Dogs chase away the blues during the Covid pandemic

Once again companion animals are proving their worth in terms of health benefits. It is reported today in The Times that, as expected, dogs have proved highly beneficial during the Covid pandemic. A study confirmed perhaps what we already knew namely that dog owners are more likely to report a feeling of being loved and valued during these difficult times. And they are less likely to show signs of depression.

Walking the dog

Walking the dog. Brilliant for one’s health. Photo: Pixabay.

The study scientists did say however that this sort of study does not prove cause and effect. In other words what they are saying is that having a dog companion does not automatically lead to a sense of well-being. This is because a person who decides to adopt a dog may have support systems from people which makes that adoption feasible and it is the support systems of the people that makes the person feel better. That is an example of how one has got to be careful that you don’t see cause and effect where it might not exist.

That said, prior studies have suggested that dogs can help with mental health. And we must mention domestic cats. They provide exactly the same kind of assistance in terms of alleviating loneliness and feeling unloved.

A major advantage with dogs is that you really have to take them for a walk. When you do that you almost invariably meet somebody who loves dogs and start a conversation. You are automatically socialising thanks to your dog. It’s quite easy to stay at home in the cold of winter and without self-discipline people can become isolated. The worst thing to do if you are living alone is to sit at home staring at the four walls. You simply have to get out into nature. Nature is a healer and the companionship of dogs is too.

If you have a dog, they are a good motivator to get off your bum and get outside into the park. When you come back home you invariably feel better. That feeling lasts for the rest of the afternoon.

The effect of well-being in having a dog companion is not large but the researchers decided it was statistically significant.

“Dog owners reported having significantly more social support available to them compared to potential dog owners. Their depression scores were also lower. Taken together, our results suggest dog ownership may have provided people with a stronger sense of social support, which in turn may have helped buffer some of the negative psychological impacts caused by the Covid-19 pandemic.”

The study was led by Dr. François Martin of Nestlé Purina Research in St Louis, Missouri. Half of the 1,500 volunteers owned dogs while the rest of the participants were non-owners who were very interested or extremely interested in owning a dog in the future.

The study was carried out by completing online questionnaires designed to find out their levels of depression anxiety and happiness.

The results were not clear-cut and there were no differences in anxiety and happiness scores between the two groups. But, as mentioned, the data is statistically significant.

Personal experience

I live with a cat and he provides me with lots of enjoyment and companionship. When he’s not in the home I worry about him and feel the impact of his temporary absence.

I go to Richmond Park for walks. My girlfriend, Michelle, loves dogs and she invariably talks to dog owners who are walking their companion animals
in the park. This almost invariably generates an animated conversation for 30 seconds or more. Both parties and myself enjoy the moment and take benefit from it. And so, course, so do the dogs.

This might happen twice or three times on quite a short walk. There is lots of networking going on and socialisation. This is how you beat the blues. You walk within nature, and Richmond Park is a beautiful park, and at the same time you can converse with strangers in a pleasant way. You also get to pet their dogs with their permission which is invariably granted. These benefits flow from living with a companion dog. Note: we always comply with Covid social distancing rules if applicable.


There is one caveat, during Covid there has been a surge in dog adoptions (a rise of 22% since the year preceding the pandemic). Some of these adoptions should not have taken place because the adopters were ill-prepared. And also, they have supported the illegal importation of dogs into the UK by unscrupulous breeders. Before adopting a dog people really must take stock and remind themselves that it is a responsibility which lasts for the lifetime of that animal. Unless something extraordinary happens, the commitment is very long-term both in terms of personal effort and finances.

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