The Psychological Benefits of Sheltering in Place with Your Dog

Studies show that cohabiting with canines makes us happier and healthier in countless ways. From soothing symptoms of depression and anxiety to improving sleep and reducing the risk of heart disease, our woofers work wonders for our health. Some research suggests that your dog’s germs can even strengthen your immune system.

Such benefits are especially welcome in a world facing an unprecedented pandemic and global quarantine measures. Humans are a social species — our brains simply aren’t equipped to handle shelter-in-place. Frustration, boredom, and even symptoms associated with post-traumatic stress disorder are common negative effects of the coronavirus quarantine, according to a recent paper published in Rapid Review.

The good news is, sheltering in place with your dog helps relieve stress, anxiety, depression, and fear. Here are just a few of the mental health benefits of quarantining with your dog.


The psychological benefits of sheltering in place with your dog

Not only do our puppers provide a welcome distraction from the constant barrage of anxiety and uncertainty surrounding COVID-19, but their companionship also boosts oxytocin levels in our brains. Aptly nicknamed “the love hormone,” oxytocin plays a key role in social bonding and stress regulation, among other biological functions. (And in this turbulent time when so many of us are isolated from our friends and family, we could all use a little extra social bonding and stress regulation!)

Pet parents living in areas where dog walking is still allowed reap the rewards of regular exercise, including improved cardiovascular health, decreased risk of diabetes, and lower stress levels. Walking your dog for just 30 minutes a day also discourages destructive behaviors that might arise during quarantine, like chewing, digging, and excessive barking.

Our dogs love spending time with us. Not only is that apparent in their excitement when we return home from work or school, but it’s also backed by science. In fact, dogs find our mere presence rewarding, according to a 2016 study published in the Journal of Applied Behavior and Analysis.

And because most of us are working or studying from home, we now have all the time in the world to spend with our dogs. That means sheltering in place benefits our dogs' mental health as much as our own! And when your hound’s happy, you can’t help but be happy too.


Activities to do with your dog during quarantine to improve your mental health

Chilling out and binging your favorite shows with your canine compadre helps relieve stress, anxiety, and depression. But if you find yourself feeling antsy from all that downtime, try your paw at some of these quarantine activities with your dog.

Practice mindfulness

Our mutts have truly mastered mindfulness. When you’re overwhelmed, anxious, depressed, or scared, take a break from the news to sit with your dog and just be present. Pet or play with your pup while observing your breath and your surroundings. Because your fur-baby is tuned in to your emotions, they’ll likely feel a little calmer too.

Training

Not all areas permit dog walking during the quarantine, and high-energy hounds might resort to destructive behaviors to stave off boredom. Why not grab some treats and work on trick training or basic obedience commands? Afterward, burn those extra calories with fun activities for dogs indoors, like hall ball, the muffin tin game, and stair exercises.

Whip up some homemade dog treats

Sheltering in place is the optimal time to experiment with new recipes. Many homemade dog treats are super simple to make and require few ingredients that you probably already have in your pantry, like sweet potatoes and rolled oats. Need some inspo? Check out our guide on hypoallergenic dog treat ideas!


Lend a helping paw during the coronavirus quarantine

Giving back to your community is a “grrreat” way to lift your spirits — and someone else’s! — in these frightening times. If you’d like to lend a helping paw to your community, consider fostering a pet in need.

As shelters close their doors due to COVID-19 restrictions, emergency fosters are needed now more than ever. Wag! has teamed up with GreaterGood to deliver foster pups and pet supplies to good samaritans across the country. Learn more about how the #stayhomeandfoster movement is saving lives, one shelter dog at a time.

For more information on the novel coronavirus and how it affects you and your pet, check out our COVID-19 resource center for pet owners and find answers to frequently asked questions.