Throughout history dogs have played a vital role in human life. From service dogs for people with disabilities, to police and army dogs who routinely save lives, to hunting dogs that track game, to your everyday household family dog, we use dogs to assist us in many different tasks. One of the most important tasks is the use of dogs as a form of therapy and treatment for someone recovering from addiction. Many people don’t immediately think of this or don’t think it’s important and effective. So let’s discuss all the benefits you will gain from having a dog. Dogs can help people in recovery by giving them a loving relationship, help decrease negative feelings and attitudes, give new fun opportunities, and teach accountability and responsibility.
Dogs love unconditionally which makes them excellent pets. Anyone that has ever owned a dog will understand exactly what this means. Dogs respond to affection and reflect it back no matter how you are feeling. This is excellent for someone in recovery because it helps establish a strong, stable relationship that may not have been known during addiction. Not only will the relationship help support you but it can also help in other ways. It can help improve your social skills by teaching you how to communicate kindly. Being kind is not only key in creating a bond with a dog, but can also be a vital part in establishing relationships with people as well. Furthermore, it may also help you become more perceptual by identifying the different feelings that your dog may be feeling. Again, this can help you with people by allowing you to recognize the other feelings people are experiencing.
Psychological and Physical Benefits
Negative feelings and attitudes can be particularly risky for those in early recovery. However, studies have shown that owning a dog can have positive improvements on psychological well-being. Many dog owners feel more relaxed, have less worries and feel more positive about life due to the strong bond they have created with their furry friend. Also, this bond reduces feelings of anxiety and fear, which can negatively affect your recovery.
The physical benefits of owning a dog are wide reaching. Often times, dog owners experience opportunities for new, fun and healthy activities. Whether it is playing fetch with your favorite pooch or going on a daily walk, owning a dog affords new opportunities for regular exercise. Finally, studies show that owning a dog may your lower blood pressure and heart rate, as well as increase beta endorphin levels (hormone that reduces pain).
Accountability and Responsibility
Dogs can be a powerful source of support, accountability, and responsibility throughout the recovery journey. For example, Actor Chris Klein (American Pie) said his German Shepherd “Chief” helped him overcome his addiction to alcohol. In an interview with People Magazine Klein said “Chief began to recognize the behavior shift in me when I drank alcohol and his behavior would change. Anybody that has a meaningful relationship with a dog will understand that the disappointment that I saw in his eyes was insurmountable.” Here, Klein’s dog recognized the changes in his behavior and in a way held him accountable for it. Dog ownership comes with many new responsibilities as well. Training, feeding, grooming, vet visits, and the overall care are just a few of the routine challenges of taking care of a dog. While this aspect may be intimidating, dog ownership is an excellent chance to following through with new responsibilities.
As a dog owner, I can attest to the benefits discussed throughout this blog. Owning a dog has been an incredible experience and I highly recommend it to everyone. But if for some reason you are unable to have a dog, there are plenty of other animals that make for great pets.Pets