Dog’s have a therapeutic presence for lots of us, providing company through human-animal interaction which also helps to reduce loneliness.
Even the simple act of petting a dog can work to lower feelings of depression and anxiety, so it’s no wonder they’ve been referred to as ‘man’s best friend’ for centuries.
In the UK, dogs have become a hugely important part of the family. So much so that they are now one of Britain's most loved animals, with over 13 million households owning dogs as pets - that's just under 50% of UK homes!
Many of us also believe that dogs are the perfect companions, and if you're one of these people, you’ll understand the positive effects their unconditional love can have on us.
With Mental Health Awareness Week 2022 focused on loneliness, we have spent the week exploring the health benefits dogs offer humans, and the different ways that owning dogs for companionship can help to combat loneliness.
- Are dogs good for companionship?
- Why are dogs such good companion animals?
- What is the best dog for companionship?
- The best dog breeds for companionship:
- Should I get a dog for companionship?
Are dogs good for companionship?
There is no doubt that dogs make great companions for people of all ages. As well as offering unconditional love, they’re loyal, non judgemental, and help to boost physical health through their abundance of energy!
Just like the Queen and her corgis, many people consider their dogs to be a part of the family. Once a dog trusts you, you'll find that they go out of their way to please you, and their friendly and loving demeanour can be the perfect antidote to feeling lonely.
You only have to look at the amazing work of Therapy Dogs, Assistance and Service Dogs for evidence that our four-legged friends want nothing more than to please and love their human companions.
Why are dogs such good companion animals?
You may be wondering what it is about dogs specifically that makes them such perfect companion animals. To understand this, it's a good idea to think about some of the amazing benefits their companionship provide:
- Unconditional love: We use this term a lot, but there really is no other way to describe the love you get from your pup.
- Keeping you active. From improved cardiovascular health and lowering blood pressure, to the release of endorphins.
- Enriching your social life: At the dog park, attending training classes, and helping to facilitate conversations with others during walks, dogs really help go get us out and about.
- They will always be so happy to see you!
- Cuddles, cuddles, CUDDLES! Helping to provide plenty of much needed oxytocin.
What is the best dog for companionship?
It is almost impossible to pinpoint the single best dog for companionship, as different dogs will always suit different people based on their needs.
To help you find the perfect match for your dog companion, you need to first think about your personal life and circumstances.
- Families with young children may look for a family dog - a puppy or smaller dog that could grow up with their children.
- Older adults may want to consider an older dog whose energy levels have settled, or a rescue dog that can relax with them.
- First-time dog owners might want to research which breeds are best suited to new owners.
There are so many factors to take into account when picking the perfect companion for you, so who are we to tell you whole-heartedly which is best? Let’s face it, we’d have every single one if we could!
The best companion dog breeds:
If it is a companion dog that you're after, there are a number of breeds that are considered ‘companion breeds’. These good natured dogs thrive in human company, preferring to sit on your lap and cuddle rather than chase and guard.
If you live alone, one of these companion dog breeds could be the perfect new friend for you, staying by your side when you’re out and about or chilling at home.
Easy going and friendly, these little guys are the perfect little companion. Frenchies don’t require a huge garden and are more than happy to snuggle on the sofa and snore in your ear.
The biggest breed on our list, Golden Retrievers are one of the most loving and eager to please of all dog breeds. Regularly used in Assistance Dog roles, they are the perfect companion for a family home.
Maltese dogs absolutely adore being cuddled and carried. They are extremely loyal to their owners so can be wary of strangers, but considered to be one of the most gentle small breed dogs they can slot very well into a family with children.
Another little dog that can be wary of strangers, Chihuahuas have a bit of a reputation as fiery little pups. However, they actually have a very relaxed temperament and are happiest when they are curled up on your lap, forming some of the strongest bonds seen between dog and owner.
King Charles Cavalier
Originally bred as a companion dog, Cavaliers have a very calm and loving temperament. They are not big fans of being left alone though, so if you’ll be with them the majority of the time, they’re the ideal companion.
Another small breed, Dachshunds are often referred to as ‘velcro dogs’ because of the strong attachment they can form to their humans. Perfect little pint sized companions, they’ll follow you everywhere until you sit down for a cuddle.
Please remember though, temperament differs from dog to dog and can be largely influenced by their upbringing.
Another option could be getting a rescue dog or a mixed breed that has been in a foster home. Their foster family will want what’s best for them, so they will be completely honest about their temperament, helping pair you with the perfect companion.
Should I get a dog for companionship?
Dogs are the most wonderful companions, and our relationships with them are always mutually beneficial. Reasons to consider a dog for companionship include:
Physical benefits: keeping active, lower cholesterol, lower blood pressure, weight loss etc.
Mental wellbeing benefits: reduce feelings of anxiety, stress and depression, release ‘happy hormones’, reduce feeling socially isolated etc.
It's important to remember that dogs need lots of love, care and attention. Although they can be very loyal and loving companions, there are many things you should consider before committing to bring home a new pet.
The first step is to decide if you are ready for the responsibility of owning a dog. Pet owners (of dogs, cats or any other animal) need to make sure that they have the time, money and resources to provide the best life possible for their new animal family member.
Dogs can offer love and loyalty that no human being can give us all the time, but they do come with needs that must be met in order for them to stay healthy and happy too!