Mental Health Benefits of Having a Dog

Two dogs laying down touching head to head

Dogs are great for many reasons. Is this a bias answer?  Absolutely! I’ve grown up with dogs my entire life and have always loved them. Throughout life, I’ve learned to appreciate other animals such as cats, rabbits, and hamsters, all of which have had the ability to make me smile, as well. Pets help you learn so much about yourself and about caring for others.

As an adult, I’ve learned just how much a dog can help you navigate through life. Through my own experience of getting a dog in my adult years, I’ve noticed just how much she helped me manage my everyday stress. Her kind and loving demeanor made me feel loved and needed. And, knowing that there was someone at home waiting for me added purpose to my life. My dog has helped me tackle my anxiety by always being there for me. She’s provided me with full-time support and as a result, she’s been a great asset in helping me regulate my moods and emotions. She’s been a positive distraction from some of my negative thoughts- providing me with a sense of relief and hope.

I’ve created a list of 5 reasons why I find dogs to be great for anyone battling with anxiety and depression.

  1. Unconditional Love: Dogs are always happy to see you, no matter how long you’ve been gone. Every dog greets differently – some run to the door wildly while others casually wag their tail as they wait for you to approach them- but whatever their greeting style, they look forward to seeing you and you feel just that. They will do anything for your love and no matter how much they may upset you, your bond is unbreakable. They will love you regardless of your appearance, your IQ, your job, the size of your house, or what kind of car you drive. All they want is your attention and love and in return, you get unconditional love. That’s a pretty good deal if you ask me!
  2. Companionship: Sometimes life gets tough and you start to feel really alone. Having a dog gives you a best friend. They help you feel like you have someone to take care of, think about, and worry about- just like a real human friend. It’s also a nice break from always having to think about yourself and your problems. Taking care of a dog requires a lot of your attention which means there’s less time for you to worry and get lost in those unfriendly and sometimes vicious irrational thinking patterns that, as you may know, are SO hard to stop. This forever companion will do their best for you to never feel alone.
  3. Loyalty: Where ever you go, they will want to go. Whatever you’re doing, they’ll want to do the same. Whatever you’re eating, they’ll want a bit of. Dogs are curious and easily excitable which makes you a pretty cool person. They will never want to leave you. And the excitement never stops. They’re grateful for anything that you do for them. They may not like everything we ask of them, but they’re typically happy to please.
  4. Positivity: Dogs are happy creatures. Dog lovers understand that feeling of a when a dog wants your attention. It makes you feel special and important- like you have something valuable to give them. You can’t help but smile, no matter how sad you may feel inside. Throw in a couple of dog kisses and now you’re even laughing. When we laugh, our body releases endorphins. Endorphins are also known as the body’s “natural happy drug”. More of that seems like a good thing to me.
  5. Routine: Dogs require structure. They need to be feed once or twice a day, they need to be taken outside a few times a day, they require exercise and attention. As a result, these things are also required of you and you are encouraged to leave the house, get dressed, and potentially talk to a person or two, along the way. Having a routine can help you keep up with your hygiene, keep you more accountable, and help you feel more in control again.

Of course, every dog is different and this list of reasons is made up of some generalizations. Not every dog likes to go to public places, not every dog is curious in everything you do, and/or not every dog requires a lot of attention, but even if your dog doesn’t fit my descriptions of these 5 reasons perfectly, I think we may agree, they still present all, if not most of them.

About Kasia Ciszewski 14 Articles
Mental health therapist who provides counseling services to teens, adults & couples. Specializes in anxiety, stress, grief, bereavement, depression & life transitions.

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