It's long been established that dogs are man's best friend but it seems during the pandemic they've gone out of their way to prove this is far from just an overused tagline.
For anyone who has had the comfort of sharing lockdown with a canine, you will know firsthand that they are an endless source of companionship, stimulation and much-needed fun and silliness during dark days.
The benefits of dog ownership - especially in times when we are socially restricted - are well known. They (or at least their bladders!) get us out of the house regularly, providing us with exercise and a change of scenery. Even stroking a dog has been proven to release serotonin and leave us with a sense of calm.
That said, it's a two-way street and it's only fair that we give back to the pups that give us so much. That's why pet food brand, Pooch & Mutt, has launched its 'Good Mood Food' campaign to not only highlight the mental health benefits we get from our dogs but also the importance of their mental health.
Jenni Falconer with her dog Alfie
To kickstart the campaign, Jenni Falconer spoke to dog owner Kerry Irving whose pal, Max, recently won the canine equivalent of an OBE.
Kerry explained that after two years of depression and serious thoughts of ending it all, a chance meeting with Max was the first stepping-stone in his road to recovery.
He said: “The small steps are key because you can’t cure depression overnight, it doesn’t go away, and for me it was Max, because it literally changed my focus from self-devastation to wanting to see him again. That was the kick starter, to actually have a dog that showed interest in me when I thought the whole world was losing me.”
Having received thousands of messages and letters of thanks from Max’s fans, Kerry described how sharing his story of his mental health journey, has encouraged many others to talk about their own mental health.
He said: “One of the key factors of having had depression and recovering from depression is the ability to talk about it, and also having the ability to listen to other people who want to tell you their story.“
Jenni spoke to Kerry and his hero dog Max
Pooch & Mutt’s mission is to raise awareness of the mental health benefits that dogs bring, especially during a time when many people have relied on their dog for emotional support and have benefited from their natural calming abilities.
As the number of dogs purchased or rehomed through the pandemic has soared, it is just as important to ensure that dog owners pay attention to their pet’s mental wellbeing, and provide them with a healthy diet and regular exercise to help them thrive mentally and physically.
Pooch & Mutt put a focus on creating health-led products by using the power of positive nutrition to help pooches feel good. They believe that a healthy mind is just as important as a healthy body.
Veterinary Surgeon Dr. Linda Simon said: “As is true of humans, the brain and the body of our canines are closely intertwined. It is rarely possible for one to be healthy when the other is not. More recently in veterinary medicine, we are focusing on a pet’s mental well-being rather than just their physical health, as our understanding of how the two are closely connected grows."
The brand takes a scientific approach to product development, and alongside fresh natural ingredients, use natural supplements commonly found in the human diet, to help provide dogs with optimal health and to also help prevent problems before they arise.
The dry food functional range in particular includes products that contain specific ingredients to help target some important areas of canine health, including:
- Calm & Relaxed for anxious or excitable dogs
- Health & Digestion for dogs with a sensitive stomach
- Joint Care to aid mobility
Guy Blaskey, founder of Pooch & Mutt, said: “Today, pet owners care more and more about their dog’s mood and behaviour, and by feeding them a healthy diet that they trust, they can rest assured knowing that they are helping their dog to live their best life.”
As well as a good diet, here are Vet Linda’s top tips for ensuring your dog is content:
- Exercise. A dog that is tuckered out in the evening can better relax and wind down. Try to provide your dog with all of the exercise they need on a daily basis.
- Mental Stimulation. Exercise alone is not enough for most, who enjoy having their minds tickled. Puzzles and interactive toys as well as obstacle courses are a fun way to keep your pupper happy and engaged.
- Praise and rewards. We all like to be complemented when we’re doing well. Remind your furry friend when you’re happy with their behaviour and watch their tail wag.
- Keeping it fresh. Just like us, your dog can get bored with the same routine. Try to rotate their toys and bring them on new and exciting walking routes.