Loneliness Awareness Week – How Your Dog Can Help Your Loneliness 

Loneliness Awareness Week is a week dedicated to creating supportive communities, through conversations with your loved ones all about loneliness. The feeling of loneliness is a natural one, that most people will feel at some point in their lives – we are inherently social creatures. By creating these conversations and talking about our feelings, we can support each other. 

However, it wouldn’t be a Wild at Heart Foundation blog post without the mention of our four-legged friends. Now, research has found that there is no difference between pet owners who live alone and non-owners who live alone. There are plenty of articles that suggest, however, that owning a dog helps with companionship, your physical health, and your mental health. 

The Loneliness Epidemic 

Loneliness is an extremely big issue in the UK, with about a third of people feeling socially isolated and lonely. It is rife within the older generation; however, it does not discriminate. Feeling lonely can affect young people, single parents and those with disabilities and the Royal Voluntary Service has reported that 1 in 3 men feel lonely at least once a week.  

There are plenty of campaigns out there that are looking to tackle the loneliness epidemic including The Campaign to End Loneliness and The Jo Cox Foundation’s Commission on Loneliness. It is interesting to note, however, that 80% of single people reported that after just one month of getting a four-legged friend, they felt less lonely. 

man resting forehead on dogs head whilst stroking dogs ears

Dogs Create the Perfect Companions 

 Dogs provide us with a special kind of companionship. Although they don’t provide conversation, they offer you a sense of emotional well-being due to their unconditional love. This makes them extra special company for those living alone. 

Owning a dog also opens your world up to a whole new level of companionship – human companionship. The need for walking your dog and giving them exercise is crucial to being a good pet owner. Dog walks are a fantastic opportunity to meet other dog owners, sparking conversations and even friendships. Joining breed clubs or rescue groups allows you to meet like-minded people with a passion for your chosen dog breed or your mission of rescuing and adopting dogs. They also in turn provide support and create a community around you. 

3 people walking an array of different dog breeds - socialising for loneliness

Dogs Help Your Physical and Mental Health 

Loneliness has been linked with health issues such as high blood pressure, stress, anxiety, and dementia. Stroking a dog, however, has been known to reduce high blood pressure and reduce feelings of stress and anxiety. So next time you feel extra stressed or anxious, have a cuddle with your pup. It will make all the difference. 

As we have mentioned, dogs need regular exercise and taking your dog for a walk ensures you’re getting plenty of exercise as well. Walking your dog and playing games with them encourages not only your dog to be active but also will support your health and well-being. 

women in the background relaxing on sofa with brown dog lying in foreground - dog helps with loneliness

So if you’re feeling lonely, consider spending more time with dogs. Cuddles and unconditional love, meeting with dog owners and creating a sense of calm and relaxation are just a small fraction of the benefits of owning a dog. Not only does owning a dog benefit you, but rescuing and rehoming a dog in need will make a huge difference in its life. Read more about How a Happy and Healthy Home Will Benefit Your Dog

However, we appreciate that owning a dog is not always achievable and may not fit in with your circumstances. There are plenty of other ways of interacting with dogs such as; fostering, borrowing a dog for walks or even dog sitting. Barking Mad offer dog-sitting services and they have spoken about how dog-sitting could be the cure for some people’s loneliness. It creates temporary companionship and the opportunity to meet like-minded dog lovers.

We hope you have found this blog interesting, make sure you follow our socials to keep up to date with our news.

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How a Healthy and Happy Home will Benefit Your Dog

Your dog does so much to help improve and enrich your life! Let’s make sure you are giving back to them, ensuring they have the happiest life. 

We have done some research and found the top 5 ways that a happy home will benefit your dog.

brown and white staffie snuggled in white duvet

Make Them Comfortable 

Make sure that your dog has their own place that is safe, warm and cosy. This allows them to feel relaxed and comfortable. It is also better, especially for where they will be sleeping, to have a quiet comfortable space away from loud noises or busy areas of the house. Some dogs even prefer to sleep in a crate or a doggy den – somewhere that is theirs. 

Provide a Healthy Diet and Proper Nutrition 

It is crucial that your dog maintains a healthy weight for their size. Your vet will have a lot of advice about the most suitable food for your dog’s size, age and activity level. Believe me, I know how tempting it is to give in to those puppy dog eyes and sneak them some food from your own plate. However, not all human food is suitable for your dog and can badly affect their health. Remember how important it is for your pet to eat healthily. Now, we all love to give our pups treats, but they can contribute to weight gain. Treats are a great training tool, so we need to keep using them, but just in moderation. A nice bowl of clean fresh water is also essential, especially on hot days. 

brown staffie dog playing tug of war with white rope

Give Them Regular Exercise 

Your pup needs regular exercise for their physical and mental wellbeing. Getting outside for walks gives your dog the chance to stretch their legs, have a sniff around all the different smells and get fresh air. It also gives the opportunity keep them in shape and give them a change of scenery to break up their day. I would say that it is important to consider each dogs individual personalities. Some dogs like a calmer life, to cuddle and nap whilst others may prefer to play and be outside. Others may prefer long walks and meeting other dogs whereas others would rather spend their time pottering and sniffing around the local park or the garden. 

Offer Enrichment Activities and Training 

It is so important not only to exercise your dog’s body but also their mind. Providing your dog with enrichment activities is a great way to prevent boredom and teach them new skills. Also, if your dog is suffering from an injury or recovering from surgery, it can be a great way to tire them out.  Training your dog is also crucial to make them feel safe and secure. It will also build their confidence. Start your training young as this will give them the best start and help to prevent behaviour problems from developing as they grow. Dogs are very intelligent and will get bored if they’re not regularly stimulated. 

Check out our blog “How to Entertain Your Dog While Working from Homefor some enrichment ideas. 

woman with brown hair kneeling on bedroom floor playing paw with brown and cream dog

Show Them Love and Comfort 

Everyone deserves to feel loved, especially our canine companions. Showing them love and respect will help you build a bond with them. It is also important to praise and reward good behaviour. Another way to show them love, is by taking care of their grooming and medical needs to keep them looking healthy and feeling comfortable. We know that a trip to the vet isn’t always an enjoyable experience for some dogs, but it is essential that they have regular check-ups to they are healthy. If your dog is nervous, try dropping in with them to say hello and enjoy some treats, to help future treatments trips go as smoothly as possible. 

Let’s Make Sure we Show our Dogs Just how Much we Care

However much we would love to have a good chat with our pups, we can’t. So, although they can’t tell us how they feel, they will show us through their behaviour and body language. Spending time with your dog will allow you to get to know their behaviours, so you will know when they’re happy and notice if there are any changes. 

We would love to hear how your dog has helped you, send us a message on our socials – @wild_at_heart_foundation 

How Your Dog Can Make a Difference to Your Mental Health

Disclaimer: talks of mental health, anxiety and depression which can be triggering 

It is important to recognise when we feel anxious and find ways to deal with it, so we have been exploring the benefits of how man’s best friend can have a significant impact on your mental health and anxiety.

women cuddling white dog in the sunset - how your dog can make a difference

 

How owning a dog can make a difference to your mental health 

Reducing Stress 

Some studies have shown that stroking your pet can lower your blood pressure and your heart rate, which helps with your health and reduces your stress levels. Having a dog can also help your body release dopamine and serotonin, the happy hormones, which relieve your stress hormones and help with creating a feeling of calm. 

2 women and 1 man in workout clothes crouched down stroking white dog

Improving Physical Health 

Dogs need regular exercise to maintain a healthy life, going out for regular walks will not only keep your dog healthy but also keep you healthy. Daily walks outside boost physical well-being, and it is proven that being outside in nature really benefits anxiety.

Check out our blog Control of Your Dog on a Walk for advice on the best practices for walking your pup.

Helping with Feelings of Loneliness 

When you suffer with poor mental health, there can be a decline in socialising, and it is often met with feelings of loneliness. Taking your dog for a walk is a great way to make conversation, as having a love of dogs can provide a common ground which you may not have previously had – helping reduce feelings of loneliness and isolation. Having your dog by your side will also help you to feel more confident. 

women with curly brown hair lying on bed reading a book with white dog lying with her

Creating Routine and Purpose 

Looking after a dog is a big responsibility, they rely on you for their food, exercise and love – being responsible can have a positive effect on your wellbeing. Having a set routine can give you focus and can give you clarity on otherwise uncertain feelings. Your dog can give you a reason to get up, put one foot in front of the other and having them by your side will encourage good behaviours and habits. 

Did you know there are plenty of benefits for your dog too? 

Being in a happy home will ensure you have a happy pooch. Keeping your dog stimulated through exercise and play will stop them from feeling bored, making them feel happy and loved. Dogs also crave routine which will make them feel secure and safe in their environment. 

It is so important to give your pup a healthy and happy life and in return they will offer you, love, companionship, fun and a feeling of routine and purpose. Sounds like a pretty good deal to me.

If you’re struggling and need some support or advice, there are some brilliant platforms available. Check out our top 3 below.

  • MIND – They’re fighting for mental health. For support. For respect. For you.
  • MANUP? – They’re changing people’s opinions on men and mental health.
  • NHS – They offer different options for treatment and advice.

Check out our socials for more about what we do at Wild at Heart Foundation.

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