

However, when you have a dog to take care of, you’re not the only person who you need to worry about anymore.

Having this new responsibility helps motivate dog owners to get out of bed every morning, it helps add some structure to their lives and helps keep them on track.

It gives them an added purpose and they get to see the fruits of their labor with the pet’s satisfaction, which only further helps improve their mental state.

7. Boosting Confidence

lab resting on owner

Being self-confident is a skill that many people miss out on acquiring early on in their lives and they end up suffering for it in social situations.

Having a dog around can help these people open up and slowly build that confidence up without fear of being judged as their dog is bound to listen.

At worst, talking to their dogs is seen as a form of catharsis, a place where you can vent and say what’s on your mind and still feel like you’re being heard.

It helps promote a more optimistic outlook on life and teaches them that they have as much merit as anyone else.

Dogs are some of the best natural therapists after all.

8. Helping You Stay Healthy

Dalmatian and siberian husky out for a walk

All of these little ways improve health in one way or another.

However, the company of a dog in particular and the effect this bond has in reducing stress doesn’t just help our mental state, but, in turn, makes us live longer.[3]

Stress is a real killer, placing unnecessary strain on the body, particularly in these modern times where it keeps piling on.

But, if we can help remove even a portion of it by interacting with our dogs, it does wonders in helping improve our quality of life.

For one, it helps lower overall blood pressure and cholesterol levels, reducing the risk of potential heart disease.[4]

This, in turn, helps keep your immune system healthy and leaves you less prone to potential diseases, particularly later on in life.

Once you pair that up with all the other ways we’ve listed already, you get an incredibly healthy lifestyle sandwich that has nothing but the best that enjoying the company of a dog has to offer.

EXTRA: How Dogs Help Kids

girl running with her dog great dane

While everything that has been mentioned prior applies to kids too, albeit to a lesser degree, there are a few other benefits that apply to them by hanging out with the family pet.

One of the main things is helping teach them about empathy. Kids, much like dogs, are innocent souls at a young age and are more likely to bond than others.

While this can lead to them being a little bit mischievous from time to time, it ultimately helps teach your child how to be kind to others.

Having a furry friend to hang around with can also help lay the foundation for your child’s eventual independence when he grows up, not having to rely on you for help all the time.

In Conclusion

As you can see, having a dog around the house can be quite beneficial to both your family and your newest four-legged member who’s joining it.

Dogs help improve our mental health in a great number of ways, be it directly through their empathy or indirectly through physical activity.

As long as you’re in good standing with him you can be sure that he’ll be there to help you in any way he can.

For that reason, consider getting a dog if you don’t have one already if you’re someone working a desk job, are an elderly person, or are just lonely. It’ll help make your life a whole lot better.

However, do remember that owning a dog is a big responsibility on its own and that you’ll need to give something back for all these benefits.

That said, I’m certain that you’ll be able to manage just fine and that you’ll experience all of these positive benefits over time as the bond between you and your pupper grows.

Until next time, pet parents.

READ NEXT: Q And A: Why Does My Dog Lick Me When I Cry?


[1] Aikaterini M, Taryn M. G., Marguerite E. O’H.,Rebecca P., Carri W. (July, 2022.), Dogs and the Good Life: A Cross-Sectional Study of the Association Between the Dog–Owner Relationship and Owner Mental Wellbeing, DOI

[2] Sarah M.-P.,Franka S. S., Alina G., Anne M., Tobias D., Friederike R. (October, 2019.), The Role of Oxytocin in the Dog–Owner Relationship, DOI

[3] Powell, L., Edwards, K.M., McGreevy, P. et al. (2019), Companion dog acquisition and mental well-being: a community-based three-arm controlled study, DOI

[4] Stanisław S., Suzanne O.,Krzysztof N. (April, 2022.), Pet Ownership and the Risk of Arterial Hypertension and Cardiovascular Disease, DOI