Dogs have an almost supernatural ability to enhance their owners’ emotional and mental health. Studies show that simply petting a dog can reduce your cortisol or stress hormone levels. It can also increase your body’s production of endorphins (feel-good hormones that fight off the negative effects of cortisol) at the same time.
As a dog owner, you can also let your pet experience the benefits of lower stress levels by de-stressing with him regularly.
Here are some activities that will help you and your furry friend de-stress at the same time:
Walk your dog
Walking at least 30 minutes a day will help you lower your blood pressure, reduce your risk for heart disease and your stress level.
Dogs will also experience various benefits when you take them out for a walk. This is their number one form of exercise. While walking, dogs also get to reduce their stress, breathe in natural air, and even socialize with other pups and people.
If you and your pet tire easily or don’t have the time to walk straight outdoors for a half hour daily, you can break up your 30-minute walk into three 10-minute sessions throughout the day.
Immerse yourself in some aromatherapy
Lighting a scented candle or turning on the oil diffuser can instantly transform any room into a perfectly relaxing de-stressing room.
Some of the most calming and soothing scents that will work best for you and your pet are:
- Palm tree oil
- Juniper berry
You can also use sprays with these scents. Simply spray the living room or any place where you and your pet spend some leisure time in to make the area more conducive to relaxing.
Groom your pet
If you consider any time you spend with your pet as de-stressing, instead of taking your pooch to a groomer, groom your dog yourself.
This means giving your pet a bath complete with lighted scented candles and mood lighting. Dry your pup with a soft towel and use a wire bristle brush to remove dead hair from your pet’s coat and distribute natural oils at the same time. If your dog has long fur, make sure you use a comb that can detangle knots and prevent matting.
After the bath, your pup will certainly feel calmer, lighter, and more relaxed.
Once done, take a long, warm, relaxing soak in the bathtub yourself with some scented candles and soothing music, too.
Indulge in some treats
The right food and snacks can help you and your pet de-stress as well.
While you’re eating yogurt, carrots, nuts, and whole wheat pretzels and drinking milk or green tea (foods and beverages that provide stress relief), give your pup some calming treats as well.
To be sure you will be giving your pet snacks or treats that will help him relax, get products that contain:
- Chamomile – an herb known for soothing reactive and stressed out dogs.
- Lavender – another herb which has also been proven effective for calming canines.
- B vitamins – vitamin B deficiency causes dogs to be anxious and stressed. They will also shed excessively, start gaining weight, develop flea allergies, and other health issues.
- L-tryptophan – this amino acid can increase the levels of serotonin, a compound that generates feelings of happiness while decreasing impulsivity and hostility in dogs.
- L-Theanine – this is a particular type of amino acid found in the leaves of green tea which can produce a relaxing effect in dogs.
Have heart-to-heart talks with your dog
Today, pets are now one of humans’ closest confidants. Aside from spending more time with pets, people often talk more with them, too.
Having honest, heart-to-heart talks with your dog though won’t just allow you to vent out or share your problems, successes, and whatever you’re feeling or itching to say. When you look into your dog’s eyes as you talk, you also strengthen the bond you have with your pet.
According to a study, bonding with a dog is comparable to human parent and infant bonding. When you gaze into your pet’s eyes, an oxytocin positive feedback loop is elicited. Oxytocin is a chemical responsible for that warm, fuzzy feeling you get when staring into the eyes of a baby or, in this instance, your dog.
Oxytocin also helps reduce anxiety. As such, whenever you talk with your pet or simply look into his eyes as you hug or pet him, both of you will feel your worries and tension melt away.
With the right activities, both you and your pet can get some rest and relaxation and reduce the negative effects of stress. Your bonds of friendship and family will become stronger, too.
Farah Al-Khojai is the Managing Partner of Pet’s Delight. A passionate entrepreneur, Farah holds a BSc in Government from the London School of Economics. She is always on the lookout for new opportunities to develop and grow the pet and equestrian retail and wholesale market in the UAE and beyond, and is proud to be at the helm of the first and the largest pet care provider in the market representing world-class brands including Orijen, Applaws, Hunter, Savic, Flamingo, Ruffwear and Rogz