Mental Health Awareness Month: How Dogs Impact Your Mental Health

Mental Health Awareness Month: How Dogs Impact Your Mental Health

Dogs have been man’s best friend for hundreds of years, and while the purpose of the bond between dog and human has changed over the years, the connection and bond are still undeniable. Dogs show us unconditional and endless love, but can they impact your brain as much as they do your heart?

May is Mental Health Awareness Month, and with anxiety disorders being a widespread issue in the U.S. affecting approximately 31.1 percent of adults at one time or another, it is important to talk about it.[1] Fortunately, there are ways to feel better, and one of those ways is spending time with your furry friend. So we want to shed some light on just how amazing our pups are and how they benefit your overall mental health (beyond the sweet snuggles and kisses).

First, let’s dive into the research behind research on how dogs and mental health benefits are connected. 

The Connection Between Dogs & Your Mental Health

As pet parents and animal lovers, it goes without saying it is nearly impossible to see a pup and not smile. But what many don’t know is that there is actual research and evidence that connect dogs with our mental health. 

Dopamine, serotonin, and oxytocin are the “feel good” chemicals our brain releases that boost our mood and affect overall happiness. Research shows that dogs can actually increase the levels of these “feel good” chemicals in our brains. Even just petting a dog or staring into the eyes of a dog can do the trick. 

On the other hand, dogs can even help decrease cortisol, which is the body’s primary stress hormone. Increased levels of cortisol can lead to anxiety and depression. What’s even more fascinating is that dogs can even sense their owner’s mood and this is especially true if they’re feeling anxious or depressed.[2,3] 

And that’s not all. Check out some of the other impressive studies about dogs and mental health:

- The CDC found that there was a link between children having a pet dog and a decreased chance of childhood anxiety.[4]

- Petting a dog can slow your heart rate, relax your muscles, and even lower blood pressure, according to psychologists.[5]

- Many hospitals and emergency rooms use therapy dogs to help their patients recover. Studies show that patients experienced less pain after spending time with a therapy dog.[6]

- According to the APA, veterans with PTSD have been reported to have better mental health and overall well-being with having a service dog.[7]

- One study found that college students experienced positive psychological benefits after interacting with dogs on campus.[8]

    Pretty impressive, huh?

    8 Ways Dogs Help with Mental Health

    As we pointed out, there’s scientific evidence on how and why dogs are good for our mental health, but there are also plenty of common everyday examples of how our furry friends support us mentally. 

    Check out these 8 ways dogs help with mental health:


    What better way to end a long work day than coming home to your furry friend excited to see you and spend time with you? Dogs are loyal companions for life. In fact, studies have shown that your relationship with your dog is just as beneficial as relationships with human friends. This circles back to how this bond can release those feel-good chemicals in your brain. 

    They provide a constant comfort and know how to make you smile or feel content. They help you feel less alone. In short, no matter your mood or day, your dog will lend a helping paw to improve your day. 


    Having a dog can bring forth new opportunities to liven up your social life. In a sense, dogs can act as a “buffer” in social situations and can force us a little out of our comfort zone. Because let's face it, if you’re out and about with your adorable furry friend, chances are someone is going to want to stop and pet your dog or talk to you about said adorable dog. 

    Take your dog for a walk, visit a dog park, patron dog-friendly restaurants, or even join a like-minded social media group. These extra activities can connect you with other pet parents or new friends for you and your dog. Additionally, face-to-face interaction in general can help reduce feelings of loneliness.[9] 

    Teach Us Mindfulness

    Ever notice when you feel stressed or worried, your dog comes over to you and offers a bit of affection? Dogs are very empathetic animals and can sense your feelings, this is especially true for therapy dogs. Even just petting your dog can help put you at ease. They can also help teach us mindfulness. Take a moment and follow your dog’s lead—get outside and soak up the sunshine or take a rest. 

    Keep You Light-Hearted

    When we enter adulthood, there is this unspoken pressure to be more mature and serious. However, there is proof that laughing and enjoying life can exponentially increase our mood and help manage stress.[10] And dogs can help teach us to loosen up and have fun every once in a while. The internet is filled with videos of dogs showcasing their hilarious personalities. Why not experience that yourself?

    Established Routine, Structure, & Responsibility

    Research shows that routine and consistency can help reduce levels of stress and can lead to better sleep and overall well-being.[11] And if you own a dog, you know routine is a big part of your day. Breakfast, lunch, dinner, walks, playtime, training… all of these things can be part of your daily routine with your pup. This consistency in an uncertain world can help your mental health overall.

    Additionally, owning a dog gives us responsibility. This is particularly important for those who suffer from depression.[12] Your dog needs you and you are your dog's world. This can bring about added feelings of self-worth and purpose.

    Physical Activity & Healthy Habits

    Speaking of routine—Owning a dog can help you step up your fitness routine. It is well-known that exercise and physical activity can increase endorphins, which in turn, can help fight depression.[13] Dogs need walks and physical activity and, depending on the breed, this could mean getting active multiple times a day. And honestly, what better workout buddy than your pup?

    This could also lead you to get outside more, which can be extra beneficial for those who work from home or tend to be cooped up inside the majority of the day. Getting outside is highly beneficial for your mental health in numerous ways:

    • Vitamin D exposure has been shown to help fight depression.[14]
    • Exposure to light has been shown to increase your mood.[15]
    • Studies have shown that getting outside can improve your ability to concentrate.[16]

    So take your dog for a walk or hike, go for a car ride, visit dog-friendly establishments or events, and go soak up the fresh air while creating a strong bond with your pup. 

    You May Sleep Better

    This one may be slightly controversial. There are many medical professionals that tend to advise against sleeping with your pet. However, more and more research is showing that sleeping with your bet may actually have positive effects on both physical and emotional health. Studies have shown that sleeping with your dog can bring a sense of comfort, security, and relaxation. In fact, one study found that those who had pets were less likely to take sleep medication.[17]

    Mental Health Therapy & Recovery

    While pet parents can benefit from their relationship with their dogs, others can benefit from them, too. Many dogs perform important jobs, like acting as guide dogs, service dogs, or therapy dogs. They assist those in need and can have a direct effect on the mental health of those they serve. 

    For example, therapy dogs that visit hospitals can have a huge impact on patients. Anxiety and stress levels can be high for patients in hospitals, and those high levels can interfere with overall health and healing. Interacting with a dog can lower those levels, ease fears, offer companionship, boost relaxation, and even lessen pain.[18] 

    A Small Note…

    While owning a dog can boost your mental health, it is important to remember that dogs are more than just a sidekick. They require a lot of work, responsibility, and stability. Therefore, we suggest really evaluating if you’re able to care for a dog (physically, emotionally, or financially) before considering adding one to your life. 

    If you’re unsure about adding a dog to your family or not sure if a dog is right for you, try fostering first. Look at your local shelters for more information or fostering opportunities.


    Ensure Your Dog Enjoys a Happy, Healthy Life

    Just as our dogs love, support, and make us better, we need to do the same for them. 

    Make sure your dog lives a happy, healthy life with PupGrade. Our line of tasty, beneficial chews helps your dog feel like a puppy again. From joint support to digestive support or daily health, PupGrade has you covered. Click here to start shopping! Also, check out our blog for more insightful tips and tricks to enjoying life with your pup.

    We've gone ahead and enclosed a 10% OFF Coupon below for you to use in the store - remember, your puppy DESERVES to have the healthiest life! Click here to start shopping!

    We would love to hear your stories on how your dog has helped you live a happier, healthier life. Share in the comments below!


    1. Harvard Medical School, 2007. National Comorbidity Survey (NCS). (2017, August 21). Retrieved from Data Table 1: Lifetime prevalence DSM-IV/WMH-CIDI disorders by sex and cohort. 
    2. Thelwell E. L. R. (2019). Paws for Thought: A Controlled Study Investigating the Benefits of Interacting with a House-Trained Dog on University Students Mood and Anxiety. Animals : an open access journal from MDPI, 9(10), 846. 
    3. Harris, B. (2022, August 24). How dogs can help with your mental health. Cleveland Clinic Newsroom. Retrieved March 20, 2023, from 
    4. Gadomski AM, Scribani MB, Krupa N, Jenkins P, Nagykaldi Z, Olson AL. Pet Dogs and Children’s Health: Opportunities for Chronic Disease Prevention? Prev Chronic Dis 2015;12:150204. DOI: 
    5. Coren, S. (2009, June 7). Health and psychological benefits of bonding with a pet dog. Psychology Today. Retrieved March 20, 2023, from 
    6. Carey, B., Dell, C. A., Stempien, J., Tupper, S., Rohr, B., Carr, E., Cruz, M., Acoose, S., Butt, P., Broberg, L., Collard, L., Fele-Slaferek, L., Fornssler, C., Goodridge, D., Gunderson, J., McKenzie, H., Rubin, J., Shand, J., Smith, J., … Meier, S. (2022). Outcomes of a controlled trial with visiting therapy dog teams on pain in adults in an emergency department. PLOS ONE, 17(3). 
    7. van Houtert, E. A. E., Rodenburg, T. B., Vermetten, E., & Endenburg, N. (2022). The Impact of Service Dogs on Military Veterans and (Ex) First Aid Responders With Post-traumatic Stress Disorder. Frontiers in psychiatry, 13, 834291. 
    8. Thelwell E. L. R. (2019). Paws for Thought: A Controlled Study Investigating the Benefits of Interacting with a House-Trained Dog on University Students Mood and Anxiety. Animals : an open access journal from MDPI, 9(10), 846. 
    9. Bergland, C. (2015, October 5). Face-to-face social contact reduces risk of depression. Psychology Today. Retrieved March 20, 2023, from 
    10. Yim J. (2016). Therapeutic Benefits of Laughter in Mental Health: A Theoretical Review. The Tohoku journal of experimental medicine, 239(3), 243–249. 
    11. Northwestern Medicine. (2022, December). Health benefits of having a routine. Northwestern Medicine. Retrieved March 20, 2023, from 
    12. Robinson, L. (2023, February 28). The health and mood-boosting benefits of pets. Retrieved March 20, 2023, from 
    13. Grenley, G. (2018, February 2). How dogs can help with depression. NAMI. Retrieved March 20, 2023, from 
    14. Penckofer, S., Kouba, J., Byrn, M., & Estwing Ferrans, C. (2010). Vitamin D and depression: where is all the sunshine?. Issues in mental health nursing, 31(6), 385–393. 
    15. Bedrosian, T. A., & Nelson, R. J. (2017). Timing of light exposure affects mood and brain circuits. Translational psychiatry, 7(1), e1017. 
    16. Weird, K. (2020, April 1). Nurtured by nature. Monitor on Psychology. Retrieved March 20, 2023, from 
    17. Summer, J. (2023, March 10). Sleeping with pets: Benefits and risks. Sleep Foundation. Retrieved March 20, 2023, from 
    18. Ask the Doctors. (2022, June 6). Therapy dogs offer comfort to Young Hospital patients. UCLA Health System. Retrieved March 20, 2023, from