How can dogs help with mental health?

Dogs have been our faithful companions for millennia. The idea of having a dog to help with mental health and reduce the feelings of isolation and loneliness has become more and more popular in recent years. Dogs are known as human’s best friends for a reason, and it also worth noting the mental health benefits dogs provide. They give emotional support for people with mental health problems, such as depression, anxiety, or post-traumatic stress disorder. Dogs provide unconditional love and companionship which as social beings, we humans crave. 

How can dogs improve mental well-being?

There are many ways that dogs can improve the mental health of their guardians. Dogs can be a powerful tool in the treatment of many disorders. Here are some of our favourite ways our furry best friends improve our well-being:

1. Dogs are great listeners

  • Pets can be great listeners, offer unconditional love and won't criticize you. This can help your self-confidence, especially if you feel isolated or misunderstood.
  • When it comes to dogs, they can read our tone of voice, body language, and gestures. Dogs can therefore help maintain a healthy mental state during these times of change for both their owners.

2. Dogs can help reduce the effects of depression, anxiety and loneliness

  • They encourage exercise and playfulness, and even improve your cardiovascular health.
  • A small amount of physical movement can make a huge difference in our mental health, and walking with a dog is an exercise that naturally fits into daily routines.
  • One way is by providing companionship to people who live alone or have social anxiety. Another way is by giving unconditional love which has been shown to reduce stress and improve mood.
  • In winter, dogs can be especially beneficial in helping us cope with the changing of the seasons. Seasonal affective disorder, or SAD, is a type of depression related to longer nights and less daylight. It typically starts and ends around the same times every year, most often starting in autumn and continuing into the winter. As the seasons change, the clocks go back, the days a darker for longer and it gets colder and dogs can help relieve the effects of seasonal changes just with their presence.

3. Dogs can help with autism and ADHD

  • Dogs make socialising easier. Dogs are great companions for people diagnosed with Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD) as well as for those on the autistic spectrum - sometimes it's just a dog’s presence that's needed to make everything seem okay.
  • Dogs provide sensory support and can boost serotonin and dopamine levels simply just by looking into their eyes.

The special bond between dogs and their parents

In this day and age, we are prone to many stressors and having a dog to help ease these can be beneficial. One powerful and emotional story we love is the bond between Kratu and his Mum Tessa. If you’ve not heard of Kratu before, you may enjoy watching his epic performance at Crufts here:

We’re big fans of Kratu the service dog who has helped his owner Tess Eagle Swan greatly. Learn more about the story of Kratu the rescue and the unique relationship with his Mum here. Tessa says: 

"We learnt to look after each other and to share our lives with unconditional love, compassion and of course, this is Kratu, laughter, smiles and happiness. Always ready to wrap his leg around mine, or put his paw on my foot, as his heart whispers. I am here. Don't worry, I love you. Sunshine Kratu is here to chase those clouds away". 

If you would like to read more about their incredible story, the recently launched book ‘Incredible Kratu’ is the perfect, uplifting Christmas gift for all dog lovers and anyone who has ever felt that they didn't fit in.

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