Walking the dog has psychological benefits for owners.
It’s a well known fact that dogs are great de-stressors for humans; their companionship and loyalty helps people to feel good. Scientific research has long indicated that petting a dog can lower your heart rate and therefore instigate a calming effect. This is why so many dogs are employed in support roles with people; from dogs that visit elderly people in care homes, to dogs that assist in helping children cope with the effects of autism.
Even simply walking your dog can have huge psychological benefits – Holidays4Dogs finds out why.
Motivation to exercise – many people who own dogs are much more motivated to take exercise because they feel this is important for the family dog. By focusing on your dog’s need to get out and about and exercise, you are much more likely to make the effort to walk on a regular basis; come rain or shine. For those people who suffer from depression or other mental health problems, having a dog can certainly improve motivation to engage with world and other people.
More physical activity – dog owning is associated with a significant increase in walking activity, compared to non dog owners. Research has also found a link between owning a dog and a much healthier circularity system. Being healthier and taking more exercise means dog owners may be seen as having a decreased risk of stroke or heart disease, particularly amongst the older generation.
The benefits of the great outdoors – dog walking usually means owners have more opportunity for enjoying the countryside, parks and other recreational areas, even in towns and cities. Studies have shown that when a person engages with the natural world they gain a sense of well-being from noticing the beauty and of their surroundings as well as other points of interest in the environment – be it urban or countryside.
The feeling of not being alone – most dogs are enthusiastic walking companions and this creates the sense in the dog walker of not being alone. Having a companion to enjoy the great outdoors with makes walking much more enjoyable and satisfying.
Meeting new people – dog walking is a great way to meet new people in the community – if only to chat to local neighbours or fellow dog walkers in the park. Research has shown that dog owners tend to chat to more to other people than non-dog walkers; dogs are the perfect excuse for striking up a conversation with a stranger and, in fact, for people with social anxieties – owning a dog can be really beneficial and make it much easier for people to make new friends.
All in all, dog walking can work wonders for your mental health and recent surveys by the University of Liverpool back this up. Researchers carried interviews with pet owners as well as collating personal written statements from people regarding their dog walking experiences. A strong theme which came out of the research was that, although most participants felt their motivation to walk was primarily to benefit their dogs; they nevertheless felt an upsurge in their own happiness and well-being. The only caveat to this was where people felt their dog had behaviour issues, or was too old or unfit to walk.
There is no doubt about it, however, that walking the dog most certainly meets the emotional and welfare needs of the owner, just as much as the dog!