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Can Dogs Really Improve Mental Health?

Updated: Aug 1, 2023

Posted on the Signature Health Inc. website on Wednesday, January 08, 2020

As a society, we refer to dogs as “man’s best friend,” and there’s good reason for that. Every time we walk through the door they greet us with unparalleled excitement, they never judge any of the ridiculous things we do, and they remain by our sides through the toughest of times. Dogs are incredible, loyal animals, but most amazing of all, they have the ability to make us healthier versions of ourselves!

From lowering stress levels to increasing feelings of self-worth, dogs are the real deal. Research has shown that owning a dog can affect our mental health in the following ways:

  • Dogs can increase our dopamine, serotonin, and oxytocin levels. These are the “feel good” chemicals our brains release that improve mood and affect happiness. According to Veterinarian, Dr. Marta Vieira (, petting a dog releases serotonin and dopamine, while staring in the eyes of a dog you know can release oxytocin.

  • Owning a dog can better your fitness routine. All dogs, but especially more active breeds, need walked one to two times each day. According to the National Alliance on Mental Health (NAMI), “exercise increases endorphins, which fight depression.” Dogs need consistency, which will help make exercise a daily routine. “Research has shown that consistency can help reduce stress levels and lead to better sleep patterns and overall health.”

  • Dogs are known to lower stress levels by decreasing cortisol. Cortisol is the body’s primary stress hormone that can lead to anxiety and depression. Spending as little as ten minutes petting a dog can have an immediate positive effect on your mood. (

  • All dogs, but especially trained therapy dogs, can help people of all ages with mental disabilities function better day-to-day. New research has shown children with ADHD, Autism, or other learning disabilities, or those suffering from PTSD or other traumas, can greatly benefit from seeing a therapy dog.

  • Dogs force us to be more social. For those who suffer with social anxiety, dogs can act as a “buffer” in social situations. Dogs give us a reason to talk with new people whether on a walk, or at a dog park, and interacting with others, especially face-to-face, can ease symptoms of depression (NAMI).

  • Dogs come with responsibility, which can be a good thing for those suffering from depression. Taking care of an animal makes us feel needed and can bring about additional feelings of self-worth.

  • We would be remiss if we didn’t mention dogs and companionship! Dogs provide infinite amounts of companionship, combatting feelings of loneliness, sadness, and other depressive thoughts/feelings.

Needless to say, we think dogs are pretty awesome and the benefits they provide our mental health are endless. It’s important to keep in mind, however, that dogs are a commitment and may not be right for everyone. If you are considering bringing a dog into your home, we know you’ll enjoy all the love and happiness they bring!

This blog has been brought to you by Dreamers Pups, an advocate for mental health wellness and strong believer in the immeasurable power of canine companionship to support people everywhere who struggle with depression, anxiety, and numerous related afflictions. Used with permission, this blog can be found in its entirety at:

Signature Health presents the information in this blog as a resource for our community. It is not intended to replace professional medical advice, to establish a physician-patient relationship, or to endorse any particular entity or service.

Changing lives in Northeast Ohio for 30 years, Signature Health is a non-profit, Federally Qualified Health Center providing mental health, addiction recovery, primary care and infectious disease services to patients across Northeast Ohio.

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Rated 5 out of 5 stars.

They improve my mental health, people make my head hurt.

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