Dogs are incredibly beneficial to our wellbeing in many ways. While owning a pup undeniably adds a whole lot of weight to our mental load, there are a lot more positive response from our nervous system.
Animals of all shapes and sizes have proven to be dopamine and oxytocin boosters, and the deeper we dive into connecting with our pets, the more happy-hormones are released in their presence.
Different therapies have long been utilising the ways dogs calm your nervous system, but more recently the wider dog training and pet parent community is going through a shift away from ‘dressage and duty’ to a holistic connection and collaboration approach.
Within this holistic dog training, I have found not only a better relationship to Oddy, but also a great sense of overall peace and calm. Dog training used to be stressful, and at times it still very much is! But more often than not, a session with Oddy leaves me in a similar headspace as yoga and meditation do.
After doing some research, I have compiled this list of ways dogs calm your nervous system and improve wellbeing.
6 ways dogs calm your nervous system
Plus exercises to tab into connection and calm with your pup
Interacting with a dog can lower cortisol (the stress hormone) levels and increase oxytocin (the “feel-good” hormone) levels, which can help reduce feelings of stress and anxiety. If you want to return the favour to your pup, look at these different dog massage techniques you can try on your dog. Make sure to create a calm and quiet environment and pay careful attention to your dogs response – never force anything!
Having a dog can provide companionship and a sense of connection, which can be especially helpful if you live alone. The winters in Berlin get really dark and cold, planning at-home activities that include Oddy can be a great way of feeling less lonely, like baking treats together. Bonus points if you invite other dog parents over or recruit a friend for some baking outside of the Christmas Season.
Increased physical activity
Having a dog will get you outside, rain or shine, which can improve physical health and also boost your mood.
Oddy at 1 1/2 years old isn’t the best on long leash walks, he gets impatient and frustrated if he can’t run. We still go on those walk, but occasionally I have started taking him out when I take to the park to longboard.
*Make sure to always introduce your pup to noisy skates, boards or bicycles slowly.
Sense of purpose
Caring for your dog can provide a sense of purpose and responsibility, which can be especially helpful for people who are going through difficult times. Overcoming obstacles together is double rewarding when you are not only celebrating your own success, but also your pups. You can actively include this in your training by keeping a journal and reminding yourself of how far your dog has come.
Dogs can provide a welcome distraction from negative thoughts or worries, and can help people refocus their attention on something positive. Sometimes we get really stuck on the ‘should’ and ‘must’ when engaging with our pup. Try playing with them in their language, mirroring their movements and really trying to understand them. You might find a dog that usually is not motivated by toys and traditional games like fetch, to be extremely responsive to this form of body language play.
Dogs are known for their loyalty and affection, and simply spending time with a dog can bring joy and comfort when feeling lonely or isolated. Pay attention to what brings out the biggest smile in your pup, Oddy’s and my happy place is somewhere in nature, with as little other people and pups around to just walk, listen and breath.
“A dog can snap you out of any kind of bad mood that you’re in faster than you can think of.” – Jill Abramson
I hope you have found some inspiration on ways your dog can calm your nervous system, and how you in return to make them feel all the love.
I said it before, I will say it again: Your puppy will be a source of stress and responsibility, so it’s crucial to be prepared for the commitment of caring for a living being and that owning a dog is not a cure for mental health issues.
A dog doesn’t owe you anything, they are not here to fix anything. If you’re considering getting a dog, it’s important to have realistic expectations and to talk to your doctor or a mental health professional to determine whether it’s the right decision for you.