The coronavirus has led to troubling times for sure, but as well as maintaining our physical health it is also important to take steps to safeguard our mental wellbeing. As well as anxiety about how Covid-19 might affect loved ones or our financial security, social distancing and self-isolation will mean many people are very lonely.
Thankfully, one piece of good news is that our pets cannot catch or transfer Covd-19, so we are able to stay close to our four-legged friends.
Here are five ways that our dogs can help us through these strange and concerning times.
Most of us have had those moment when we actually talk to our pets, and it’s little wonder. Dogs in particular are very capable of reacting and responding to human emotions and interacting with their owners. According to the Campaign to end loneliness, as well as leading to depression and cognitive degeneration, loneliness is also linked to physical health issues such as higher blood pressure and risk of stroke. The very good news is that a raft of studies reveal that dog owners are 36% less likely to report feeling lonely than those who do not own a pet, regardless of the age of the person surveyed.
2. Stroking your dog can reduce stress
These are stressful times indeed, but your dog can help. We all know this, but somehow it is useful to learn a little about the science behind it. Medical studies reveal that people with pets have lower blood pressure in stressful situations than those without pets. One study even found that when people with borderline hypertension became dog owners, their blood pressure declined significantly within five months. Why does this happen? It seems that our need for touch is at the heart of the matter. Researchers found that stroking or hugging your pet is likely to elevate levels of serotonin and dopamine, hormones which calm us down.
3. They make us go outside
This is tricky during self-isolation, but during social distancing, guidance is that we can go out and walk our dogs as long as we don’t get close to other people or stop to talk to them, other than to talk or smile at a distance. This is really important because getting outside and doing even gentle exercise has huge benefits for our mental wellbeing, and many medical experts are urging people to get out once or twice a day at least for this reason. The Vitamin D that you get even on a cloudy day i believed to help offset depression and anxiety and lift your mood, and being in nature, if you can, has been found in many studies to help us feel calmer and more positive. Getting outside for even short dog walks could quite literally help you to stay sane over the weeks of social distancing.
4. Dogs make good teaching or office assistants
If you have your children at home, apparently dogs can help to improve attention span and also enhance children’s emotional and social skills. if this seems a little crazy, take a look at this article which reveals why experts have previously been proposing bringing dogs into schools to help improve children’s mental health and reduce anxiety. Of course, actually having dogs in schools is one thing, but if you happen to have a canine companion in your home anyway, it’s worth bringing them in as a classroom companion. If you’re working from home, apparently dogs in the office also lead to people taking more breaks, to play with or walk the dog, which improves productivity and job satisfaction. We definitely stand by this, with Rosie, our Newfoundland a constant companion in our office and she’s very insistent on (very welcome) screen breaks.
5. Having a dog means you are less likely to get ill
Now don’t get us wrong, having a dog will not protect you against contracting Covid-19, but being a dog owner you are statistically less likely to get ill with other conditions. It’s believed that this is because having a dog in the house means more diverse bacteria enters the home and therefore people with dogs seem to build up resistance to those bacteria and get ill less frequently and less severely than people—especially children—with cats or no pets. This is very helpful at this time because if you have some other bug or infection, you’ll be less able to fight off Covid-19 should you contract the virus. A small but helpful way our dogs help us without even trying.
We’re sure there are other benefits of having a dog at this time, and we’d love to hear the ways that your dog is helping you through.
Good luck everyone, and stay as well as possible!