Adopting healthier lifestyles can play an important role in easing the symptoms of depression, stress, PTSD, and anxiety.

Caring for a dog can help with those healthy lifestyle changes by:

Increasing exercise.

Exercise doesn’t have to be boring. Taking a dog for a walk is a simple way to fit healthy daily exercise into your life.

Providing companionship.

Isolation and loneliness can make disorders such as depression even worse. Caring for an animal can help make you feel needed and wanted, and take the focus away from your problems. Most pet owners talk to their pets, some even use them to work through their troubles.

Helping meet new people.

Pets can be a great social lubricant for their owners. Dog owners frequently stop and talk to each other on walks or in parks. Pet owners also meet new people in pet shops, clubs, and training classes.

Reducing anxiety.

The companionship of a dog can offer comfort, help ease anxiety, and build self-confidence for people anxious about going out into the world.

Adding structure and routine to your day.

Dogs require a regular feeding and exercise schedule. No matter your mood—depressed, anxious, or stressed—you’ll always have to get out of bed to feed, exercise, and care for your dog.

Providing sensory stress relief.

Touch and movement are two healthy ways to quickly manage stress. This could either be petting the dog or taking the dog for a walk.

“Sometimes, the small gesture of unconditional love from a dog can literally make all the difference in the world.”

Walking with your dog is a wonderful way to get active and is great exercise for the both of you. Yes you do it every day already, but how often do you alter the routes, or try a new park, or venture somewhere new?

Keeping things fresh will not only enhance the walk for your dog but will inevitably lead to longer walks and more exercise benefiting you as much as it will Fido. So try a new location, longer distances, different and spice up your walks!

Exercise helps dogs to stay healthy, happy and well behaved too, so everyone benefits. You do need to take your dog's health and temperament into consideration as not every activity is right for every dog. Check with your vet if you are unsure or have any concern for your dog prior to starting any new activity.

Why not take things a step further, record and plot your progress? If you have a Smart phone, there are plenty of Apps available which can record your speed, distance and pace.

Head for the hills. What better way to enjoy some quality time together than to head off into the hills for some peace and quiet, not forgetting the atmosphere and fabulous views.

Country Parks are an ideal way to gain access to the great outdoors, many are accredited, providing a wide range of opportunities for recreation, health and education and improving quality of life.

Woodlands have always been an ideal place for dogs and owners to enjoy some outdoor time, and historically dog walkers have been the most prominent users of woodlands within the UK, so much so that The Forestry Commission have launched the 'Walkies in the Woods' campaign, supported by the Kennel Club to ensure that dogs and their owners experience healthy, responsible and above all enjoyable woodland visits.

What about a "Fun day Friday", or a "Sack it Saturday"? Yes, 'sack' the shopping, 'sack' the gardening and 'sack' the house cleaning! Why not grab a day-bag, a flask, and head out into the great wilds of Britain for an adventure with Fido? We are extremely lucky in the UK, not only for the lush countryside we have, but also for the access rights to our little enchanting island for us to enjoy. Even better, make it a weekly adventure for you to spend some quality time with your dog.

Beaches offer some of the most fabulous days out for you and your dog with the thousands of miles of coasts we have around the UK.

Whilst many beaches welcome dogs all year round, there are seasonal restrictions placed on specific beaches so please check before travelling anywhere new. Have a look at the nearest beach website for UK wide listings of both open access and restricted access beaches.

Other places suitable for further exploration with your dog include: Nature Reserves, Open Access Land, Public Parks and Green spaces, Country Estates, National Trails and Public Rights of Way.

Take a look in the local newspaper or online to find activities going on in your area such as fly-ball or agility trials.

There are also many other forms of activity that include your canine friend, some of which are listed here for consideration:

Teaching Tricks, The Canine Good Citizen Test, Agility, Obedience, Dog Shows, Tracking, Hunting Tests, Herding, Earth dog Events, Lure Coursing, Carting, Weight pulling, Skijoring, Field Trials.

The only limit is your imagination.