New Study: 80% of Dog Owners Report Improved Mental Health from Regular Walks with Their Dogs

New Study: 80% of Dog Owners Report Improved Mental Health from Regular Walks with Their Dogs

A recent poll commissioned by Purina highlights the significant positive impact owning a dog can have on both mental and physical health. Jo Hemmings, a renowned behavioural psychologist, emphasizes the unique comfort that pets can bring. She says, "Simply the oblivion of your pet to issues that are distressing in the world or the anxiety and stresses of your everyday life – and their never-changing routine – can be reassuring and comforting."

The Benefits of Dog Walking

The survey of UK dog owners revealed that 82% of participants find that walking their dogs helps them escape daily life pressures and boosts their mental health. Increased exercise, more time outdoors, and bonding with their pets all contribute to improved well-being for both owners and their dogs.

Libby Sheridan, Scientific Affairs Manager at Purina, comments, "With dog ownership still at record high levels post-pandemic, more people than ever are noticing the benefits of daily dog walking with their beloved pooches. Regular walks are so important to dog health; it’s great to see the effects of taking a dog walk are also benefiting owners too."

Enhanced Physical Health

The poll also indicated that 69% of dog owners feel their fitness has improved since owning a dog, with 79% agreeing that they have become more active outdoors. Many participants noted that they spend more time outside than they did before owning a dog, with 31% spending more than nine hours a week walking their dog and 53% going on more than eight walks weekly. These regular outings not only help clear the mind but also establish a consistent exercise routine, benefiting both physical and mental health.

Social Benefits

Jo Hemmings highlights the social benefits of dog walking, noting that it provides opportunities for interaction and companionship. "Few things are as uplifting for your mental health as having a furry companion by your side. Everyday life can be stressful at almost every turn. But having a dog, who needs their daily walks, motivating you to take regular exercise, and who is always pleased to see you; or who is oblivious to the external pressures we’re all under and whose never-changing routines bring comfort and reassurance – all these things deliver huge mental health benefits."

Endorphin Release and Mood Boost

Physical activity, especially outdoors, releases endorphins that boost energy and positivity. "Physical activity, especially when it is outdoors, releases endorphins in the brain that give you energy and positivity. It reduces stress and boosts your mood, whatever the unpredictable British weather throws at us. What makes us happy also makes our dogs happy, reinforcing that positivity and giving you simple opportunities for self-care," says Hemmings.

Combating Loneliness

Walking a dog also encourages social interaction, helping to stave off feelings of isolation and loneliness. "Walking your dog is often a companionable activity. You get to see, smile at, and chat to other dog owners, staving off feelings of isolation and loneliness that we can all suffer from time to time, and many of these chats can turn into enduring friendships," Hemmings adds.

In summary, dog ownership brings a multitude of benefits, from increased physical activity and improved mental health to enhanced social interactions. Dogs not only enrich our lives with their companionship but also help us maintain a healthier and more positive lifestyle.

Image by Zigmars Berzins from Pixabay

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