Dogs and Mental Health: 5 Ways Penny Helps Me Mentally

Hi, I’m Savanna! Read my introduction to learn more about me and my spunky Chihuahua mix, Penny.

Mental health is something that is very important to me, and I’m glad that it’s becoming more acceptable to talk about it openly. Along with there being less of a stigma surrounding mental health, emotional support animals (ESAs) are becoming more common as well.

Studies have shown the benefits and ways that dogs and other animals help with human mental health.1 While emotional support dogs don’t have all the rights that service dogs have, dogs are still being allowed in more places than they have been before.

That being said, Penny isn’t my official emotional support dog. However, she does help with my mental health in many ways, which I’ll discuss in this article.

The 5 Ways Penny Helps With My Mental Health

I suffer from anxiety and seasonal affective disorder, and while I’ve always been able to manage it pretty well on my own, I’d be lying if I said I hadn’t noticed an improvement in my mental health since getting Penny. Here are all the ways she helps me on a daily basis.

1. She Prevents Loneliness

During the COVID pandemic, I and many others made the transition to working from home. I still work from home, and while the pros of working from home outweigh the cons by a longshot, there is an element of loneliness that can come along with it.

I’m an introvert so I’ve never been the most social person, but I do find myself getting lonely sometimes. My husband and daughter are both gone all day to work and school. It’s nice having Penny there to talk to and interact with. Even if she can’t carry on a conversation with me, it’s nice just to have listening ears. And dogs don’t judge us either, so let’s just say she wins the award of employee of the month every month.


2. She Gets Me Outside

Don’t get me wrong, I love being outside as much as possible when it’s warm. But when it’s cold in the winter, especially when my seasonal affective disorder kicks in, I don’t want to go outside very much.

Having Penny is beneficial because she loves going outside (except when it’s cold and rainy). Plus, she has to go outside to go potty. So even when I don’t want to, Penny gets me outside for some fresh air and sunshine, at least for a little while.


3. She’s My Own Personal Weighted Blanket

My weighted blanket
My weighted blanket

Weighted blankets have been proven to help reduce stress and anxiety and improve sleep, but man, some of them are expensive. Luckily, I have my own weighted blanket in the form of a 12-pound Chihuahua mix.

Whenever I’m sitting on the couch, napping, or sleeping at night under a blanket, Penny is always right there on top of the blanket, weighing it down. I don’t know if it has quite the same effect as an actual weighted blanket, but I do know that I sleep better when Penny is laying on top of me than I do when she isn’t.


4. She Always Makes Me Smile

They say that dogs are very in tune with their owners’ moods, and I believe that wholeheartedly. Every time I’m feeling sad, stressed, or just down, here comes Penny doing something silly.

Whether it’s a sudden bout of the zoomies, bringing her toy for me to throw, or just giving me kisses, she always knows just what I need to feel better.


5. I Know She Needs Me, Too

Perhaps the most important way that Penny helps with my mental health is that I know that she needs me too. Taking care of her gives me something to do to help keep my mind off of whatever is making me anxious.

She’s not a particularly anxious dog, but she is a little needy at times. My husband said one time that he didn’t know if Penny was my emotional support dog, or if I was her emotional support human. I laughed about it, but it’s true. She needs me just as much as I need her.

Throw this please.
Throw this please.

ESA or Not, Dogs Help Us Mentally

So to sum up, Penny may not be an official emotional support dog, but there’s no denying that she offers me emotional support on a daily basis. From providing companionship and a non-judgmental, listening ear, to knowing just when I need cheering up, she definitely helps with my mental health. Whether she’s my emotional support dog, or I’m her emotional support human, we each make the other one’s life better. I have no doubt that your dogs help with your mental health too, even if they aren’t official ESAs.

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