• The perfect relationship doesn’t exist, but we can get pretty close to it: the relationship we develop with our dog is mutually beneficial and rarely contains conflict.
  • Dogs offer their owners unconditional love and positive regard; in other words, they love them and think highly of them no matter what. 
  • In addition, dogs give their owners a sense of purpose: caring for a dog necessitates responsibility and brings an immense amount of pride and joy.
  • Also, owning a dog can prove to alleviate symptoms of certain mental illnesses like depression and anxiety; it can also help with stress relief.
  • The benefits of owning a dog are aplenty: the fun, love, and joy that they bring to their human are limitless.

We all long for the perfect relationship: a loving, fulfilling relationship free of conflict. While perfect doesn’t exist (we all know that) the closest we can get to the perfect relationship is owning a dog.

A Therapeutic Relationship

As Mike Ensley, Nationally Certified Professional Counselor in Loveland, Colorado, explains, the relationship that develops between human and dog is somewhat magical—or even better, it’s therapeutic. “Dogs instinctively exhibit unconditional positive regard for their owners. This is one of the most therapeutic qualities a relationship can have (which is why therapists like myself are trained extensively in how to provide it to clients), and dogs offer it automatically,” says Ensley. 

If you have a dog, you know what we’re talking about. As soon as you walk through the door, they’re overjoyed to see you. They don’t care if you worked overtime, got held up at the grocery store, or stopped and saw a friend on the way home. They don’t hold it (or anything for that matter) against you. They offer unconditional love and positive regard instead, which makes for the ideal pairing. The only conflicts you two might run into is your dog having an accident inside or sneaking into your snack stash. 

Additional Benefits of Owning a Dog

In addition to the unconditional love and positive regard we receive from our dogs, we’re also gifted a sense of purpose as well as alleviation from certain mental illnesses and stress:

1. Sense of purpose.

As with most responsibilities, owning a dog gives us a sense of purpose. Now, this is one of the most rewarding responsibilities one can have, as caring for a dog brings you so much love and joy. Ensley says that he’s seen dogs actually save their human’s life: “The sense of purpose we find in caring for these loving animals is also important in the struggle with depression. For instance, I’ve heard numerous accounts of people surviving episodes of suicidal ideation because, ‘I just couldn’t do that to my dog.’”

2. Symptom alleviation.

Owning a dog can also help to relieve us of depression and anxiety symptoms, as well as stress. These benefits come with a simple act: petting your pup and showing them your affection. “The positive impact of snuggling with and giving your dog the pets are well documented. Dogs love sharing affection, and people who have such a pet in their home have an easier time alleviating symptoms of anxiety, depression, and burnout.”

The benefits of owning a dog are endless. Not only do they bring love, fun, and joy into their human’s life, but they positively impact their mental health. A big part of this is the unconditional positive regard they offer, which translates into a therapeutic relationship. But that’s not to say that other benefits, like the sense of purpose and symptom alleviation, they offer aren’t important, too.

Taylor Bennett

Taylor Bennett

Taylor Bennett is the Content Development Manager at Thriveworks. She devotes herself to distributing important information about mental health and wellbeing, writing mental health news and self-improvement tips daily. Taylor received her bachelor’s degree in multimedia journalism, with minors in professional writing and leadership from Virginia Tech. She is a co-author of Leaving Depression Behind: An Interactive, Choose Your Path Book and has published content on Thought Catalog, Odyssey, and The Traveling Parent.

Check out “Leaving Depression Behind: An Interactive, Choose Your Path Book” written by AJ Centore and Taylor Bennett."

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