Can dogs reduce feelings of loneliness?
Health and advice11 May 2022Labrador, laying on a rug with a toy in their mouth looking at camera.

Can dogs reduce feelings of loneliness?

Whether having some time at home, or out and about surrounded by hundreds of people; even in the largest city, or busiest street, we can still find ourselves feeling lonely.  Loneliness, when we do not experience enough quality or quantity of social interaction (1), is not a new issue, and is experienced by people all over the world every day, but it’s becoming a bigger concern, with the Covid pandemic causing a 44% increase in those describing themselves as often or always lonely (2).  As a result, this year’s UK Mental Health Awareness Week is shining a light on this important issue and what we can do to improve these feelings of isolation.

Teddy, a Lagotto Romagnolo, looking up at camera

So what practical steps can we take to reduce feelings of loneliness?

It can be challenging to improve how we are feeling, but there are many ways we can increase quality social engagement.  One of those ways, you’ve guessed it, is through our pawfect pups.

1) Canine Companions

Our pets make some of the best companions.  They give us cuddles, they listen to our problems, and they adore us with no conditions attached.  Having your Great Dane pop onto your lap for a cuddle may result in you being a little squashed, but when you look up at that gorgeous, dribbly face, you feel the positive rush of love and companionship.  Whether you own your own dog, or borrow one through BorrowMyDoggy, you can enjoy the benefits of dogs that can contribute to alleviating feelings of loneliness.

2) Pawsitive Social Engagement

Not only do we feel less lonely when we can interact with our dogs, they also support us with making human friendships too.  A recent BorrowMyDoggy members’ study found 90% of our borrowers engaged in more human social interactions when borrowing a dog.  So, in what ways can we see this in our day to day life?  When walking through the park people are more likely to engage with someone with a dog, as our puppy pals act as catalysts for social interaction (3). Dogs also give a common ground for discussions.  With around 13 million dogs in the UK4, we clearly live in a dog-loving nation, so having a chat about dogs you have or you borrow can often be a useful topic of conversation.  Dogs are a great social leveller too.  It doesn’t matter your background or what you do for a living, we all see that 12 week old Labrador in the park with the big brown eyes the same way.  She’s cute and I want to ask their owner if I can have a cuddle.  Just be sure to specify that you mean the puppy!

So this Mental Health Awareness Week, if you’re feeling lonely, see if you can spend some time with a dog, and if you are having any mental health concerns don’t be afraid to ask for help.  If you need support with any mental health or wellbeing issues check out https://www.mentalhealth.org.uk/your-mental-health/getting-help.

  1. Marmalade Trust, 2021
  2. From 2017 to 2021, Mental Health Foundation, 2021
  3. McNicholas & Collis, 2010
  4. Statista, 2021

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