Hello everyone!  Today we have another special treat for you!  Cindy Aldridge from ourdogfriends.org has prepared a great topic about dogs that I think is sometimes overlooked but very powerful.  She has written “Getting Your Mental Health Back on Track with a Canine Companion”.  After reading, I think you will agree just how much dogs can affect our mental health.  Enjoy!

Photo via Pixabay

For many people, struggling with their mental health is more of a challenge than getting over a physical ailment like the flu. Things that they used to enjoy feel like a struggle under the weight of depression, anxiety, or any of the myriad mental health issues Americans deal with everyday. While therapy and medication are necessary for most, people can also supplement their self care with other methods. For many people, adopting a dog helps occupy the mind, create a routine, and provide much needed affection for getting through mental health problems.

Is a dog right for you?

Dogs are not for everyone. They require a great deal of work and commitment on the part of their human counterpart. Dogs need to be let out at least 3-5 times a day, more if you adopt a puppy. If you do not have the time to go home every few hours to let your pup out, you will need to hire a dog walker that can periodically go check on them for you. Some people opt for doggy daycare where a staff of professionals look after your dog during the day. These programs also give your dog a degree of socialization that many enjoy. If you do not have the time nor the money to hire help, it’s not a good time in your life to adopt a dog.

The financial burden of owning a dog is a deterrent for many people. Costs to take into consideration include (but are certainly not limited to):

– Dog walker
– Kennel/daycare
– Food and treats
– Accessories such as a leash and collar
– Vet visits
– Shots
– Flea and heartworm medicine
– Disposable items such as poo bags
– Grooming
– Toys
– Collateral damage

Additionally, some people are allergic to dogs and even more are sensitive to their dander. If you or someone in your home suffers from these allergies, you can look into hypoallergenic breeds that many people find non-irritating.

How Dogs Help with Mental Health

If you have the time and resources to adopt a dog, your new canine friend can be a big boon to your mental health. Dogs are incredibly loving and loyal to their owners. That type of unconditional affection reduces loneliness and gives a person a sense of purpose. Additionally, dogs keep you present in the moment. After a few minutes playing with your dog you should notice that the issues and anxieties that plague you aren’t as present. You will be too enthralled in their cute idiosyncrasies.

Dogs can also help you connect with people better. Taking your dog to the park or walking them around the neighborhood will allow you the opportunity to get to know your neighbors and fellow dog lovers. You may find that an increase of positive interactions with people will help you get over social anxieties. Also, dogs help add structure to your life and lend a routine. You may feel like staying in bed all day, but Fido needs to be walked anyways. Not only will this help you get your day started, but the extra exercise and vitamin D will boost your mood as well.

Finally, when you suffer from mental illness it can seem like there isn’t much reason to go on living. When you adopt a dog, you bring someone into your life that needs you. Your dog gives your life purpose, and the thought of you not being around to take care of him or her is devastating. As Julie Barton, author of Dog Medicine: How My Dog Saved Me From Myself — puts it, “He would miss me. He needed me. And that was all I needed to keep on living.”

Truly Man’s Best Friend

If you have the resources and time to devote to a dog, you will find that they give back more than they receive. Dogs provide unconditional love and affection that reduces loneliness and provides people with a sense of purpose. They help you socialize and connect with people around you. The amount of exercise a dog needs will inevitably help provide you with much-needed endorphins. Additionally, they provide structure and routine in life that can help depressed, those in addiction recovery, or those suffering from other mental ailments, get out of a funk. While mental illnesses require medical and professional help, the addition of a dog in your life can supplement these efforts and get your life back on track.