Table of Contents
- Pandemic pets improving mental health
- Covid-19 pet adoptions
- New dog ownership and mental health
- Adopt a dog and improve physical health
- When should you adopt a dog?
- What to do if you can’t adopt a dog
Article at a Glance
- Covid-19 has caused a massive surge in pet adoptions
- People who have adopted pets overwhelmingly have improved mental and physical wellbeing
- Adopting a dog isn't for everyone
- There are plenty of options available if you can't adopt a dog on your own
If you decided to adopt a dog during the Covid-19 pandemic, you are not alone. Many people felt the strain of isolation during quarantine and found answers in pet ownership.
Pandemic pets improving mental health
Approximately 93% of people who adopted during the peaks of the pandemic noted improved mental and/or physical wellness, according to a new report from Rover.com.
For the millions of pet owners out there, this comes as no surprise. Pets are a source of unconditional love, and they are unrivaled listeners.
Of these pet adopters, more than half chose dogs as their companions, though cats and dog/cat pairings were also prevalent. Most pets came from adoption facilities, which was a blessing for those pets who have been in want of homes for a while.
Covid-19 pet adoptions
So many pets have been adopted during the pandemic, shelters have been having trouble keeping up. (And that’s not a bad thing!). According to the latest numbers from Shelter Animals Count, adoption rates have increased by about 15% nationwide, with some facilities seeing 30-40% increases.
The link between dog ownership and improved mental health isn’t a new finding. There are a number of studies that suggest when you adopt a dog, you are taking a step toward better overall wellness. In fact, dog ownership has been proven to lower blood pressure, decrease heart disease risk, elevate “feel good” hormones in the body, and reduce anxiety and depression.
Just the simple act of petting your dog can be enough to take off the edge when you are feeling stressed.
New dog ownership and mental health
Being a new dog owner means establishing a connection with your pet, and this does wonders for your mental health without you even realizing it.
When you adopt a dog, you take on the responsibilities of that pet. You start holding yourself accountable for its needs. When it thrives and is happy and healthy, your sense of accomplishment starts to grow, and your dog will always only reward you with an abundance of love!
The responsibility of a dog isn’t the only way it benefits your mental health. After you adopt a dog, the companionship it provides you can be a powerful tool against anxiety, stress, and depression.
While much still remains to be investigated in this field of study, experts believe the link between being a new dog owner and improved mental health has a lot to do with dopamine.
Dopamine is a neurotransmitter in the brain linked to pleasure, reward, and motivation. Too little dopamine has been linked to mood disorders like depression.
Experts aren’t exactly sure how being a pet owner causes dopamine release, but there is a link, and it is extremely beneficial.
Dopamine release would be far too simple of an answer about why when you adopt a dog you might improve your mental health. Owning a dog can bring other benefits that support mental well-being, like increased socialization (dog parks, friends, people who want to pet the dog), and an unconditional support system and companionship.
Adopt a dog and improve physical health
New dog owners may also find they have improved physical health as pet ownership continues. Dogs are creatures of activity; many have been bred to be “working” dogs, meaning they come from long lines of hunting or herding ancestry.
No matter how athletic your dog is, chances are he or she will still need to go outside to use the bathroom, and this is the perfect reason for you to go for a walk as well. If you have a high energy dog, running or playing ball can help both of you get some exercise in during the day.
When should you adopt a dog?
While there are many benefits of pet ownership, deciding to adopt a dog isn’t something you should take lightly.
If you are living with severe depression already, it’s important to make sure you are feeling capable of taking care of another living creature. Dog ownership can help combat depression, yes, but when you live with depression, sometimes it can be difficult to take care of your own needs, let alone the needs of another.
The choice to adopt a dog should also come from a genuine desire to own a pet. Just because you haven’t been able to go out with friends and family, doesn’t mean you should adopt a dog. A dog will need your attention long after the pandemic is over, even when you can resume normal social events.
What to do if you can’t adopt a dog
Sometimes circumstances mean you can’t own a dog of your own. If you live in a restricted living arrangement, or you know you can’t make a 24/7 commitment to a dog, there are other options open to you.
If you’re looking for some extra money, consider dog sitting, or dog walking. You can earn some cash while still getting to be around dogs.
Another option is to volunteer your time at local animal shelters. This will give you the benefit of being around dogs of all shapes and sizes, and you can get an idea of what it would mean to take care of a dog on a daily basis.
If you just need a little pick-me-up from time to time, pay a visit to a friend with a pet. This will give you both human socialization and animal exposure.
Remember, when you adopt a dog, you are making a commitment to another living creature. Dogs cost money and require exercise and veterinary care.
While owning a pet is good for your mental and physical health, not everyone is suited for pet ownership. Make sure you are making the right decision for you and your current circumstances.