How Getting a Dog Can Heal Your Heart After a Breakup

Getting a Dog...   By Karol King     |Published 08-02-2021

Divorce is one of life’s most stressful events, according to the Holmes Rahe Stress Inventory.

Indeed, anyone who has been through a divorce or breakup knows how life-changing and challenging it can be. Although there are many issues to deal with during a breakup - including dividing assets and potentially having to move to a new home - loneliness is one of the major problems that can ensue, and having a dog can help ease this anguish.

Dogs are often referred to as a human being’s best friend - one that can provide unconditional companionship and love even when we feel at our lowest.

If you are newly single, what factors should you bear in mind to determine whether or not it is the right time for you to take a four-pawed friend home?

A person is walking a young ChihuahuaHow Getting a Dog Can Heal Your Heart After a Breakup

Dogs are a Powerful Antidote to Stress

Study after study has shown that dogs can benefit human beings in many ways - especially in the realm of stress reduction.

A 2019 Washington State University study showed, for instance, that just 10 minutes of interacting with cats and dogs produced a significant reduction in the stress hormone, cortisol.

A 2017 University of Florida study showed that pet dogs have a powerful stress-buffering effect on children as well. During a breakup you may go through several stages, one of which may involve yearning for your ex or dreaming of getting back together.

However, sometimes romantic reconciliation is impossible. This may be the case if your ex has asked you to move on, they have unfollowed you on social media, or they are involved in a new relationship.

Having to come to terms with the end of your former hopes and dreams can be very difficult and many people say it is similar to grieving. If so, it helps to have a dog to caress, play with, and take for a walk when emotions become overwhelming.

Related:  Separation, Divorce and Dogs:  How to Manage a Stressful Time

Dogs Keep You Active

During the post-breakup phase, staying active is an important way to improve sleep quality and battle stress and anxiety and having a dog can help bring you out into the Great Outdoors at least two or three times a day.

It is generally recommended that adults aim to complete at least 150 minutes a week of physical activity. This is a cinch when you have a dog, since they too have daily exercise requirements and most healthy dogs thrive on walking on a lead and enjoying free play so they can practice skills like running and jumping.

A 2016 study on adults aged 60 or over found that pet ownership brought significant benefits. Dog walking is linked to lower body mass index, more frequent exercise, and fewer doctor visits.

It also brings an increase in social benefits (since it offers a means to meet and greet with other pet owners), which is particularly important during a breakup. 

Getting Ready for a Pet

Pet lovers will usually tell you that there are few downsides to owning a dog but before adopting a dog or taking it home, it is important to know the main responsibilities involved.

It is vital, for instance, to ensure that having a dog is within your budget.

Research undertaken by The Spruce Pets shows that the average yearly cost of having a dog starts at around $1,500. This amount includes food, bedding, clothing, grooming, veterinary care, medication, training and behavioral classes, pet sitting, and the like.

Of course, you can bring this total cost down by making DIY bedding and clothing, walking your dog yourself instead of using dog walking services, and taking your dog with you on road trips and other pet-friendly vacations instead of putting them into a boarding center.

Take note, however - some expenses cannot be avoided. These include veterinary care, which amounts to between $700 and $2,000 annually for a healthy dog. You should also have a savings nest for unexpected expenses such as surgery.

Dogs are a Time Commitment

Getting a dog also require a time commitment. Recent statistics show that up to 40% of dog owners in the U.S. do not walk their dogs - a fact which could be detrimental to their pet’s health.

Dogs need exercise for cardiovascular health and movement also helps promote better musculoskeletal and bone health.

Exercise also helps battle stress and anxiety; dogs that stay home and lead sedentary lifestyles can be more prone to negative behaviors such as chewing items and furniture.

Dogs can be a crucial source of support after a breakup. They can help reduce stress and provide you with a good reason to step outside and encounter other dog lovers.

Before obtaining a dog, however, it is important to ensure you have the funds and time your dog will need to lead a happy and healthy life.

Getting a Dog

Before you adopt that cute little dog or make a commitment to purchase a puppy from a reputable breeder, be sure to assess not only your finances, but also your time and available energy to get that new four-legged friend an excellent home.

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A yellow lab is sitting with a rose in his mouthGetting a Dog: How a Dog Can Heal Your Heart, After a Breakup

Getting a Dog Author Bio

Karol King "Karol is a regular contributor to this website and is an animal lover who has dedicated her life to helping dogs to find a safe and happy home. She now works as a freelance writer, which is her passion, and has the freedom to spend more time at home with her wonderful family."

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About Janice (author and voice behind this site)

Having lived with dogs and cats most of her life, Janice served as a veterinary technician for ten years in Maryland and twelve years as a Shih Tzu dog breeder in Ohio.

Her education includes undergraduate degrees in Psychology with a minor in biology, Early Childhood Education, and Nursing, and a master's in Mental Health Counseling.

She is a lifelong learner, a dog lover, and passionate about the welfare of animals. Her favorite breed for over 50 years has been the Shih Tzu, but she has also lived with Poodles, Maltese, Yorkshire Terriers, Beagles, English Bulldogs, Carin Terriers, and a Cocker Spaniel.

When not writing, reading, and researching dog-related topics, she likes to spend time with her eight Shih Tzu dogs, husband, and family, as well as knitting and crocheting. She is also the voice behind Miracle Shih Tzu and Smart-Knit-Crocheting

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