THEY say dog is man’s best friend, and new research would seem to prove it.

New research from the Kennel Club, released ahead of World Mental Health Day tomorrow (October 10), suggests dogs help to combat loneliness and anxiety, and help their owners stay on track with regular physical activity, positively impacting mental wellbeing.

Guiding their owners through lockdown and pandemic restrictions, the research shows dogs comforted many during a difficult past 18 months, with three in five (59 per cent) saying their dog was a lifeline during lockdown and two in five (40 per cent) crediting their dog with easing feelings of loneliness. Almost a third (32 per cent) of owners feel their dog was there for them when no-one else was.

Experts in the UK have for long warned about a mental health pandemic due to the Covid-19 crisis and the alarming lack of accessible help for those struggling with their mental health, but the data suggests dogs can make a difference for many. Almost half (47 per cent) of owners say their dog makes them feel less stressed, with more than a third (37 per cent) feeling less anxious thanks to their dog. With many going back to the workplace after over a year away, two in five (39 per cent) agree their dog helps them to feel calm after a stressful day or situation at work.

And it is not just comforting canine cuddles that help the soul, as many dog owners cite regular dog walking and routine as key to better mental wellbeing:

With experts worrying that younger generations are most at risk of being affected by the looming mental health crisis, the new research also highlights that young dog owners benefit most from dog ownership. More than half (54 per cent) owners aged 16-24 say their dog helps them feel less lonely and over two in five (44 per cent) agree that their dog eases their anxiety, or helps them calm down after a stressful day or situation.

“Dogs continue to prove they truly are man’s best friend, through thick and thin,” said Bill Lambert, spokesperson for the Kennel Club.

“During the pandemic, dogs provided us with comfort, loyalty and unconditional love through times when many of us felt our loneliest, and they continue to be there for us as we get on with our lives.

“This research shows a snippet of the immeasurable positive impact dogs have on our mental health, from combatting stress, loneliness and anxiety, to providing routine, and encouraging healthy habits, like more physical exercise.”

In light of their faithful dedication to us during the pandemic, this World Mental Health Day the Kennel Club is calling for nominations for its Hero Dog Award 2021.

Sean Laidlaw, 33 from Essex, a former Hero Dog Award finalist, credits his rescue dog Barrie with saving his life and being his best friend. “Barrie was there for me when I didn’t know who I was, and she helped me get back on my feet when I was lost,” said Sean.

“Dogs can truly transform your life for the better with their unconditional love, support and positive energy that is a great motivator, and they deserve to be recognised for their every day heroic deeds.”

Nominations can be made by visiting crufts.org.uk/dogheroaward. Finalists will be announced next year, ahead of the winner being crowned at Crufts 2022, taking place at the NEC in Birmingham from March 10-13.