Editor’s Note: This article is for ALL pet owners, not just cockapoos, although I’m sure you’ll agree that our little cockapoo buddies are prime examples of how pets can be therapeutic!

Caring for a pet can improve both your health and your happiness. There are obvious benefits to be had from professionally trained assistance dogs, such as a guide dog assisting a blind person. However, many other pets, such as cats, rabbits or even fish can provide therapeutic benefits to humans. Animals can fill the void of loneliness, can promote exercise, encouraging us to get outside, can help us to socialise with others, can help to reduce our stress levels, not to mention the love and affection which they show to us unconditionally.

However, owning a pet in any form is an important responsibility. Before acquiring a pet, large or small, consider your lifestyle and make sure that your choice of pet is appropriate. Choosing the right pet will enable you to enjoy your relationship with your new best friend, benefiting from the therapy he will no doubt provide.

Your Dog, Your Health

Many dog owners, and people who previously owned dogs, know full well the pleasure which can result from having an animal as a companion. Sharing your life with a playful and furry friend brings joy and laughter, but it is only recently that science has reaffirmed the mental and physical benefits which are available through pet ownership. Consider some of the positive effects of the bond between man and animal.

Rates of depression tend to be lower in pet owners. Likewise, pet owners tend to have a lower blood pressure when presented with a stressful situation than those without pets. Generally, people who have suffered a heart attack, but who have a pet, have a longer survival rate than those who do not have a pet. Also, people with pets often have lower cholesterol and triglyceride levels than people without pets; these levels being indicators of heart disease.

As well as countering negative health situations, ownership of a pet can produce positive health benefits. Pet owners whom are able to play with their pets usually experience elevated levels of serotonin and dopamine, both of which help to calm and relax. A furry, loving cockapoo is just one cuddly example of a pet with the ability to make you smile, laugh, and relax.

On the other hand, playing with a pet is not always a necessity; even watching fish swimming can greatly assist in easing tension in the muscles and in reducing an elevated pulse rate. Additionally, older pet owners tend to make fewer visits to their doctors than people without pets.

Scientists have discovered that one of the major reasons that pet ownership produces therapeutic effects is that most pets are tactile. Humans have a basic need to touch and to be touched. The physical result of holding, cuddling and stroking produces in us calmness and soothes our emotions especially when we are under stress. As well as fulfilling our need for contact, pets provide companionship which can help to lift depression and to ease loneliness. Some pets, especially dogs, require that we take them outside and get some exercise, which in itself is known to be of benefit.

Changes In Your Lifestyle

Becoming a pet owner may result in our needing to make changes to our lifestyle. Such changes will likely be healthier changes which in turn can ease conditions such as stress, depression, bipolar disorder, anxiety and PTSD.

We all know that exercise is good for us, but many of us can slip into the view that exercise is boring and requires membership at a gym. With a dog, this does not need to be the case. Walking regularly with a dog and playing with him at a park is a great way to increase exercise, fitting it into even a busy schedule. Horse riding is another excellent outdoor activity, but even playing indoors with small animals such as kittens or rabbits can also be a great way to get you moving and up off the sofa.

Pets are excellent at providing people with companionship. A person who suffers from loneliness and who feels isolated may likely experience feelings of depression. Owning and caring for a pet gives us a reason to get up in the morning, knowing that our best friend wants and needs our care and that he will return our feelings of affection each and every day. Pets are also good listeners, and many pet owners feel better after talking with their pets, discussing their troubles aloud so as to work towards a solution.

Pets can be a fantastic reason for meeting new friends and like-minded pet owners. It is very common to see dog owners chatting with other dog owners during daily walks or at the park. Owning a pet also provides common ground for discussion with people in pet stores, at training classes or at kennels and catteries.

Owning a pet and enjoying their companionship can help in easing feelings of anxiety. Even the most timid of people can develop confidence and their feeling of self-worth, enabling them to face the day ahead, regardless of what it may hold.

Many pets, especially dogs, require structure and routine as part of their daily schedule. By extension, this may assist you in having a structure to your day, in having a reason to be somewhere and do something. You dog will require to be fed and exercised every day, so regardless of how you are feeling, his needs must be cared for.

There are many factors which contribute to increased stress in our lives. Touch and movement can help us to manage and reduce stress; so talking our cockapoo for a walk, or stroking our tabby cat can provide us with that stress relief.