6 Ways Your Dog Can Help to Improve Your Mood

John is the human companion of his beloved dog Kacey. He likes to share tips on how to bond with your best friend.

This article is obviously for those of you who have a fur-baby. Heck, it may even be for those of you who are thinking of adopting a dog but need a gentle nudge to be convinced.

Some people take dogs for granted when it comes to your mental well-being—spend a day without your dog and see just how your mood changes. Hopefully, this article will highlight where your dog can help improve your mood in ways which you may not have noticed before.

6 Ways Your Dog Can Make You Happy

  1. You always have someone.
  2. Their affection brightens your day.
  3. Cuddling with your dog brings joy.
  4. Going for a walk with your dog is enjoyable.
  5. Playing with your dog guarantees a smile.
  6. Their smile is contagious.

1. You Always Have Someone

Your dog has a level of loyalty to you that simply cannot be rivaled. In fact, most dogs are so loyal that they would put their life on the line for you. This means that when you have a day where you feel particularly low or isolated, just look over to your pooch, who will more than likely be staring at you with their tail wagging away.

I have found that even on my darkest of days when I have felt so isolated and low, that just looking over at my dog Kacey can help to remind me that I need to pick myself up and dust myself off because my best friend is right next to me, depending on me!

Unlike humans that come and go, your dog will always be by your side, reminding you that you are wanted, needed, and more importantly, loved.

2. Their Affection Brightens Your Day

Dogs show affection to you in a multitude of ways. On the days that you need a little pick me up, their display of love can really help to bring a smile to your face (no matter how low you are feeling).

Again, a dog's affection is on par with their level of loyalty. They have such a high level of love to offer you and will show it in such a variety of ways that it is hard not to notice. I have found that some days when I am feeling a bit low, just knowing I am loved by this animal that does not speak a word of English (although, at times, I am convinced she is fluent in it) just makes my world seem brighter.

3. Cuddling With Your Dog Brings Joy

If you're a touchy-feely person, then a dog is definitely going to be your best friend—dogs absolutely love cuddles. It is a well-known fact that a hug is extremely beneficial for your mental well-being.

I will be honest. I find Kacey’s cuddles slightly unconventional, and they usually involve just sitting on you and leaning back. A cuddle is a cuddle no matter which way it comes at you. A dog can sometimes recognise if you are a bit out of sorts and will come over to just give you a quick squeeze, almost as if to say, "I am here for you."

4. Going for a Walk With Your Dog Is Enjoyable

This is an effective way to lift your mood with your dog. Getting out into nature, even on your own, will begin to have a positive effect instantaneously. If you combine that effect with being outdoors with your dog, then it is given an added boost.

This is also not just good for you; it is vital to exercise your furry friend. Let’s face it: There are very few things that even come close to putting a smile on your face than watching your dog run around ecstatically with their paws bouncing off the floor and their tongue hanging out the side of their mouth.

Kacey always puts a smile on my face when we are out and try to play fetch. Fetch is a concept that, even after six years or so, she is still unable to grasp. I throw the stick, and she goes bounding over to get it but then runs around with it in her mouth for a good 10 minutes or so. If you tell her to bring it back, she drops it on the floor where she is, almost as if to say, "You come and fetch it, why should I bring it back to you?!"

The other side to this is that if your dog is good around other people and dogs, then it can be a great way to socialise. You are getting a good boost of confidence (if you are nervous in social situations) as well as potentially making a new, less furry friend, especially if they visit the same place routinely.

5. Playing With Your Dog Guarantees a Smile

Now, this has to be the most fun way in which your dog can improve your mood. It is natural for you to go about your day, working, paying bills and running errands that you forget what it is like to have a bit of fun. So stop adulting for five minutes, go grab your pooch's favourite toy and have a good old game of tug of war with them. No matter how low your mood was before, after those five minutes are up, you will be grinning like a Cheshire cat.

Kacey's favourite game (I know it is mine), is playing "Round the Garden". I know some of you are probably tilting your heads at the screen just like your pooch does wondering what the heck I am going on about, so I shall explain. Kacey rolls over on her back and then on her tummy. I circle round with my finger saying the rhyme, "Round and round the garden like a teddy bear" and tickle her belly. This always puts a smile on my face and lifts my mood no matter what.

6. Their Smile Is Contagious

A dog's smile is something that is just so damn adorable and infectious. There is something just so magical about seeing your dog's cheesy grin. This grin can appear by doing any of the above or even by just a little tickle behind the ears. The reason this helps to improve your mood is that it is hard to not smile when someone is smiling back at you, and after all, if you crack a smile in return you will be bringing your levels of negativity right down naturally.

Well, there you have it – six ways in which your dog can help you improve your mood. Again, they are very simplistic ways, but they may be ways that you do not notice when you are feeling a bit low.

I will apologise for waffling on about Kacey but she is my best friend and makes me a proud parent all in the same sentence. She is the reason that I lift my mood and raise my game on a daily basis. No matter what is going on in my life, she is always there wagging her tail!

Let me know if your dog has any quirks or does anything in particular that helps to lift your mood or just generally makes you smile in the comments box below. As always, thank you for reading!

Brenda on March 29, 2018:

So very very true I've seen all the proof by watching you with Kacie so so proud off you and hope your messages get through to people and that it helps them xx

8 Reasons Pets Improve Your Health And Wellbeing

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It’s officially National Pet Week. Since 1981, the first week in May is recognized by the American Veterinary Medical Association (AVMA) and the Auxiliary to the AVMA as a time dedicate to celebrating the more than 200 million pets in the U.S., as well as the health and wellbeing of the humans and animals across the U.S. that live together.

While we know that the bond between pets and their owners is strong, there are also many health benefits to owning a pet. According to the CDC, owning an animal can,“increase opportunities to exercise, get outside, and socialize. Regular walking or playing with pets can decrease blood pressure, cholesterol levels, and triglyceride levels. Pets can help manage loneliness and depression by giving us companionship.”

Which is great news given that most households in the United States – and estimated 68% – have at least one pet.

Here are eight ways your favorite companion improves your mental and physical health:

1. Increased Physical Fitness: It could be frequent trips outside or long runs and walks with your animal, but either way, moving with a pet increases physical activity. According to research published in the American Journal of Lifestyle Medicine, walking dogs has further been shown to promote engagement in and adherence to regular physical activity. And, getting exercise with your pet is free, unlike gym memberships and many organized workout groups.

2. Lower Stress & Anxiety: Whether it’s comfort, cuddles, laughter or physical activity, having a pet leads to a release in calming endorphins – oxytocin. Increased calmness can also be associated with simple activities such as watching the smooth nature of a swimming fish. Even more interesting is that in an early 2000’s study, researchers in New York found that between friends, spouses, and pets, people were less stressed while conducting difficult tasks when a pet was with them then when a friend or spouse was present. Both mental and physical metrics supported the conclusion. People who use pet therapy while recovering from surgery are also use less pain medications than those without a pet.

3. Lower Blood Pressure & Cholesterol: Having a pet is believed to lower blood pressure and cholesterol, especially for those with hypertensive or high-risk patients, according to the CDC. Interestingly, research suggests that cat owners are 30% less likely to have a heart attack and 40% less likely to have a stroke . Further, the NIH concluded based on several heart-related studies that having a pet can decrease cholesterol, blood pressure, and triglycerides, which are all contributing factors for a heart attack.

4. Improved Discipline: The University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center found that teenagers with diabetes managed their disease better if they were put in charge of caring for a fish, than teenagers without a pet to care for. The reason for the study was that teens are a patient population known for not adhering to medical regimens. But when tasked with the discipline of keeping an animal on a feeding schedule, the teens more regularly and consistently, checked their own blood glucose levels.

5. Increased Happiness & Decreased Depression: A sense of purpose is important for human beings. As is a need to feel connected, which offsets loneliness and brings joy. By providing companionship, pets can combat depression, particularly in those who are elderly or sick. Veterans dealing with post-traumatic stress have also been found to have improve mood and health outcomes when adding a pet or service dog to their lives. Hence, veterans are encouraged to get dogs as a means of companionship as they transition back to civilian life.

6. Improved Socialization: Whether physically interacting with other people outside or engaging in a conversation about your pet, having an animal is a great way to connect with others. There are even online socializing platforms and dating sites that are now tailored to the pets you have. And, studies have found that pet owners are perceived as “friendlier” by their neighbors, likely due to the amount of engagement they have when outdoors.

7. Improved Immunity & Allergy Prevention: Research in the Journal of Allergy and Clinical Immunology contends that having a dog in infancy can improve a child’s overall immune system, as well as reduce allergies. In fact, it was found that having a pet in the home can decrease a child’s likelihood of developing allergies (related to their home) by 33%. It’s believed that the dander in pet hair might serve as a natural immunotherapy for babies and children. And that means a stronger immune system, and likely less missed days of school.

8. Childhood Development: Emotional development is vitally important for children to becoming healthy adults. And pets have proven to be beneficial to children, particularly those with developmental challenges. Children suffering from ADHD have been shown to focus more when they are in a predictable routine, which pets provide. And for children with autism, the sensory experience of petting an animal can be soothing, and they have greater social skills. So whether it’s a cat, dog, or guinea pig, animals can be great for children’s development.

Two sisters, ages ten and thirteen are kissing their cute English Bulldog on a white background

Six ways your pet can boost health and well-being

On arriving home after a long, stressful day at work, you are greeted at the door by an overexcited four-legged friend. It can’t fail to put a smile on your face. Pet ownership is undoubtedly one of the greatest pleasures in life, providing companionship and giggles galore. But the benefits do not end there your pet could be doing wonders for your health and well-being.

Share on Pinterest Pets can offer a wealth of benefits for health and well-being.

The United States is a nation of animal lovers more than 65 percent of households own a pet, with dogs and cats being the most popular choice.

It is no surprise that so many of us have a pet in our lives not only are animals fantastic company, but they also teach us compassion and offer unconditional love.

As British novelist George Eliot once said, “Animals are such agreeable friends – they ask no questions they pass no criticisms.”

Adding to pets’ indisputable charm is the wealth of benefits they offer for human health and well-being. We take a closer look at what these are.

Around 50 million people in the U.S. have nasal allergies, and pet dander is one of the most common triggers.

With this in mind, it may come as a surprise that pets could actually lower the risk of developing allergies.

One study reported by Medical News Today in 2015 associated exposure to dogs and farm animals in early life with a lower risk of asthma development by school age.

More recent research published in the journal Microbiome found that children who were exposed to household pets prior to birth and up to 3 months after experienced changes in gut bacteria associated with childhood allergies.

Such studies support the “hygiene hypothesis” – that is, the theory that greater exposure to pathogens and potential allergens at an early age can strengthen the immune system, which may increase tolerance to allergies in later life.

The soothing sound of a cat purring or the feeling of “man’s best friend” tucked up against your feet is guaranteed to help one feel at ease, so it may come as no surprise that pets can help to alleviate stress and anxiety.

A study conducted by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) in 2015 found that children who had pet dogs in their household were significantly less likely to test positive on a screening test for anxiety.

Another study published last month found that children with pet dogs had lower levels of the “stress hormone” cortisol when they interacted with their four-legged companions, compared with children who did not actively engage with their dog.

“Children who actively solicited their dogs to come and be pet or stroked had lower cortisol levels compared to children who engaged their dogs less,” explains study leader Darlene Kertes, of the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences at the University of Florida in Gainesville. “When dogs hovered around or approached children on their own, however, children’s cortisol tended to be higher.”

But the stress-relieving effects of pets are not limited to canine companions. Research published in 2014 found that riding and caring for horses helped to reduce cortisol levels and ease stress in teenagers.

Heart disease is responsible for around 610,000 deaths in the U.S. every year, making it the leading cause of death in the country.

Many of us are aware that good lifestyle choices, such as a healthful diet and regular exercise, are key to reducing risk factors for heart disease. But did you know that your pet could be protecting your heart health, too?

A 2013 scientific statement from the American Heart Association concluded that owning a pet – particularly a dog – may reduce the risk of cardiovascular disease.

According to study co-author Glenn Levine, of Baylor College of Medicine in Houston, TX, this finding may be partly explained by increased exercise studies suggest that dog owners are 54 percent more likely to meet physical activity guidelines, compared with the general population.

The statement also cites evidence that pet owners tend to have lower blood pressure, lower cholesterol levels, and are less likely to be obese, which may benefit their heart health.

Most pet owners have a special bond with their furry friends – in fact, statistics show that more than 66 percent of dog owners and 56 percent of cat owners consider their pet to be a family member.

But according to recent studies, this pet-owner bond may have a beneficial influence on our other relationships, too.

Research published last year found that people with pets report having stronger romantic relationships than non-pet owners pet owners reported greater overall relationship quality and investment.

Caring for a pet may also improve one’s social skills. A 2014 study published in the journal Applied Developmental Science found that those who reported greater care for animals had greater community involvement and were more likely to be in a leadership role.

What is more, the study found that adults who reported greater attachment to animals during adolescence demonstrated greater empathy and confidence in adulthood.

For children with autism, who often struggle with social relationships, research suggests that a household pet may be beneficial. One study by researchers from the University of Missouri in Columbia, published in 2015, found that children with autism showed greater assertiveness if they lived with a dog.

“More significantly, however, the data revealed that children with any kind of pet in the home reported being more likely to engage in behaviors such as introducing themselves, asking for information, or responding to other people’s questions,” explains study co-author Gretchen Carlisle.

“These kinds of social skills typically are difficult for kids with autism, but this study showed children’s assertiveness was greater if they lived with a pet.”

Mental illness is estimated to affect around 1 in 5 adults in the U.S. in any given year, with depression, bipolar disorder, and schizophrenia being among the most common.

While having a pet cannot cure mental illness, studies suggest that it could certainly help.

Research reported by MNT last year found that 60 percent of pet owners who had been diagnosed with severe mental illness said that their pet was “most important” for managing their condition.

What is more, the study found that participants with pets reported a greater sense of control, as well as a feeling of security and routine.

Studies have shown that our beloved animal companions can also help to reduce depression, so much so that many organizations recognize animal-assisted therapy as an effective treatment for depression and other mental illnesses.

In a blog for the Huffington Post published last year, social worker Kathryn Oda talks about how her dog Buddy helped her to manage her anxiety and depression.

“A dog motivates you to get out the door for fresh air and exercise, even when it’s the last thing you feel like doing. A dog brings you so much laughter and joy, unlike anything I’ve experienced before, with their unique personalities and hilarious quirks […],” she writes. “And lastly, a dog brings you unconditional love, the kind of love that never stops. With these three things in your life, anxiety and depression can be part of your past as it has become a part of mine.”

Those of you who are dog owners will know only too well the frustration of your four-legged pal claiming the sheets at bedtime. But don’t kick them off the bed just yet studies have shown that sharing a bed with your pet may actually lead to a better night’s sleep.

One such study was reported by MNT in 2015. Published in the journal Mayo Clinic Proceedings, the researchers found that 41 percent of surveyed pet owners who allowed their pet to sleep in the bedroom or on the bed said that they did not find their pet disruptive, and they even reported sleeping better, due to the feeling of security, companionship, and relaxation that their pet offers.

After reading this article, you can also sleep easy knowing about all the wonderful ways in which your pet could be improving your health and well-being.

Why Dogs Make You Happy

It's morning. The alarm goes off. You open your eyes and you're met with another pair of them, as well as a wet nose. You can tell from the way his head is swaying that he's wagging his tail. You smile and he takes that as a note of permission to start licking your face. You giggle, give him a cuddle and jump out of bed.

You know getting up in the morning is a lot easier and more fun when you've got a dog who's so excited to see you open your eyes. He's even more excited as you get dressed to go out and grab the leash by the door. By now he's jumping up and down and making weird, excited maneuvers chasing his own tail. It's as if going for a morning walk is the most exciting thing that's ever happened to him. You can't help but smile.

This is the thing about dogs. They make your life better. They make you smile more. They force you to move. They encourage you to be more mindful of the present. They make you feel loved. Perhaps that's why it's no surprise that science has shown dogs improve your physical, mental and emotional health. Here's exactly how:

1. Dogs improve your mood.

Study after study has shown that owning a pet can help you to maintain a more positive, optimistic perspective on life and what you're faced with. Better yet, they can even lessen the symptoms of depression and anxiety. There are many reasons why this might be the case but author and animal expert Karen Winegar sums it up beautifully: "The human-animal bond bypasses the intellect and goes straight to the heart and emotions and nurtures us in ways that nothing else can."

2. Dogs make you feel loved.

Spending time with dogs, and even more so petting them and cuddling them, increases your levels of oxytocin. Oxytocin, known as the "love hormone," is a neurotransmitter that calms your nervous system down, relaxing you, whilst also increasing your trust.

3. Dogs lower your stress.

Petting dogs not only ups your oxytocin but also lowers your cortisol, the stress hormone. In line with this, studies at the University of New York found that people experienced lower levels of stress when conducting a stressful assignment when they had a pet with them. Studies in workplaces have also shown that taking dogs to work lowers your stress, improves your recovery after challenges and even increases positive social interactions.

4. Dogs help you to be social.

If you're shy, an introvert or simply not that confident in social situations, your dog can help you with this. As your dog greets another dog, it's natural to exchange a few words with the dog's owner. It's easier to chat because you already have one common ground (i.e. dogs) and having these simple interactions can help up your confidence.

5. Dogs keep you healthy and fit.

If you own a dog and you love them, you take them out for walks. You play with them. You keep them entertained. That means you're active throughout your day which naturally boosts your physical health whilst also, as an added bonus, improves your mood. In line with this, clinical studies have shown that dog owners tend to have lower blood pressure and cholesterol levels, both reducing the risk of heart-related illnesses.

These are only a few of the many ways that dogs improve the quality of your life. If you've got a dog, make sure you give them an extra cuddle today and tell them how grateful you are for them. Don't worry about whether they will understand or not. They will feel it — and so will you.

Watch the video: 9 Foods That Will Kill Your Dog

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