6 Reasons Why Dogs Can Help in Continued Sobriety
I was inspired into this post by a guy on Instagram who wrote (and I quote) “He’s the reason I’m still here, they are the best” It was about his Mini Dachshund and I too have a Mini D called Stanley (pic on the right) and when everything around you is falling apart and you feel like you have let yourself down, and those around for that matter, it can be overwhelming and even set the cycle off again. But just when you feel like no one cares, not even you whilst you wallow in self pity in the dark thinking about getting a drink to calm your nerves, or whatever other lies you tell yourself it will solve, there is a nudge on your leg as you realise there is something or someone there with you every step of the way. You turn the light on and there they are… The worlds most unconditional loving eyes, your K9 friend! Personally, I think that looking back into your dog’s eyes and giving him a stroke , pat or cuddle can produce an enormous sense of wellbeing, more than any alcohol could ever do or any other commercially available synthetic product for that matter. They seem to have a magical yet calming effect when allowed to become part of our lives.
I have since read about a Criminal Hospital in Scotland that runs an animal therapy centre that gives inmates / patients the opportunity to look after different types of animals, and whilst no dogs were mentioned it did make a remarkable impression on me as it was claimed by staff that “this type of animal therapy helps to develop problem-solving skills, empathy, attention to the needs of others, a sense of responsibility and a way of channelling aggressive thoughts among individuals who have proved hard to reach with conventional psychiatric drugs and talking therapies”.
With that statement fresh in mind, here is a summary of 6 Points why I believe dogs can help maintain sobriety:
Dogs love us unconditionally, fact! You only need look at some of the people who don’t deserve them to appreciate this. They’re the ultimate in equal opportunities and that alone in this crazy world is enough. But above all, the feeling of being loved is good for the soul and if you are on a sobriety journey you may need that little bit of TLC.
Physical health benefits
Having a four-legged friend, gives you a purpose to get out of the house, get some air and do some exercise, something scientifically proven to help mental health too. You will become physically fitter from daily walks, throwing sticks and balls and getting oxygen into your body. Even playing with a dog in the back garden can be enough for some people to get moving more than normal.
Mental health benefits
It is now widely understood that good social bonds can play a key role in our mental health and it is somewhat of a knock-on effect. Pets such as dogs and some others are increasingly recognised to help to alleviate stress, anxiety, depression and loneliness, and these are also knock on benefits from exercise so daily outings with the dog outside in the fresh air will certainly boost physical and emotional wellbeing.
Dogs – Social recognition & self-care
As humans it is in our make up to look after those that we have made strong bonds with and owning a pet is no different as it triggers our paternal instinct similar to that formed by a mum and her baby on a neural level. This maybe explains why some people have, let’s say strange looking pets, and give it the love and affection that only a mother could! It’s social recognition, I love him, and he is mine. Also, looking after a pet is linked with self- care because you are likely to make more of an effort when you take the dog out for a walk in case there are people to talk to, after all it could be the only social contact an isolated or lonely person has all day.
Dogs and Social interaction
To be socially recognised by a wider audience such as the community we live we must sometimes interact, even if it is just mingling, and owning a dog helps us form different networks of people. If you are a dog owner yourself you will know that whilst walking there is a tendency to say hello to the like minded, or if you have a particular cutie, noticing all the people who want to say hello (hopefully asking first). Even if you are usually a quiet or shy person (which is fine) what you are inadvertently doing is building on social skills whilst stopping for a friendly chat and thus interacting more which is great for your wellbeing too. There are also Puppy / Dog training classes to attend where you can meet new “Human” friends too. Put simply if you have a dog it helps break down barriers and allows a more comfortable and natural interaction.
How Dogs teach responsibility to children and YOU
Maybe not directly associated with continued sobriety but good for me, nevertheless. Along with daily walks and the social delights of chats with other dog walkers. They teach kids to be responsible, altruistic and compassionate and us adults can benefit from this time to time. Sad to say that these days it seems many could do with a lesson in responsibility. Now I am not suggesting that everyone should rush out, buy a dog and give it to their child for birthdays, but a family pet where everyone understands its needs is certainly giving some kind of responsibility (IMPORTANT POINT) as long as the adults are responsible enough in the first place and truly know what looking after a dog is all about.
In summary, I love dogs and over the years I have had German Shepherds, Crosses, an English Bulldog and now young Stanley and I think my life has been better for it, certainly through the hard times. However, owning a dog is not always easy and they can be demanding so anyone who has never had a dog before should really do their research.
Here are some more great benefits of dogs and how owning one can really help your well-being.
Finally I like to round off my posts with a link to my sobriety tips. As many are either on or looking start their sober life.
All the best…. Darren