There’s a reason pet therapy is so often prescribed for those going through tough times—and there’s a lot more to a relationship with your dog beyond “man’s best friend.” Numerous studies have shown that simply being around dogs, petting them, playing with them or forming a bond with them can help ease a variety of ailments from anxiety to depression. Dogs are the essence of unconditional love, and like any beloved pet often teach us more than we can imagine.
Life can be tough. It’s sticky and complicated. No matter your struggle, if it’s financially within reach, having a dog can help make this time in your life a little easier. Here are six benefits you’ll discover when you bring a dog into your life and home:
1. They don’t judge, they only love
Human relationships can sometimes be messy at best and abusive at worst. One of the therapeutic benefits of having a dog is that you’re reminded while pure, unconditional love looks like. Not only do dogs offer this in abundance, they also remind us how important it is to trust and give the same love in return.
2. They’re a natural soother
Have you ever noticed how much calmer you feel after petting a dog? How about the calming effects of having a dog sleeping at your feet, their warm body a constant reminder through the night that you’re not alone? Having a dog soothes, relaxes, and calms. It’s one of the reasons they make such an excellent companion for those with anxiety and/or insomnia.
3. They are a constant when life is full of changes
It might feel like your day is wildly different every morning, but a dog is a constant, loving presence. They provide stability and love routines. No matter what curveballs might be headed your way, you can always count on your dog to offer the same unbridled love and affection. Humans crave routines, too, but they can be difficult to stick to as an adult.
4. They require owners to be responsible
Dogs cannot take care of themselves. It might seem counterintuitive to sign up for such a big responsibility during a struggle, but the opposite is often true. Knowing you have another living being to care for reminds a person that they matter. There have been cases of homeless dog owners saying that the only reason they stayed clean and kept trying was that they owed it to their companion. Humans need to be needed.
5. They are incredibly intuitive caregivers
Dogs know “their” humans well, and will respond to your emotions. Studies have shown that dogs feel empathy and it doesn’t take long to get into a rhythm with your pet. They will offer their own unique ways to comfort, to cajole, and to make you laugh. A dog’s purpose is to please their owner, which is why their intuitive nature is so important.
6. They can keep you active
Activity levels can vary based on breed, age, and unique personality, but all dogs require (and many desire) frequent exercises. They might love to go on walks with you, play, or simply demand some companionship when they go outside to take care of business. It’s tempting to wallow during unhappy times, but when you have a dog you have no choice but to get outdoors—and perhaps to play. Play is some seriously strong medicine and might be just what you need during tough times.
Of course, having a dog isn’t for everyone. Dogs are a major responsibility and require their owner to be home frequently throughout the day (or at least have the capacity to hire a caregiver to stop by for potty breaks and lunch if you work long hours). If you’re not in the right place for a dog right now, you can still enjoy the benefits of having a companion. Offer to walk a friend’s dog on a regular basis or volunteer at a shelter. It’s not required that you adopt a dog in order to get the benefits of forming a bond with a furry friend. Whatever amount of cuddle or play time you can squeeze in can result in fantastic benefits for both you and the dog.