I love cats, I honestly prefer cats over dogs. HOWEVER, that does not mean that I don’t like dogs! Dogs are great and they also can provide a huge positive impact on people’s lives. Yes, it’s great to come home to a happy pup wagging its tail but they can also encourage other life changing benefits, including mental health benefits.
Dogs require walks, as most people know. They REQUIRE them, no matter what breed or how old they are—some require more than others, but every dog should be getting some form of exercise running around outside. As you might expect, that means the people are more likely to get outside. Even if it’s just a 10-minute walk, that’s exercise that can lead to a healthier you. Even standing outside throwing the ball around is movement that can be good for you.
Dogs are also social creatures. For a well-adjusted, friendly dog, they need to be properly socialized—this means meeting new people and meeting new dogs. That means you will also meet new people and meet new dogs. This doesn’t have to be something big, like a doggie playdate every other day, but something as simple as walking in the park and passing by other people will do just as well.
Dogs create routine. People vary widely between whether or not they need a schedule to get through the day, but most will agree that a schedule would probably be beneficial. Dogs NEED routine. They need to be fed at the same time, to go out to potty at the same time, and preferably to go out for walks at the same time. Accidents and stress can come from ignoring this.
While all of these create a boost in mental health for different reasons, I think the biggest one is that they become a companion. Those who live alone or away from people, who may struggle with mental health, or are going through problems can benefit greatly just by having the presence of a living creature that loves them. There are a lot of barriers that create loneliness, whether you’re actually alone or not, and dogs naturally combat that.
I will never endorse a family taking in a dog without properly considering your ability to meet every need, but if you’re sure you can handle taking on a new member of the family, perhaps a dog is the perfect way to brighten up your life. It honestly doesn’t even have to be a dog. Do your research to see which, if any, kind of pet would be the perfect fit for your home.
If you cannot, for any reasons, take full responsibility for a dog right now, there are a few options you can consider. Helping with a family, neighbor, or friend’s dog by taking them out for a walk or doing some pet sitting might work for you. Fostering is a great way to get some puppy time without the long-term commitment or even volunteering at a local animal shelter. There are lots of ways to have some animal contact to help boost your mental health, you just have to ask.