Where to begin….. No offence to Shakespeare and Hamlet, but whether or not to own a dog isn’t a ‘to be or not to be question’, exactly because of the endless emotional benefits entailed with this life-enriching experience. It is common knowledge that pets and mental health go together but we will explain how dogs specifically drive emotional well-being so get ready for a joyous ride!
1. Dogs have mood-boosting powers!
Having a dog has to improve your wellbeing. Pets in general help distract teens from what’s bothering them and having them spend time with a dog helps them go back to being playful and carefree. And this doesn’t only go for teens but everyone, regardless of age. Dogs also have a magical formula to enhance your self-esteem as in your dog’s eyes, you will be the Miss or Mr Universe at all times – even if you look like hell after a sleepless night or being down with the flu :D
2. Being a dog owner will make you more immune to stress
People with pets have lower blood pressure in stressful situations than those without pets. Only playing with or petting any animal increases the levels of oxytocin , the stress-reducing hormone while also decreasing the production of cortisol, the stress hormone. Moreover, reduced stress levels can do wonders for your physical health as well because your entire system is no longer set to ‘fight or flight’. This is a chemical mechanism within your body that is automatically triggered whenever you feel stressed. But don’t forget that dogs mirror their owner’s long-term stress, as even new studies have started confirming this. So you will think twice before letting stressful situations overwhelm you and learn more easily to let them pass by you instead.
3. Owning a dog is proven to lower anxiety
Additionally, people with anxiety-related issues can gain tremendous benefits from having a specially trained service dog. This sort of training helps the dog detect early signs of an anxiety attack before it occurs, teaches him or her to fetch a medicine if needed and bring someone to help the person in trouble. They can even perform pressure therapy to soothe their owners, all the while being able to protect them so strangers don’t come near them while they are in this vulnerable condition. Emotional support dogs are viewed as pets unlike official service dogs who are specifically trained to help people with physical disabilities but nevertheless, they do wonders for people suffering from anxiety.
4. Dogs make us feel needed
It is not at all rare that depressed individuals stopped having suicidal thoughts after owning a dog. The first question that pops up in their head is: What will my dog do without me? Just remember – to you, your dog is only a segment of your life, but to your dog – you are the whole world!
If you didn’t see the movie Hachi: A Dog’s Tale, get your tissues ready for your next movie night. This film portrays a deep spiritual connection when a dog continues to wait his owner’s return from work, played by Richard Gere, for more than ten years after he had suddenly passed while at work. Hachi himself passed away at that train station, still hoping his owner would return. And guess what, it is based on a true story as the Japanese even built a statue of the loyal Akita at the train station which remains a very popular spot for dog lovers in Japan. And this sort of attachment is what helps people struggling with depression, as it prevents them to give in to self-destructive thoughts.
5. Having a dog helps you build healthy habits
Dogs need daily exercise. Of course, the amount depends on the size and breed you choose. But walking your dog will become a mandatory part of your daily schedule. And if you indulge in a mindful walk (meaning: not bringing your cellphone with you or drifting away in your concerns, the so-called ‘monkey-brain’ mode), you will also gain psychological benefits, just like when practising meditation. So both your dog, your body, your mind and your soul will thank you! Also, by taking care of your dog’s health, this will make you remember to take care of your own health as well!
6. Dogs enhance our relationship skills
Research has shown that dogs support a child’s emotional development. It is because dogs follow human cues and are sensitive to moods and emotions. And for this reason, dog owners who are emotionally attached to their dogs are better at building relationships with others.
7. Improved social connections
It’s simple really: owning a dog means you will never ever feel lonely. Science has even shown that having a dog helps humans make new friends and strengthen existing relationships. Just think about it. How do you feel when your dog welcomes you after being away for only a few minutes or few hours regardless? Does this beyond warm and fuzzy welcome make you happy? So you will perhaps also remember extending the courtesy to others: make your loved ones know that you appreciate them. Pet ownership is also one of the most common factors when it comes to facilitating social interaction. The same goes for friendship formation within neighbourhoods. Being a dog owner is really great for your social life :)
8. Feeling safe
Your dog will give their life to protect you. Not that we hope it will ever come to that, but there are countless hero stories of dogs that sacrificed their lives to save their owners.
9. Dogs are shown to support recovery from mental illness
Studies found that dogs helped mental illness patients better manage their emotions and not only that but they also distracted them from the symptoms of their condition. Patients often place their pets in their most important circle of supportive connections. They also often quote how they helped them manage their illness and everyday life. Having pets also gave them a strong sense of identity, self-worth and helped them feel in control. Everyone benefits from caring for another being but mental illness patients especially.
10. You gain endless reserves of unconditional love
If your teen scores badly on a test, the one person who will not care about it is their dog. If your son isn’t admitted to the sports team or is just doesn’t rank as high on the athletic scale, his dog won’t care. No matter what happens, dogs are just happy to see and spend time with their owners. And this sort of unconditional love is something we should all aim for: to be loved and to love others this way. Because it is only that love that matters. And it makes your brain release dopamine – the happiness hormone.
To sum up
Dogs live in the moment, in the now and they help us appreciate the present moment- after all, that is all we have. And dogs can indeed enhance pretty much all aspects of our lives. But as a thank you, make sure to provide a stable environment for your new family member. You will also need to take care of your dog by ensuring proper nutrition, grooming and training. And there’s no denying that owning a pet does require a budget. But along with a little bit of patience needed quite a bit during the training stage, this is really a small price to pay compared to everything you will receive in return, don’t you think so?