Healthy Living in the North

Why getting a dog was the best thing I ever did for my mental health

Haylee smiles for the camera as her dog sniffs the side of her head. A meadow is in the background.

Having a dog has been great for my mental health.

I recently became a “dog mom” and I’ve noticed that it’s been great for my mental health!

Like life, my mental health has highs and lows. Stress, not sleeping properly, not moving my body enough, and not taking the time to feed myself nutritious meals can all contribute to my mental-health lows. When I make an effort to take care of these things, it improves my mental health and I generally feel much better. Lately, my mental health has had a boost, and it’s thanks to my dog! Let me tell you a little bit about her.

My rescue dog

I’d been thinking about getting a dog for a while when the opportunity to adopt came up. Growing up, my family always had dogs, so I knew I wanted one of my own one day. Scrolling through Facebook one afternoon, a post by my local SPCA caught my eye — they had dogs available for adoption! I went down to see them at once.

Dogs and “pawsitive” mental health

I ended up finding my perfect dog at the SPCA: a sweet girl named Paris. They say having a dog changes your lifestyle — in my case, it’s been for the better!

A white poodle walks through a meadow.

Walking my dog gets me outdoors and moving – both are linked to positive mental health.

Here are my three reasons why dogs are great for your mental health:

  1. Dogs get you outside and active
    Any responsible dog “parent” knows that dogs need daily exercise and stimulation. Since getting Paris, daily walks outside have become part of my routine! Studies show that being in nature positively effects your mental health. Whether we’re walking in our neighborhood or at the park, I’m outdoors when walking my pooch. This helps me clear my head and calm down if it’s been a tough day. Research also shows that physical activity, like walking, is linked to positive mental health. Sometimes Paris and I walk for ten minutes, sometimes for an hour — it all counts toward my physical activity goals and helps me feel better.
  2. Dogs encourage you to be social
    Social connectedness, or feeling close or connected to others, is linked to positive mental health. Since getting Paris, I’ve met more of my neighbours and met other people at the dog park. These little interactions bring a smile to my face and make me feel more connected to my community.
  3. Dogs provide comfort and companionship
    Dogs seem to have a sixth sense that tells them when their humans aren’t well. If I’m sick or sad, Paris is at my side, ready to cuddle until I feel better. And if my friends are busy or cancel plans, I know I have a companion to count on. Being alone can make me feel lonely sometimes, but no matter what, I know there’s a wagging tail waiting for me at the end of the day.

Do you have a dog or pet? How do they help your mental health? Let me know in the comments below!

Haylee Seiter

About Haylee Seiter

Haylee is a communications advisor for Public and Population Health. She grew up in Prince George and is proud to call Northern BC home. During university she found her passion for health promotions by volunteering with the Canadian Cancer Society and became interested in marketing through the UNBC JDC West team. When she's not dreaming up communications strategies, she can be found cycling with the Wheelin Warriors or spending time with family and friends. (NH Blog Admin)

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Comments

  1. Valerie Preston says

    I got my dog about a year after my husband passed. I am convinced that had it not been for him, I certainly would be in a worse frame of mind. I love walking on trails and such in the spring – before spider webs appear and biting bugs come out, after that not so much.
    The dog ‘park’ was just such a stress for me – my guy was getting attacked too often for me, and I am supposed to keep him safe – so now it us usually in areas where I know that I won’t encounter other dogs or people (nix the social bit of being a dog owner) and try not to encounter wildlife.
    Because he was a show dog and had to respond to various handlers, he is quite gregarious and not very loyal – but because is a medium sized terrier, people are usually afraid of him (again nix the social bit). He doesn’t get his needs met very well, but we are both coping.

  2. Lorraine Krahn says

    My husband and I bought property out of town, and shortly thereafter, brought home a dog from our local shelter.
    My husband commented just yesterday what a blessing she has been.
    As my husband is currently not employed, he gets to spend a lot of time with Bailey.
    She’s very high energy and I can’t imagine her living in a condo or apartment.
    we have a large gated deck, so the dog can be outside if the weather is nice.
    this means that she stand looking in the window until he gives in and takes her out in the yard.
    Both of them get lots of fresh air and exercise so both are benefitting from the relationship.
    but then I come home and his best friend abandons him for me ( ha ha)

  3. Wesley Mitchell says

    I like your words and PAWSITIVE attitude towards the connection of mental health and in my case.. a mans best friend.. KONA (palmaranion/terrier/chewie was my gift and the last rez dawg from his mother Candy ..r.i.p. ..Kona was born in my opinion on April 23 ,2010 in Witset bc. my baby boo…..has been in my life for almost a decade and at ket times been a LIFESAVER…I have struggled with addiction , and hugs and lows mentally as well. If not for this foot legged miracle I feel my outcomes might gave been fatal and well the unknowns are not too worry about..!?@ I’m a success story and have a bond like no other with my King kona and his unconditional love for me…I have many moments u time he has prevented me for disaster or just supported me ..during and after some huge storms…I agree 100 with your true story and thank you for sharing…all my relations

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