Owning a dog 'brings mental health benefits'

Owning a dog can bring mental - as well as physical - health benefits, it has been claimed.

Heidi Ancell, spokeswoman for the Kennel Club, noted there is plenty of evidence to suggest having a canine around can be advantageous for a person's sense of wellbeing.

The representative noted: "The presence of dogs in workplaces and hospitals has been proven to reduce blood pressure and relieve stress."

She explained that the animals can act as great conversation starters and therefore help individuals to make new friends and improve their social skills.

Dogs often act as motivation to get people out and about, Ms Ancell observed, adding those who own a pet have more incentive to head out into the wider world.

Her comments come after research carried out by Michigan State University showed dog ownership not only benefits people by providing companionship - it also encourages individuals to improve their fitness levels.

Chartered Psychologist Dr Deborah Wells said: "Pets can play an enormous role in their owners' lives."

"As well as providing a source of companionship, support and entertainment, there is now substantial evidence to suggest that dogs and cats may be able to promote their owners' physical and psychological health."

"Studies now point to companion animals and notably dogs, helping to reduce their owners' blood pressure and heart-rate, ameliorate the effects of potentially stressful life-events, reduce anxiety, loneliness and depression and enhance feelings of autonomy, competence and self-esteem."