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Read below to find out how supportive and emotionally healing dogs can be! Click on inserted links for more information!

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How Dogs Can Help with Emotional Struggles

The bond between dogs and their owners spans almost the entire length of human history. Dogs domesticated right alongside the development of human civilization. And over those thousands of years, dogs seemingly have learned to understand us on some unexplainable level. Dogs relieve our stress, brighten our moods, improve our physical health, stimulate our social interactions and can play a significant role in our emotional wellness. And for those with mental health concerns, owning a dog can have a positive impact on their lives.

If you ask a dog owner why they love their pooch so much, they'll likely tell you that it's because of the 
unconditional love that dogs give, and their soothing presence. Both of these play an essential role in our wellness. Also, since many dogs seem perpetually happy, they can alter our behavior. Someone could come home quite angry, only to have their demeanor flipped to the bright side by a dog’s attention and wagging tail.

Dogs also give us purpose and responsibility, both of which are essential components of good mental health. A dog's companionship can also help people cope with loneliness. First, the presence of the dog can be a substitute for another person, and secondly, dog ownership can be a social link to others. Dogs also don’t judge or talk back to us, so we interact with them with our guards down. Many of us cannot truly be ourselves even around loved ones but have no problem relaxing around our dogs. All of these canine benefits can help us emotionally and relieve depression.

The benefits of interaction with dogs are not limited to dog ownership. Therapy dogs have been used clinically and in outreach as methods of providing emotional support.  Examples include comfort dogs sent to survivors of natural disasters and mass shootings.
Therapy dogsare put to work everyday in hospitals, nursing homes and schools for this recognized ability to calm people.  Although not definitively proven, studies suggest that dogs can empathize with others. They can mirror our stress, but at the same time, they can recognize when we are sad. It upsets them, and they see it as an area where they can help.

And dog owners are more likely to 
be active. Dogs encourage outdoor activities from walking to throwing a ball in a dog park. Studies even have shown a stronger connection between health and dog ownership with findings that dogs can play an essential role in recovery from ailments such as heart attacks.

And if a dog's innate ability to put a smile on our faces isn't enough for emotional well-being, their tendency to encourage physical activity is also directly connected to our mental health. 
Dog walking often becomes a social activity for both the dog and the walker.  Dog owners have been known to develop new circles of friends based on dog walks and visits to the local dog park. Lastly, those suffering from loneliness and feelings of isolation might benefit from the increased social interaction that results from dog walking.

Some have even embraced walking other dogs as a source of extra income and additional social interaction. And starting a 
dog walking group is another method to socialize that benefits both people and dogs. It's easy to start one of these social clubs, just reach out to other dog walkers in your neighborhood when you pass by on your walk. Some believe the only beneficial social interaction for dogs is off-leash play, but walking side by side with other leashed dogs plays a role in both dog and human social development.

Dogs make us happy in many ways, not just because they love us unconditionally and never tire of our attention.  They improve our emotional and physical health, instill a strong sense of self-purpose and provide us with social outlets to enhance our well-being.


-Brandon Butler

About the Author: Brandon is a dog lover and vet tech. He loves helping pet owners by sharing advice on FurandFeathers.info.


Photo credit:  Pexels