80% 0f people say that their pets make them feel less lonely. We've found the top dog breeds for combating loneliness, depression & isolation.
Sadly, more than 650,000 Kiwis have felt lonely within the past four weeks, according to New Zealand's most recent loneliness survey.
In addition, close to a quarter of a million (243,000) of us feel lonely most or all of the time. Age Concern has previously told the Herald on Sunday that nearly one in three older New Zealanders spend their days alone. But that doesn't tell the full story. A quick glance at the figures shows that loneliness is higher amongst the 15-24 age group.
You expect to see loneliness in older adults because our networks seem to shrink a bit as we get older – although this is not always the case, so it might come as a surprise to learn that younger generations are actually experiencing more severe levels of loneliness. The suspicion is that it might have something to do with how millennials interact virtually rather than face-to-face.
Experts worldwide are treating it as a serious threat, ranking it right up there with smoking, obesity, and physical inactivity in terms of its effects on your health.
But there are things lonely people can do to feel more involved and sociable and one of them is to get a pet - as long as they have the time and means to dedicate to one.
WHY ARE PETS SO GOOD FOR LONELINESS?
Pets can be a fantastic support for people who are experiencing loneliness. Why? The single most important thing about them is that they are amazing social connectors.
There is a wealth of research which has found that, if you go out with a pet, people are more likely to talk to you. Not only that but they are more likely to talk to you about a wider range of topics and talk to you for longer. That is because people feel like they can start talking to your dog and then, consequently, talk to you. It's true - your dog can help you make friends!
WHAT ANIMALS ARE BEST FOR LONELINESS?
Studies have shown that dogs have the strongest connection to loneliness, mainly because they are on show a lot more. A survey by the Human-Animal Bond Research Institute found that 80 percent of pet owners said their pets made them feel less lonely. Researchers at Ohio State University found that avoiding loneliness was the most common reason people gave for living with a companion animal.
However, the emotional improvement is still significant if the owner has a different pet. Pet owners of any sort see their animals as conversation starters and use it as a way to make a non-judgemental, emotional connection with other people.
10 OF THE BEST DOG BREEDS FOR LONELINESS
Most dogs have been bred for certain things. You might want to avoid some of the more highly-intelligent, highly-active working breeds, unless you can provide them with a lot of exercise and give them a job to do (it could work if you live on a farm or lifestyle block, for example). Think Border Collies, Huskies and Fox Terriers!
Most experts suggest choosing a breed that is essentially bred for companionship, like a King Charles Cavalier Spaniel. However, it's important to bear in mind that:
The single most important thing is their behaviour and temperament and that really depends on what happens in the early life of the puppy. Getting early socialisation right is crucial.
We have hunted down the dog breeds best suited for companionship and lonely owners, based on their temperaments, trainability and ease of care, among other things. Take a look and let us know if you agree!
Miniature Schnauzer: The Miniature Schnauzer dog breed has it all in one small package: intelligence, affection, an extroverted temperament, humour, and a personality that’s twice as big as their bodies. Throw in that walrus moustache and quivering enthusiasm, and they’ll make you laugh every day!
Italian Greyhound: The Italian Greyhound is vivacious, alert, highly intelligent and very affectionate, especially when kept as a companion in the house, loving human companionship.
Papillon: Known as happy, outgoing dogs, papillons enjoy sitting in laps as much as they like running around the house. Although lively and energetic, they are not considered high-strung or nervous and are easy to care for.
Tibetan Terrier: A profusely coated, small-to-medium-sized dog with “snowshoe” feet, this breed is affectionate, sensitive, and clever.
Shih Tzu: Shih Tzu are renowned for their perky, happy temperaments. They are lively and friendly. Shih Tzu tend to get along well with people of all ages and with other dogs as well as other pets of different species.
Miniature Poodle: The Miniature Poodle personality is dignified and confident. These dogs are often unaware of their small size, and they carry themselves like a regal prince or princess. Despite their stubborn confidence, they're an incredibly loving dog within the home, one of which that is both intelligent and steadfastly loyal.
Bichon Frise: The Bichon Frise is a happy, lively, outgoing breed, which is extremely friendly and affectionate. The breed loves company and is very sociable with other dogs.
Cavalier King Charles Spaniel: The Cavalier King Charles spaniel is an enchantingly affectionate, playful, intelligent dog that eagerly indulges its guardians with endearing devotion. Shyness and aggression, fortunately, are not part of this breed's behavioural milieu.
Lowchen: Known as Little Lion Dogs, the Lowchen is the personification of an even-tempered breed. He is lively and active, affectionate and gentle. He is an intelligent dog who learns quickly and easily.
Labrador: Labrador Retrievers are intelligent, active, fun-loving dogs, eager to please and extremely sociable. Perfect if you want something to blast around in the park with for an hour before chilling out at home. They make great pillows!