Dogs intuitively are tuned to humans. They can read our behavior and emotions. Dogs can understand some words we use and they can read between the lines when looking at our body language and gestures.
No wonder there is a definite connection between having a pet and mental health. What is a companion dog? We can easily say that a dog can be an excellent friend if you are lonely.
Why is a Dog a Good Companion?
Few people can resist a dog’s earnest eyes that say: “Please take me for a walk?”
Dogs will get you outside. Sunlight will give you a dose of Vitamin D, which are good for your physical well-being, as well as your mental health. Fresh air will work wonders to lift your mood.
Let’s move it, move it!
Of course, as soon as you are outside, you have to move. Studies have shown there is a relationship between pets and mental health: owners of pets that regularly walk and play with their dogs have stronger bodies and are less vulnerable to developing psychological problems.
Walking your dog will also bring you in contact with other people. Dogs like to make friends, and this will even break the ice for you so that you can connect with new people. You can also meet other pet owners at clubs, pet stores, or when taking your dog for training.
Your dog will seek you out
Your pet will refuse to let you be lonely for too long. It will come and sit with you, and soon you will feel less alone. You can even talk to your dog! It will listen patiently and never betray your trust.
Furthermore, each of us longs for touch. Stroking and hugging a loving animal will calm and soothe you when you are tense or anxious.
A purpose in life
Having a dog will give you a feeling of purpose, especially when you live alone. By caring for your pet, your thoughts are away from yourself and your situation. Caring for an animal will make you feel wanted and needed. It will bring structure to your day.
Nothing beats being alone like coming home to a wagging tail and soulful eyes!
A lower blood pressure
Just the mere petting of a dog can improve your immune system and ease the pain.
Research has shown that dog owners had significantly lower blood pressure and heart rates when performing stressful mental tasks. One study even found that a new dog owner’s blood pressure can decline significantly within five months.
Dogs are Wonderful Companions in all Phases of Life
In an interesting study among students, it was found that it is highly beneficial for them to have contact with a dog. Students are often under stress, often not because of academic issues, but rather because of mood disorders and the fact that they are far from home.
Researchers tested 55 undergraduates. After spending time with a dog, 60% of them reported that they are less anxious and lonely. Therapy dogs are a creative solution for campus counselors to use among students.
Dogs at work
The presence of dogs in the workplace will also reduce employee stress, provide improved communication, and will result in job satisfaction.
Caring for a dog will help an older person to give life purpose. Dogs bring pleasure and will boost morale, and optimism and give confidence.
A study was done among 37 nursing home residents that scored high on a loneliness scale. Half of the residents spent time with a dog alone, while the other half was asked to share one dog.
Residents who had time alone with a dog reported a significant decrease in loneliness, much more so that those who had to share the dog. In other words, dogs are highly beneficial to combat loneliness in the elderly.
Adults with dementia
Dogs are a source of communication for these people. Playful interaction with a dog and its gentle touch will help soothe dementia patients and decrease aggressive behavior.
What Kind of Dog Should I Get?
It will depend on your household and its occupants. A gentle, smaller, older dog will be good if you are elderly.
Some dogs shed their coats. How much grooming can you tolerate? Also, remember that some dog breeds will need professional grooming, and this costs money.
Level of activeness
Decide how active you want to be. If you don’t like exercise, rather get a dog that does not need much, such as a Maltese.
A puppy or a full-grown dog?
It will depend on your willingness to train, housebreak and socialize a puppy. It is hard work. If you don’t feel up to it, an adult-trained dog will be a better choice.
Who is going to take care of the dog?
Is the dog going to be alone for much of the day?
Do you have other animals?
As in all life’s decisions, there can be drawbacks to deciding to get a dog. Keep this in mind:
- Dogs need time and attention. They need daily exercise. Don’t get a dog if you cannot provide this.
- When going away for a long stretch, you must arrange care for your pet.
- If left alone for too long, a dog can be destructive.
- You must be able to handle your dog and be alert to danger, especially when children are around.
- You, or someone close to you, might be allergic to dogs. Consider if you can live with the symptoms.
It is not a surprise that dogs have been man’s best friend for hundreds of years. With the coming of the modern age, we now know that the companionship you can get from a dog has value beyond measure. The link between pets and mental health just can’t be ignored.
Get a dog! You won’t be sorry.