Rescue dogs: Nine in ten owners agree four-legged friends have positive impact on mental health

New research from The Kennel Club released ahead of World Mental Health Day shows 95 per cent of owners agree dogs improve their mental health every day

  • Owners cite how their four-legged friend helped them to cope during the pandemic, with almost half (47 per cent) crediting their dog with helping to reduce their stress levels
  • The research also shows the positive impact of regular dog walks: More than half of owners say walking their canine companion improves their mood and general well-being and 42 per cent agree staying active alongside their dog improves their mental health
  • The data also shows that young people benefit most from the positive impact of furry friends, with more than a half saying their dogs help them feel less lonely
  • The research comes as the UK’s largest dog and welfare organisation calls for nominations for The Kennel Club Hero Dog Award, raising awareness about the heart-warming ways in which dogs save us every day
New research from The Kennel Club, released ahead of World Mental Health Day (10 October) suggests dogs help to combat loneliness and anxiety, and help their owners stay on track with regular physical activity, positively impacting mental well-being.

Guiding their owners through lockdown and pandemic restrictions, the research shows dogs comforted many during the difficult past year and a half, with three in five (59 per cent) saying their dog was a lifeline during lockdown and two in five (40 per cent) crediting their dog with easing feelings of loneliness. Almost a third (32 per cent) of owners feel their dog was there for them when no one else was.

Experts in the UK have long warned about a ‘mental health pandemic’ due to the Covid-19 crisis and the alarming lack of accessible help for those struggling with their mental health, but the data suggests dogs can make a difference for many. Almost half (47 per cent) of owners say their dog makes them feel less stressed, with more than a third (37 per cent) feeling less anxious thanks to their dog. With many going back to the workplace after over a year away, two in five (39 per cent) agree their dog helps them to feel calm after a stressful day or situation at work.

And it is not just comforting canine cuddles that help the soul, as many dog owners cite regular dog walking and routine as key to better mental well-being:
  • More than half (58 per cent) agree walking their dog improves their mood
  • Two in five (42 per cent) believe staying active with their dog has had a positive impact on their mental health
  • 38 per cent agree it is the routine, due to dog ownership, that improves their wellbeing.
With experts worrying that younger generations are most at risk of being affected by the looming mental health crisis, the new research also highlights that young dog owners benefit most from dog ownership. More than half (54 per cent) owners aged 16-24 say their dog helps them feel less lonely and over two in five (44 per cent) agree that their dog eases their anxiety, or helps them calm down after a stressful day or situation.

“Dogs continue to prove they truly are man’s best friend, through thick and thin,” said Bill Lambert, spokesperson for The Kennel Club. “During the pandemic, dogs provided us with comfort, loyalty and unconditional love through times when many of us felt our loneliest, and they continue to be there for us as we get on with our lives.

“This research shows a snippet of the immeasurable positive impact dogs have on our mental health, from combating stress, loneliness and anxiety, to providing routine, and encouraging healthy habits, like more physical exercise.”

Celebrating our loving and loyal four-legged friends, who can have such a huge impact on our mental well-being and mind-set, this World Mental Health Day, The Kennel Club is calling for nominations for its Hero Dog Award 2021.

Sean Laidlaw, 33 from Essex, a former Hero Dog Award finalist credits his rescue dog Barrie with saving his life and being his best friend. Sean said: “Barrie was there for me when I didn’t know who I was, and she helped me get back on my feet when I was lost.

“It is small things that add up, like having a routine, going outside for walks, and never feeling alone since she entered my life. I realised even more how much her company and love means in the last year and half, when everything seemed to be upside down and many of us felt lonely. Having Barrie by my side and being responsible for her as well helped me to keep going.

“Dogs can truly transform your life for the better with their unconditional love, support and positive energy that is a great motivator, and they deserve to be recognised for their every day heroic deeds.”

Bill added: “The Kennel Club Hero Dog Award celebrates the amazing and unique ways in which dogs change and save our lives, giving our four-legged friends the recognition they deserve, and I would like to encourage everyone to share their stories.”

The Kennel Club Hero Dog 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 can be made by visiting the Crufts website.

Finalists will be announced next year, ahead of the winner being crowned at Crufts 2022, taking place at the NEC in Birmingham from 10- 13 March 2022.