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Doggy Member Oso, with owner Anna and borrower Michael enjoying a fuss

The benefits of dogs for our mental health

25 March 2024

It’s no secret that the team at BorrowMyDoggy, like millions of others throughout the country, love spending time with dogs! Whether it’s walks, cuddles or playtime, we enjoy being with our canine companions.

The relationships we have with dogs can give us so many benefits, not least for our mental health and well-being, with 96% saying their mood improves when spending time with a dog.

Beyond their wagging tails and adorable eyes, dogs can play an important role in healing. They're not just pets; they're companions who provide emotional support and, as research is increasingly showing, mental health benefits.

How do dogs benefit our mental well-being?

Unconditional love and emotional support

Dogs do not judge by the same standards humans do. They don't care about your job, how you look, or what mistakes you've made. This unconditional acceptance from a pet, especially a dog, can be incredibly comforting.

Dogs are also very attuned to human emotions and can often sense when their owners are feeling sad, anxious, or stressed. They might respond by cuddling up to their owner, offering a paw, or engaging in playful behaviour to lighten the mood.

Doggy member McTavish, the Pomeranian enjoying a cuddle with his borrower
Doggy member McTavish, the Pomeranian

The science of snuggles

Yes, cuddling with dogs is good for you, it's scientifically proven to improve mental health.

A study by Washington State University revealed that just ten minutes of petting a dog can significantly reduce cortisol levels, the stress hormone, in our saliva.

The power of a dog's presence goes even further, simply looking at a cute pup can potentially boost our happy hormone, oxytocin, by up to 300%! This not only reduces stress but can also lower blood pressure and improve our overall sense of well-being.

Therapeutic powers

The therapeutic presence of a dog can significantly impact individuals dealing with mental health challenges. Therapy dogs, in particular, are trained to provide comfort and support to people in hospitals, nursing homes, and schools, showcasing the incredible impact that dogs can have on human emotional well-being. Even non-therapy dogs, through their presence and behaviour, offer a therapeutic benefit to their owners and those around them.

Doggy member Chilli, the Cavalier King Charles Spaniel cuddling their owner on a walk
Doggy member Chilli, the Cavalier King Charles Spaniel

Sense of purpose

Caring for a dog requires a set of daily activities, including feeding, grooming, walking, and playing. This routine gives you a sense of purpose and responsibility. The need to care for another living being can create a sense of accomplishment and pride, contributing to a more positive self-image and self-worth.

Physical activity

The majority of dogs need one or two walks a day, whatever the weather. Motivated by our trusty pawsonal trainers, we have a reason to get away from the desk and out in the fresh air to get our bodies moving. 86% of borrowers say they get more exercise when spending time with a dog.

Regular physical activity and exposure to natural light and the outdoors bring a whole host of benefits from elevating moods and reducing stress to boosting self-esteem and combatting conditions like anxiety, depression, and Seasonal Affective Disorder.

Studies show improved mental well-being, even from a simple twenty-minute walk to a local park! So whether you’re going for a short walk in your local town or a big run in the countryside, you can enjoy some pawsome improvements to your mental well-being.

Dr Becky Prince, GP, MA (Cantab) MB/BChir DRCOG DFSRH MRCGP PGDip. Clin. Psych (Dist.)of Dr Morton’s – the medical helpline – talks about the health benefits of dogs in this short clip:


In a world where screen time is far more common than face-to-face interactions, spending time with a dog can be a great way to feel more connected to those around us.

Whether it's a playful encounter with another dog in the park or a neighbour's admiring glance towards your four-legged friend, dogs have a unique way of sparking conversations and building bonds. In a recent in-house survey 90% stated borrowing a dog has increased their human social interaction.

In addition, 79% felt reduced feelings of loneliness and/or isolation by borrowing a dog. Dogs not only break down social barriers but also nurture a sense of community and belonging.

Stories from our community

I wanted a dog in my life, but I travel away from home a lot, so it just didn’t seem possible. Meeting up with Maisie and her lovely human family has been a joy: she’s like Prozac in canine form! I didn’t expect that the very first dog I met through BorrowMyDoggy would be the perfect match.

Maisie's borrower, Daphne from East Lothian

It’s truly remarkable how dogs can change your life and your mood for the better. I am therefore very grateful to be looking after Scout, Mario and Yogi, all of them wonderful dogs, who made a huge difference in my life in the most difficult time.

Scout, Mario and Yogi's borrower, Diana from Yorkshire

Molly’s owner and I have become friends and is a part of my life now, too. I/We've taken Molly to fun dog shows, cafes, walks, and even on holidays. We've celebrated birthdays and Christmases together. And my place is as much Molly's as it is mine. She brings so much joy and happiness to my life, and helped me through a challenging time, too. We have such fun together and it's become a match for life.

Molly's borrower, Letti from Lancashire

For those yearning to be happier and healthier, the answer might just be a wagging tail away. But if you’re not quite ready to own a dog and reap the benefits, join BorrowMyDoggy to find a local dog to spend time with.

Sign up now

Mental health guides

The benefits of dogs for our mental health

Finding a work-life balance with dogs

Health benefits of BorrowMyDoggy

Mindfulness: a virtual dog walk

Testimonial on how dogs help with mental health

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