Routine 

Our dogs need regular exercise and play, social interaction, feeding and caring for. This can help us establish a routine for ourselves, helping ensure we take regular exercise, have a regular sleeping pattern, don't skip meals and regularly take time out, away from stress.


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Physical Activity

Dogs bring a purpose to walks, which can be a great motivator and stimulus for exercise. We benefit from improved physical fitness and mental well-being. They also give us opportunity to explore new places to walk and experience the pleasure that this can bring. Conversations you have with people encountered while walking your dog may help you to feel less lonely (Duvall Antonacopoulos & Pychyl, 2014)

 

Social Facilitators

Our dogs offer an external topic of conversation, reducing any potential anxiety or awkwardness as the focus is removed from us onto the dog. This can help rapport building between people that might not otherwise have developed. This reduces isolation and loneliness, helping us feel more connected with others.

 

Motivators

Dogs can help motivate us to engage in constructive/new activities such as taking up a dog-related activity e.g. agility/fly-ball etc and interact with other people. They can help us care for ourselves because we need to be well to be able to care for them.

 

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Sense of Purpose and Responsibility

Having someone that needs us to care for, love, take responsibility to safeguard and provide for all their needs can give us a reason to get up each day (Enders-Slegers, 2000) and a reason to care for ourselves. This may also help increase our understanding of the needs of another and develop greater empathy.


Source of Reliable Companionship

Once we have bonded with our dogs they become a constant in our lives, giving unconditional love, friendship and acceptance in its purest form, as dogs tend to be consistent in their relationships, helping us build a trusting secure relationship. They are able to give and receive affection and act as an outlet of affection and support. This can contribute to the stabilisation of mental health for someone with a mental health condition (psychiatric service dogs, 2010).

 

 

 

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Social Support 

We all need to feel cared for, loved and esteemed for good mental well-being and absence of such support can lead to loneliness, depression, stress and at times suppression of the immune system and companionship with our dogs can help reduce the likelihood or severity of these (Serpell, 1996; Bryant, 2008).

 

 

 

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 Physical Touch 

Tactile interaction with our dogs stimulates touch and physical reactions, increasing oxytocin, the feel good hormone, and reducing cortisol, the stress hormone, and can help us feel comforted, calmness and relaxed and relieve anxiety. The process of petting and caring for our dogs can allow us to take a break from stress and mental anguish. This contact can also help prevent or alleviate loneliness and depression. This contact also increases dopamine, helping us feel more energised and gives us the feeling of enjoyment through the release of endorphins.

 

Conversational Partner

we all tend to talk with our dogs who respond behaviourally to the sound and tone of our voice (Rogers et al, 1993). This can help stave off loneliness, offer a source of pleasure, a connection with the outside world.

 

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Buffer to Stress 

Our dogs can provide us with a form of stress-reducing social support by offering engaging and accepting interactions, helping divert our attention away from anxiety-generating stimuli, allowing us the space to come to a place where we might decide it may not be as bad as it seems, feel more at ease and able to cope. Our dogs pick up on our feelings, come and interact and comfort us or initiate play, offer a source of joy, helping us engage in fun and laugher.

 

Other Benefits 

Our dogs may also promote increased self-esteem and sense of personal competence, boost our immune system, protect us against coronary heart disease and reduce the number of visits to the GP and in turn this can help promote well-being.