Man's best friend: research shows positive impact of dogs on owners' mental health during lockdown

Data from The Kennel Club released ahead of World Mental Health Day shows 91% agree dogs help them cope mentally and emotionally during the global crisis

  • Research carried out during the Covid-19 pandemic has shown 3 in 5 (61%) long-term dog owners said their dog was a ‘lifeline in lockdown’
  • Almost half (47%) agreed that their dog helped them with loneliness, and more than a third (36%) said having a dog by their side during the pandemic made them less anxious
  • 91% said that their dog has a positive impact on their mental health and well-being
  • The research comes as The Kennel Club calls for nominations for its charity Dog Hero Award, which raises awareness of how dogs can change our lives

Newly released data from The Kennel Club suggests that dogs are an important source of emotional support during the pandemic, reducing loneliness during lockdown and helping owners’ cope mentally during the crisis.

Carried out in July 2020, the research shows many long-term owners were comforted and calmed by their dog during the time of crisis, with 91% saying their dog had a positive impact on their mental health. 2 in 5 (40%) agreed it was because they kept them active and almost 1 in 3 (32%) said it was because having a dog provided a routine. 61% said their dog was a ‘lifeline in lockdown’ and 29% agreed spending more time with their dog was the best thing about lockdown.

With experts warning of a looming mental health crisis, the owner responses also point towards the unique therapeutic value of dogs. 3 in 5 (61%) said they found more comfort in their dog than humans, and that their dog understands them better than most people, whilst 41% agree their dog doesn’t judge them ‘in the way humans can’. Almost half (47%) agreed that their dog helped them feel less lonely, and kept them feeling calm, and more than a third (36%) said having a dog made them less anxious. Almost 1 in 3 (30%) feel their dog was there for them when no one else was.

“These statistics show what anyone who owns or love dogs already know,” commented Bill Lambert, spokesperson for The Kennel Club. “For centuries, through thick and thin, dogs have provided us with unconditional love, loyalty and companionship without any judgment, and clearly that has a positive impact on our mental health.

“Similarly, being a dog owner supports self-care – taking a dog out for a walk encourages social interaction and provides motivation to get outdoors and be active, and this may be the only social contact, exercise or activity an isolated, lonely or anxious person has the whole day. Being needed by our four-legged friend can be a lifeline when getting through each day is hard and sometimes human support doesn’t hit the mark. As we continue to face a global pandemic and the psychological stresses that brings with it, this unique support that dogs provide to their owners is now more important than ever. In a world full of chaos, man’s best friend is certainly living up to its name.”

Tracey Ison, 50 from Leicestershire, credits her dog Scout for helping her through a breakdown, to overcome anxiety and get her through lockdown. Tracey said: “I had been in a very dark place, but forced myself every day to take Scout out for walks. These walks would sometimes last for hours, Scout walked at my side, occasionally nudging me with his nose, his way of checking in with me. Each day that passed, my mind began to clear. Scout gave me my life back. He is my absolute world.

“Scout has been a great support to me during lockdown too. He gives me a reason to get up every morning and stick to a routine whilst I am furloughed from work. We have found lots of different places to walk and I think both of us have really appreciated the sounds of nature - Scout loves bird song. He really is the best lockdown buddy I could have asked for.”

As we approach winter and more restrictions are being enforced across the UK, The Kennel Club is celebrating our loving and loyal four-legged friends, who can have such a huge impact on our mental well-being and mindset, by calling for nominations for its Dog Hero Award 2021.

Open to anyone who knows an unsung canine hero who has made a difference to their owner’s life, The Kennel Club Dog Hero Award winner and finalists receive funding from The Kennel Club Charitable Trust – giving back to those amazing dogs, organisations and charities which have changed lives and helped all those facing challenges with mental health. Nominations are open until 12 October 2020: