Everyone knows dogs are man’s best friend! But did you know they actually increase the oxycontin (aka the “love” chemical) levels in your brain? Beyond just the inherent knowledge we have that dogs are awesome, there are a ridiculous amount of health benefits that come from owning a dog.

In fact, 74% of pet owners have reported an improvement in their mental health since getting their pets, and veterans with service dogs reported a 22% higher rate of life satisfaction than those without. Studies have shown that kids also benefit from pets, finding that more than 40% of children turn to them when they feel sad, angry, afraid, or have a secret to share. Whether it’s a service dog, an emotional support animal, or a family dog - the benefits are endless.

how pets support mental health

So you can get a dog and immediately start upping that oxycontin with cuddles but what else can you do to maximize the benefit to your mental health and your pup’s life? Here are the top 3 things you can do:

Go on scheduled walks

Obviously, it’s great to get out and walk. In fact, people who own and walk their dogs are 34% more likely to meet federal benchmarks on physical activity, which is a key factor in improving mental health. Exercise has actually been proven to reduce feelings of depression and anxiety because it signals the brain to release endorphins. So getting exercise with your dog already has your brain pumping with oxycontin and endorphins!

The other part of this tip is keeping the walks as scheduled as possible. This is actually a double bonus! Not only are you training your dog when to expect walks and potty breaks but you’re training yourself. Routines are an incredibly important part of maintaining your mental health. So while your dog knows when it’s time to potty, you know when it’s time to take a mental break.

Teach some tricks

It’s been proven that caring for another actually improves your health! By helping someone (or some pup!) out people can gain an improved ability to manage stress and stave off disease as well as reduced rates of depression and an increased sense of life satisfaction. That’s because whether you’re being physically or socially active, you get a neurochemical sense of reward.

You could sign up for a training course if you want professional guidance or just check out some YouTube videos. Either way, it’s a great opportunity to shift focus away from lingering anxieties, bond with your dog, and achieve a sense of accomplishment. Even learning the basics (“Sit, Fluffy!”) will come in handy for the duration of your dog’s life.  

Get social

Have a play date with a friend and their dog or venture out to the dog park once your puppy is old enough! Socializing dogs is vital to their development and ability to interact with others. However, socializing is also important for your mental health. According to psychologists, “direct person-to-person contact triggers parts of our nervous system that release a ‘cocktail’ of neurotransmitters tasked with regulating our response to stress and anxiety.”

So whether it’s chatting with fellow dog owners in that training course you signed up for or meeting a new neighbor at the park down the street - both you and your dog will benefit from person to person (or pup to pup!) contact.

As much as you care for your dog (we know potty training is a lot) just know they are scientifically proven to be beneficial for your mental health! So try out these tips and while your dog is taking care of you, make sure you take care of them with Puppo’s personalized nutrition!

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