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The Healing Power of Man’s Best Friend: Uncovering the Benefits of Dogs for People with Mental Health Issues

Mental health issues remain among the most challenging afflictions facing humanity, and the search for potential solutions to these complex issues is an ongoing endeavor. While medical approaches and non-pharmaceutical therapies have proven effective for managing mental health issues, a lesser-known solution for those with mental health issues is the companionship of one’s four-legged best friend. The research-backed benefits that come from having a pet such as a dog have been proven to have a plethora of mental health benefits.

Dogs have been deemed “man’s best friend” for centuries and are known to bring enriching companionship, unwavering loyalty, and unconditional love to their owners. No one understands the healing power of a dog’s companionship better than people with mental health issues, who often feel isolated and lonely due to their condition. Studies suggest that owning a dog can have many psychological and physiological benefits for people living with mental health issues, such as reducing stress and improving self-esteem.

For people with mental health issues, the benefits of being around dogs can be profound. Dogs can provide emotional support, comfort, and unconditional love without judgement or expectations. Having a companion animal such as a dog can also bring feelings of security, reduce stress, and help manage anxiety. Studies have also demonstrated reductions in blood pressure and decreased levels of cortisol (the hormone associated with stress) among people with mental health issues who spend time around dogs. Furthermore, the increased activity encouraged by having a pet such as walking or running a dog can both reduce fatigue and promote general wellbeing.

Dogs also offer unique therapeutic benefits for people suffering from mental health issues. Studies suggest that simply petting or interacting with dogs can help people manage symptoms of depression, reduce loneliness and isolation, and decrease the intensity of panic attacks. Dogs have often been used as therapy animals in mental health settings, and research in this area supports the idea that having a pet such as a dog can improve a person’s emotional state and lead to increased resilience.

In addition to increasing emotional wellbeing, people with mental health issues may also benefit from the practical demands of dog ownership. Obtaining and caring for a pet can increase a person’s sense of purpose, as well as providing structure and a focus for day-to-day activities. From choosing healthy food and walking the dog, to maintaining appropriate vet appointments and flea treatment, pet ownership requires a person to invest energy and attention in their pet.

It is important to keep in mind that dogs can be a double-edged sword when it comes to managing mental health issues. People with mental health issues are typically advised to be mindful and aware of the demands and stress of pet ownership, as it may ultimately intensify feelings of guilt or failure. People should also consider consulting with a mental health specialist or veterinarian prior to adopting a pet, to ensure they are in the best possible position to care for the animal while managing their own mental health issues.

In summary, the bond between humans and dogs has been celebrated and cherished for centuries, and research now supports the idea that having a pet such as a dog can bring tremendous benefits for people who are struggling with their mental health. From the emotional support to the practical demands of pet ownership, the companionship of man’s best friend can help people manage their mental health issues and lead to better overall wellbeing.

Benefits of Being a Dog Owner

dog benefitsBeing a dog owner is a simple joy in life. What better way to recuperate after a hard day than by coming home to a creature who wants nothing but to be close to you and love you? The benefits of owning and caring for a dog are numerous. And they include more than simply being entertained or amused. Owning a dog has statistically been proven to increase a person’s physical health and help them live longer. It has also proven to reduce mental health issues and give people peace of mind. If you are looking for a way to improve your quality of life by adding more love and laughter to it, consider becoming a dog owner.

The physical health benefits you receive from owning a dog are numerous. Dog owners are found to have reduced blood pressure because of the calming effects that dogs have on people. They are found to have stronger hearts because dogs keep their owners active and on a set schedule. And dog owners have been found to live longer simply because the dog gives them a sense of purpose. If for no other reason, this is an excellent justification for being a dog owner.

A person’s morale commonly elevates due to owning a dog. People who have mental disorders, grief or past trauma are known to heal much more rapidly and steadily when they become dog owners. This is most likely due to the increased affection, adoration and loyalty they feel thanks to their canine. Even in cases of situational depression or just general low emotions, the presence of a dog can be very uplifting. Many people claim that their dog reminds them of what really matters in life. Dogs help people remember that the simple, good things in life deserve focus and appreciation above all else.

Having a Canine Friend

canine friendshipNo one can deny the obvious benefits of owning a dog. Dogs make us active and happy, bringing out a youthful spirit within us. But even if you are unable to own a dog, there are still plenty of ways you can interact with dogs. Not everyone is able or willing to take on the responsibility of raising and caring for a dog, and that is understandable. Below are several ideas for people who want to interact with dogs but not own one:

  • Dog sitting is a great opportunity to temporarily care for a dog as if it was your own. When people go out of town and cannot bring their dog, many of them hire a dog sitter. This person may or may not stay in the house the dog lives in to care for them because owners often do not want their dogs to be alone at night. The other primary functions of a dog sitter are to feed, walk and spend time with the dog.
  • Many people are too busy to make time to walk their dog and require the services of a dog walker. People can do this for pay or on a volunteer basis. The dog owner may be a friend or relative, or may simply be someone who is in need of assistance.
  • Volunteering at an organization that works with dogs can benefit your desire to spend time with dogs and the organization that surely could use volunteer hours. Many dog organizations, ranging from vet clinics to shelters to kennels to training centers, are in desperate need of volunteers. These facilities are often swamped and their resources are stretched very thin. In this type of volunteer position, you may walk dogs, assist doctors and help care for the facilities.
  • Simply spending time with dogs that belong to your friends and family can be a great way to get time with canines in. This can also benefit your loved ones immensely by having some time to themselves.

Qualities that Dogs Possess

dog qualitiesMaking the decision to own a dog is something one should think through carefully. Perhaps you are on the fence about dog ownership because you are not sure if you want to do the work of caring for a dog. After all, they require a great deal of attention, exercise, training, affection and provision. Your life will never be the same once you own a dog. However, the work you put in will win you a best friend and loyal companion. Consider the following positive attributes to dog ownership before you write the idea off:

  • Dogs are incredibly affectionate animals. It is almost impossible to feel lonely or isolated when you own a dog because their affection is so immense. It has been discovered that the chemical a dog’s brain releases when they see their owner is the same chemical the human brain releases when in love. They will greet you at the door, spend time with you the entire day and cuddle with you before they go to sleep.
  • The loyalty that dogs have for their owners is very strong. Even the ones that are very social with people, such as golden retrievers, place a high importance on being near their owners and receiving attention from them. Many dogs have been known to die of heartbreak when their owner dies, or refuse to leave their side even after they have passed away.
  • A dog’s instinct to protect its owner is also incredibly strong. Dogs are pack animals that are wired to protect those they consider to be in their pack, which would include their owners and their other close relationships. Dogs have stood up to bears, mountain lions, human attackers and many other dangerous predators in order to defend their owner. Apart from being a companion animal, dogs are also used as home security systems.

The Positive Effects Dogs Have on Their Owners

dog ownership positive effectsAdopting a puppy or a dog is a great way of providing a happy, secure life to a fellow creature. However it is not just the dog that benefits from the adoption. People are statistically healthier and happier when they are dog owners. Caring for a dog comes with incredible rewards for the caretaker, such as improved physical health, higher morale and the benefits of having a loving relationship. Anyone who is struggling in any of these areas should seriously consider becoming a dog owner.

Studies on dog owners have shown that their cholesterol, blood pressure, anxiety, depression, mood disorders, circulation problems and immune definciencies were decreased after owning a dog for some time. Even the number of years that a person lives statistically goes up with dog ownership. Dogs are used in mental health facilities and treatment centers to ease the symptoms of disorders, mental illness and addiction. Therapy dogs are brought to trauma victims to help them recover and cope from traumatic events. The natural benefits dogs have to people are numerous.

Developing a relationship with a dog is different than a relationship with a person, but it is still very fulfilling and rewarding in its own way. Dog’s are naturally loyal to their owners, earning them the title of “man’s best friend.” Dogs have an innate pack mentality that makes them protective of those they consider to be in their pack. They are affectionate toward the members of their pack, yet they naturally respect a hierarchy, so it is easy to train them to obey and respect the rules of a leader. Typically, they also have an instinct to defend themselves, which makes a relationship with them full of respect, responsibility, friendship, loyalty and companionship.

Any responsible adult who is seeking a rewarding friendship with an animal should consider becoming a dog owner. It is a decision you will not regret, which will offer you a number of years with an animal that considers you their best friend.