All dogs are good dogs. Whether you own a chihuahua or a mastiff, your dog is the light of your life. But did you know that owning a dog actually improves your mental health? By reducing stress, your dog also helps your physical health.
So, how do dogs support your mental health?
The most obvious way dogs improve your mental health is that they are always there for you. Dogs are companions that don't have other obligations, love you unconditionally (or at least the treats), and can often sense when you are down and actively work to cheer you up.
The presence and love of a dog increases oxytocin levels and improves your mood. On top of that, dogs also fulfill a very basic human need, that being the need for touch. For people who live alone, a dog can help keep loneliness and depression at bay.
Exercise helps with mental health. Your dog needs exercise. That means you get exercise because you can't resist those eyes. Your dog might need more exercise than you do (frisbees are a good way to resolve this), but any dog will get you out of the house and moving.
Because of this, dog owners tend to weigh less than non-dog owners. If you need extra motivation to exercise, remember your dog can get overweight too. A year long study in Chicago showed that walking an overweight dog was a great way to lose weight, because the dog makes such a good exercise buddy.
Ever had one of those days when you just don't want to get out of bed. When you have a dog, you don't have a choice. You have to get out of bed to feed, water, and walk Fido. And Fido gives you an instant reward in the form of that precious waggy tail.
Your dog's love for routine will also help you stick to a routine, which helps you feel focused. And you always have something you can do right. This helps with your self-esteem and sense of purpose, making you less depressed.
All you have to do is walk down the street with a friendly dog and people will want to say hi. If you're afraid to talk to people but want to, having a dog with you makes a huge difference.
You can even develop lasting friendships with people you meet at the dog park, in the pet store, or at obedience class. Taking up obedience is a great way to meet people who all have dogs in common.
Want to get stress levels down fast? Spend five minutes petting a dog. Petting a dog lowers your blood pressure and heart rate and reduces levels of the stress hormone cortisol.
Dogs also know when you're anxious or upset and will often come over to offer themselves for petting, even if they haven't been trained as therapy animals. They want you to feel better! People self-report lower symptoms of stress and anxiety when they regularly interact with dogs.
Your dog might also try to cheer you up by asking you to play with them. Having a dog gives you an "excuse" to engage in simple, child-like play, something we all need.
We all have mental health challenges sometimes, and our dogs do a lot to help us get through them. Sometimes it's just by being there. Sometimes it's by noticing you're feeling down and coming over to lay their head on your lap or hold out a toy.
Reward your dog for everything they do for you with tasty treats from Bulk Bully's. They will appreciate it! Then go for that long walk you've both been wanting.