How do dogs improve the mental and physical health of their owners?


Having a loyal companion waiting for you at home will undoubtedly help anyone after a rough day. The unconditional love and support that dogs have for their owners is something irreplaceable.

Within the U.S., over 68% of families have a pet and it has been scientifically proven to reduce stress levels. According to a study conducted by, interacting with animals reduces levels of cortisol which is a stress hormone and it decreases blood pressure. 

Similar studies have found that pets also have the power to decrease feelings of loneliness, increase social support, and even help boost positivity. 

“As someone with a pitbull many think that my dog is mean and intimidating, however, she brings me immense joy in my life. My dog, Henny, is always keeping me entertained and she never fails to turn a bad day upside down,” said senior Ruftana Beyene

“I walk Henny every day before school and as someone who loves nature but doesn’t have the time to indulge in it, I have that opportunity to do so through my daily walks,” said Beyene

NBC news recently reported that playing with dogs raises dopamine and oxytocin levels which are described as “happiness” levels that allow people to feel satisfaction and joy. 

Service dogs in particular hold a major impact in helping many cope with their circumstances and have a loving companion to rely on through rough times. Those with PTSD, autism and ADHD have particularly benefited from a service dog. Due to these undeniable benefits, service dogs are becoming significantly more common and there are even programs called “Learn to read with a dog” which helps kids overcome their reading anxiety by reading aloud to a dog. 

IB environmental teacher Stephanie Klien is one of 500,000 service dog owners within the United States. Her dog, Ruby, is a golden retriever who spent months in training to become a certified service pet. 

“Although Ruby is trained to perform specific tasks to help me monitor a medical condition, her companionship provides tremendous mental health benefits, too!  Ruby is my first dog (I’ve been more of a “cat person” for most of my life), so I am still learning about the assistance dogs can provide.” said Klien

Almost all dogs that arrive are trained to alert their owners of any concerning emotions that are arising and they can help calm them down. 

“I feel more supported when I make decisions regarding my health just by her presence. She has completed extensive training for more than a year, and her ability to stay calm in otherwise stressful situations has a significant impact on how I respond as well.  

She also has an incredible capacity to make me smile every time I look at her, improving my mood and outlook on the day!”

Dogs also have the ability to improve socialization as it forces dog owners to get outside and walk their dogs every day. Meeting other owners at the dog park and having strangers greet the owners with a request to pet the dog can create many opportunities for conversation.

“I got my dog, Milo, about two years ago and ever since that day, it has been nothing but joy in my life. He started off as a family dog but it wasn’t quick before he became my own and having that personal connection with my pet is something that I wouldn’t trade,” said senior Litzy Rivas 

“He has improved my mental health a lot because after a rough day at school, I know I have Milo to come home to and it makes me feel a lot better,’” said Rivas

Owning a dog can also give many a sense of purpose as pets rely on humans to feed, exercise, and entertain them. With that comes a sense of responsibility to care for this life and create a joyous life for the dog which can lead into the owner’s personal life as well. 

Having the constant responsibility for physical movement will undoubtedly improve cardiovascular health through at least 15 minutes of walking daily and can even help with vitamin D levels by being in the sunlight. 

Throughout the pandemic there was a huge increase in depression and anxiety as being in quarantine can create copious amounts of alone time and isolation.

However, pet owners had the advantage of having the company of a dog to keep them company and help take their minds off of the pandemic and all the problems that came along with it. 

Having the element of social recognition where owners have the opportunity to create healthy social bonds through their pets, it gives them a sense of connection to the outside world through feelings of depression or anxiety. Without these bonds, it can become easy to fall into a rabbit hole of sadness and loneliness. 

If you or someone you know is in immediate distress or is thinking about hurting themselves, call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline toll-free at 1-800-273-TALK (8255) or the toll-free TTY number at 1-800-799-4TTY (4889). You also can text the Crisis Text Line (HELLO to 741741) or go to the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline website.