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Mental Health Awareness Week: Why dogs can be a lifeline in lockdown

Although Covid-19 is a physical disease, the new reality the virus has created is also taking toll on the mental health of thousands of people, as researchers now warn of a global mental health crisis. The positive impact dogs have on our health is well-known, and it’s now, amid a global pandemic, that we need them more than ever - to support us through the lockdown and all the mental health challenges the situation brings.  

Our exercise buddies

Many people are searching for activities to take their minds off the ongoing pandemic and distracting themselves with exercise. Luckily, our dogs are here to help us get up from the sofa, or out of bed every day, and take them out for ‘walkies’. Dog walking has many benefits for both your mental and physical health, including: regular physical activity, fresh air, redirecting attention from stress triggers and gratification from caring for someone else. Getting out and walking your dog can make all the difference during lockdown.

Distracting us from reality

Caring for a dog extends to more than daily walks, and working on your training or playing games with your four-legged friend is a great way to take your mind off what’s happening in the world. The time we are spending at home can provide a perfect opportunity to devote more time to bonding with your dog, working on your training or starting in canine activities. You can find advice and tips on things to do with your dog on our coronavirus hub.  

Creature comforts

The current situation has not only imposed isolation on most of us, which can result in loneliness, but also means that many people are experiencing high levels of stress and anxiety. Dogs’ natural ability to lower stress, boost our mood, relieve grief and combat loneliness has become even more important during the last few months. Harriet from Ellesmere Port said about her dog Ollie: “My mental health and anxiety improved significantly since getting Ollie. He is my best friend and feel less confused and stressed about the current situation with him by my side.”

Mental health experts also agree that routine is often a key to better mental health, and a regular schedule is useful for anyone struggling with anxiety or bad sleeping habits. Having a dog which requires daily exercise and interaction helps you build and get used to a regular routine.

We’re all in this together

The positive influence dogs have on our mental health however doesn’t only extend to their family. Since the pandemic, pictures of dogs ‘working from home’ have flooded the internet, giving all of us an opportunity to appreciate dogs and the calming effect they have on us. For three weeks in April, the Kennel Club ran an Online Dog Show which attracted more than 39,000 entries and gave everyone, dog owners or not, an opportunity to browse through thousands of uplifting and cute dog pictures, while also bringing the dog community together, even during lockdown.

Looking to the future, while we might need to adjust to the ‘new normal’ once lockdown ends, our dogs will be by our side while we do, as always.

This Mental Health Awareness week we’re celebrating all those dogs which help our mental health on a daily basis, and especially during the lockdown, by encouraging us to get fresh air regularly, distract us from the situation, and giving us a cuddle when we are feeling low.

To find out more about how the Kennel Club supports charities, organisations and dogs who are a lifeline for those suffering from mental health problems, click here.