Why having a pet can be good for your mental health

An American writer, Julie Barton, in 2015 published Dog Medicine: How My Dog Saved Me from Myself. The book, which was widely praised by critics and became a best-seller, reveals how adopting a Golden Retriever puppy called Bunker helped the author to recover from severe depression. The San Francisco Book Review called it “heartwarming proof of the ability of pets to alter our lives for the better”.

Barton’s memoir is the latest book to celebrate the positive impact of living with a dog. She’s not the first writer to tackle this subject, but she seems to have articulated the simple comforts of the relationship with her pet in a way that particularly connected with readers.

The book describes the healing quality of Bunker’s unconditional acceptance and explains how her love for him had a calming effect by providing a new outlet for her thoughts.

Pets and Mental Health

happy golden labrador dog in the grass

Many pet owners – not just dog lovers – can testify to the uplifting qualities of having an animal in the home. Of course, no one would suggest that simply owning a dog is a guaranteed ‘cure’ for depression or any other mental health problems. Caring for a pet is a very personal experience and benefits different people in different ways.

Having said that, the recent publicity around the book Dog Medicine has accompanied greater general awareness of mental health issues and growing momentum behind campaigns to reform services in this area, particularly in the UK. Prime Minister, Theresa May, has announced plans to improve support for young people and adults suffering from mental health issues in the workplace.

The government estimates that 1 in 4 people experience a mental health disorder at some point in their life. Barton’s book and the accounts of other pet owners suggests that for some of these people, finding a path through this painful experience could be easier with a faithful animal companion at their side.

Emotional Support

white longhaired cat being held by the owner in the kitchen

Research does support the link between pets and mental health. A 2011 study published by the American Psychological Association concluded that pets were important sources of emotional support for “everyday people”, in other words not people facing significant health challenges.

Researchers observed that pet owners tended to have greater self-esteem and were less lonely, fearful and preoccupied than people who did not have animals. “Pets benefit the lives of their owners, both psychologically and physically,” the study concluded.

What do you think; do you agree that owning a pet has a positive effect in this way? And what other books about dogs or other pets would you recommend?
Let us know in the comments below!

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Diary of Dexter: Introducing Dexter the Cocker Spaniel

On Thursday 10th November 2016, Cocker Spaniels Molly and Ted welcomed their first litter of six beautiful puppies!

Molly and Ted the Cocker Spaniels

Molly                                                                             Ted

In the litter of six there are three boys and three girls and as you can see, mum looked extremely proud of her new brood! Read about the birth here.

Molly with her new-born puppies

The first weeks…

For the first two weeks after birth, puppies rely on their sense of touch and smell which are present as soon as they are born. Their mother is their main influencer and their movement is limited, they’re taking lots of ‘power naps’ which is essential to their development – being this cute is tiring work!

Dexter and brothers and sisters

Dexter and his brothers and sisters                                   Dexter

The variety of colouring in a Cocker Spaniel can depend not just on their parents’ dominant colouring but also their recessive gene. In the case of Molly’s pups, all six were born with a majority liver (chocolate) colouring with a golden nose. Only Dexter, whose fur colouring included any white touches, seen here on his forehead and around the nose.

Dexter the Cocker Spaniel cuddling with his siblings

Dexter’s distinctive colouring

Growing up quickly…

From two weeks to a month old, puppies gain their sight and begin to develop teeth as well as their hearing and smell senses. Dexter is influenced heavily by his mother still and the rest of the litter – it is at this phase that a well socialised parent pup will affect how the puppies react to human interaction. From three weeks, they should begin to be socialised by meeting other pets in the home and some human interaction.

Cocker Spaniel puppies playing together

      Dexter’s brothers playing

Each month we’ll be catching up with Dexter and how he’s settling into his new home with two older dogs and how he progresses through life’s big firsts.

Next in the Diary of Dexter… ‘Dexter joins the family’.

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Diary of Dexter: Molly’s pregnancy

Here at PetSafe® Brand, we really think providing pets and their owners with their best moments together is so important. So, we wanted to write the Diary of Dexter! And this entry is the first of a number of series’ following a beloved pet through their best moments with their owner.

Starting at the beginning, here’s the story of Molly’s pregnancy… aka Dexter’s mum!

A dog’s pregnancy can last around two months, however, sometimes it isn’t immediately obvious that anything has changed. Though a dogs’ pregnancy signs are quite similar to humans – morning sickness, increased appetite, and ‘nesting’ behaviour.

In September, Emma (Molly’s owner), noticed that Molly was becoming more tired and had an increased appetite. After a trip to the vet they confirmed the exciting news – Molly was going to be a mum!

During Molly’s Pregnancy

Molly the Cocker Spaniel lay on the sofa

The mum-to-be taking it easy

As soon as the owners found out that Molly was pregnant they gradually changed her food over to a high nutrient diet so that the puppies would have the best start in life. They created a whelping area for Molly with her blanket in a quiet corner of the house where she could settle.

Molly the Cocker Spaniel with six puppies

Molly’s whelping area with her new-borns

When it came to giving birth, Molly was very calm and Emma was on hand in case she needed any assistance. It’s best for dogs to carry out the birth and immediate care alone, but sometimes in the case of multiple puppies being born, the mother isn’t always able to manoeuvre the new-born’s up to begin feeding.

After five hours, Molly had six healthy pups, three male and three females. They all fed immediately and cuddled up with each other and their mum, ready for a nap before life’s big adventures!

Molly the Cocker Spaniel with six puppies

The new family all snuggled up

About Cocker Spaniels

Cocker Spaniels have been a firm favourite in the UK for many years – featuring as the Lady in Disney’s Lady and the Tramp with an elegant and gentle temperament. Even the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge, Wills and Kate have chosen a Cocker Spaniel as a companion for their family.

The origins of the Spaniel breed stem from being used as a working and hunting dog, the breed initially included Springers and Cockers with size used as a differentiator. The two were defined as separate breeds in 1893 when the Spaniel Club created breed standards, and since the two breeds have separated further than just in weight.

On average, a Cocker Spaniel will have a life span of between 12-15 years. A female will have a height of between 36-41 cm and a male can be from 38cm to 43cm. They are well known for their affectionate and playful nature which make them the perfect family companion!

We’ll be following the pups whilst they stay with their mum, and continuing on with the Diary of Dexter where we’ll keep you up to date with the puppy milestones, everything from meeting his new home to lead training!

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