Mental health - benefits of owning a dog

Two Wheaten Terriers sitting in amongst flowers

How dogs can make a difference to your mental health

It is estimated that approximately one in four people in the UK will suffer a mental health problem at some point each year. And dogs really can make all the difference – their kindness and companionship getting their owners through the darkest of days.

Man’s best friend

Through thick and thin, our dogs provide us with love, loyalty, companionship without any judgment. According to a survey by Blue Cross, 58% of respondents who suffer with a mental health problem stated that love and loyalty was the most beneficial aspect for their mental health of owning a pet – the most popular reason cited. 50% said company was the most important aspect, while 55% agreed that ‘they are my best friend’. Just by being around, dogs can alleviate stress, anxiety, depression and loneliness.

Helping to give you a purpose

Dogs can sometimes be our only reason to get up in the morning. They give us a purpose – they rely on us for food, exercise and love. And just doing these small things and being needed by our four-legged friend can be a lifeline when getting through each day is hard. They get us up and out, and provide our days with structure - 37% of people surveyed by Blue Cross say their pets help them with their daily lives.

Putting one foot in front of each other, getting out of bed, or leaving the house can be a big step, and having a dog by your side each day, encouraging and relying on you, can play a huge part in this.

Getting you outside and exercising

In addition to helping to alleviate stress, anxiety, depression and loneliness, there are all the benefits that come from regularly exercising your dog. Daily walks outdoors boost physical and emotional wellbeing, and there are recognised benefits for our mental health of being outside in green space.

Going for a dog walk also increases social interaction - people talk to you and often a dog provides common ground, and this might be the only social contact an isolated person may have that day. Dogs can help with confidence too, by being by your side during these social interactions, which can be a source of anxiety for some.

Mental Health Awareness Week

This year’s Mental Health Awareness Week focuses on loneliness. For many of us, the strong bond we have with our dog has been a lifeline that’s supported us through difficult times, especially in recent years. During the pandemic, half of owners said that their dog helped them cope with loneliness, and research has shown that owning a dog also helps to combat stress, anxiety, and help us stay on track with regular physical activity. Dogs can truly transform our lives for the better with their unconditional love and supportive positive energy, and they deserve to be recognised for the impact they have on us.

Our resources for Mental Health Awareness Week

As part of Mental Health Awareness Week, we want to celebrate the time we spend with our four-legged friends and the positive effect it can have on our mental well-being and mind-set.

For those who are able to go outside, we have brought together key information to help you enjoy the outdoors with your four-legged friend, whether it’s in the countryside, along the beach, or in public parks.

For more information, visit our paw-by-paw post-lockdown guide.

For those who are unable to go out, we have produced a list of indoor games to play with your dog.

For more information, visit our guide to indoor games.

We can all play a part in helping to tackle loneliness. If you know someone who may be lonely then reaching out today could make a world of difference.