We all love our four-legged friends.
When you raise a puppy in your household, it quickly becomes part of the family. Any dog owner knows that their presence and influence is a positive one, but the benefits could be more profound than we might expect.
The emotional benefits of owning a dog vary according to individual circumstances and the character of the dog too. Whether you’re thinking of buying a puppy soon or you’d like to learn more before owning one, it’s always worth knowing about their potential influence.
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Are dogs always good for us?
Most studies on dog ownership and mental health conclude that even though there are clear wellbeing indicators, dog owners might not always see improvements if they’re already unwell.
In July 2023, a study by the University of York concluded that living with an animal did not improve wellbeing or reduce depression for owners with serious mental illnesses. However, the same group of respondents also said that their pet made them feel loved, giving them a source of consistency and a sense of companionship in their life.
More research is needed, but generally, a healthier and happier owner will be more likely to feel fulfilled by the experience of owning a dog.
Why might owning a dog be a bad idea?
Naturally, owning a dog demands a significant care responsibility.
Keeping an eye on the health of your four-legged friend is important, as it can be difficult to spot the signs of common health conditions in dogs. Minor changes in behaviour, like increased appetite or thirst, for example, could be symptoms of Canine Cushing or another condition.
If someone struggles to cope with their own day-to-day responsibilities and self-care routines, adding a dog into the mix could create financial and emotional stressors. The cost of food and vet bills are major concerns, and for people who rent their home, having a dog could cause uncertainty.
How can dogs improve our quality of life?
- Increased physical activity
A huge part of owning a dog is the responsibility to give it enough exercise. Different breeds have different requirements and thresholds but, as a rule of thumb, dogs should be exercised for at least one hour every day.
The discipline to walk the dog often gives people a sense of structure and routine. Furthermore, the extra time spent outdoors can only be beneficial for overall health.
- Reduced stress
Therapy dogs are employed across various sectors, including healthcare and education. Their role is an important one: being around a friendly dog is known to reduce stress and boost endorphins, known as happy hormones.
Education professionals also believe that children with emotional issues may benefit from therapy dogs in classrooms, encouraging them to learn with enthusiasm.
Unsurprisingly, anyone with a close bond to their dog understands the sense of companionship they bring to life. Dogs often love their owners unconditionally, only seeking positive experiences like playful activity and affection.
There’s an important element of security and protection that comes with dog ownership too. Not every dog is trained to be a guard dog, but still makes owners feel more confident in their homes and out in public too.
The bottom line
When it comes to scientific studies on the link between dog ownership and mental health, the results can be varied and conflicting. However, anyone who loves their dog – and still has their own healthy, balanced routine – knows that the emotional benefits are far-reaching and long-lasting.