Discover dogs: six breeds to benefit your mental health

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Explore the wellbeing power of pups, and find out which breeds might best suit your lifestyle. It’s time to start barking up the right tree

Discover dogs: six breeds to benefit your mental health

Friendship has long been considered a tonic for our mental wellbeing, and research from The Kennel Club, the UK’s largest organisation dedicated to dogs, shows that canine companionship in particular can positively impact how owners feel, and improve their wellbeing.

The survey revealed that 95% of owners find that their dog improves their mental health and wellbeing generally, with two in five owners crediting their dog with easing feelings of loneliness. It is no coincidence that over the past couple of years, during periods of lockdowns and social isolation, many people struggled with loneliness, and thus the UK saw an unprecedented rise in dog ownership.

Dogs help throughout our lives, from teaching responsibility to younger children to developing compassion among teens, and helping adults find or maintain a purpose and structure in their lives. One can never underestimate the power of a dog in getting their owner out for their daily walkies! And who can forget their ability to remind us of the power of unconditional love, often when we need it most.

No matter what the breed, age, size, or shape, it’s clear dog owners unite in agreement on the benefits of having a furry friend in their lives. However, for those ready for dog ownership, and seeking a breed particularly renowned for their loveable, friendly, and supportive nature, The Kennel Club has shared some suggestions to help find the therapeutic four-legged friend you might be looking for. Of course, an individual dog’s behaviour will be dependent on training, socialisation, and personality, but the following can serve as a useful guide to help you find your own canine companion.

Golden Retriever

These dogs have a big heart. Perfect for families, they are known for their friendly nature, and their confidence can be infectious. They are intelligent, which often means they pick up on their owners’ emotions, and tend to enjoy training, too. They are large in size, so love a long walk, which can benefit you both by getting you out in the fresh air and reaping the benefits of being in nature!

Discover dogs: six breeds to benefit your mental health

Labrador Retriever

The loveable Labrador has long been a family favourite – their happy and playful nature makes them a wonderful companion. Their historic background as a fishing dog makes them highly trainable and intelligent, meaning they can make wonderful assistance and therapy dogs, too.


A small but smart dog, the Maltese is a great choice for anyone in a smaller living space, and perhaps not as able to go on the long walks required by larger breeds. Their loveable nature and sweet characteristics make them a welcome companion to have around the home and by your side. Their long and soft coat requires lots of grooming, which many can find to be a calming and therapeutic task.

Discover dogs: six breeds to benefit your mental health

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Autumn watch: how to help our hibernating animal friends

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As winter draws closer, you might be wondering how you can best support local wildlife. While, in the UK, only hedgehogs, bats, and dormice are officially known to hibernate, many other species rest up and hide away to conserve energy – and there are numerous ways you can help!


Autumn watch: how to help our hibernating animal friends

These little creatures are perhaps the most likely hibernators to be found hanging around a British garden, so the best advice is to be cautious when tidying any potential hibernation spots near your house from late autumn.

If you have a compost pile, or are considering creating one, this is a particular favourite sleeping spot of hedgehogs, so you’ll be helping already! Just be careful when aerating or adding to your pile. Or, if you’re looking for other proactive ways to help, you could buy a specially-designed ‘hedgehog house’, or build a makeshift one from piles of discarded logs and leaves.


Leave out tinned dog or cat food to help any travelling hogs build fat reserves. While it used to be common, it’s best not to leave milk out, as this can cause digestive problems for them.


Bats typically hibernate in groups, in quiet, cool areas – about 75% in trees in the UK, while the remainder might choose to roost under the eaves of buildings, or find their way into crevices in old brickwork.

The best thing you can do to help bats is simply not disturb them. Waking a hibernating creature can cost it a lot of its energy reserves, and, according to the Bat Conservation Trust, could lead to starvation for bats, as they lose their fats stores. But if you want more proactive suggestions, you could put up a bat box in a sheltered spot, roughly 4m above the ground.


Invite more nocturnal flying insects into your garden, as food sources for bats, by planting night-scented flowers such as white jasmine, honeysuckle, and evening primrose.

Autumn watch: how to help our hibernating animal friends


While they spend the summer months primarily in hedgerows or tree branches, in the winter these small mammals descend to the ground to nest in piles of logs or in grass clumps at the base of trees.

Leaving out food supplies can be helpful for when dormice do wake up, including berries, buds, and, in particular, hazelnuts, which are a great source of fat for them. If you have, or can plant, hazel trees, these are ideal habitats for dormice – and given their dwindling numbers, any help we can give to create mini sanctuaries for these mammals could be a huge bonus.


Allow brambles and ivy to grow a little more wild where you can, as this can offer another good shelter option for visiting dormice.


Amphibians often rest at the bottom of ponds over the winter months, so it’s best to clean them out before winter arrives. This gives frogs a clean and healthy environment, and helps prevent gas building up from decomposing materials below the surface if ice forms. If freezing conditions do occur, remember not to ‘smash’ the ice, as th

Good eggs: how chickens are changing lives and enhancing wellbeing

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Across the country, our feathered friends are supporting people in new and surprising ways

Good eggs: how chickens are changing lives and enhancing wellbeing

Gentle coos, methodical scratching, and a brisk ruffle of feathers; anyone who has had the pleasure of spending time around chickens will be able to relate to the soothing qualities of this particular poultry. Even so, they may not be the first creature that comes to mind when you think about therapy animals. But that’s about to change.

In south-east London, The Growing Lives project invites adults with mental health problems and autistic children to visit Sydenham Garden, which was founded in 2002 when a small group of local residents had the vision to convert a neglected nature reserve into a thriving community garden. Today, co-workers (the titles given to the beneficiaries) come together to garden, spend time in nature, and, importantly, care for a flock of 12 adopted hens.

Good eggs: how chickens are changing lives and enhancing wellbeing

The community project is supported by the British Hen Welfare Trust (BHWT), a charity that saves 60,000 hens from slaughter every year, and rehomes them as pets and – now – as therapy animals. Jane Howorth MBE is the founder of the charity – and, for her, the decision to bring chickens into therapeutic environments just made sense.

“We all know how much joy animals can bring as pets, and chickens certainly fit into that category,” Jane explains. “But we hear so much anecdotal evidence of the way keeping hens can benefit human wellbeing.

“We’ve seen chickens being kept in prisons and probation hostels to help people not only learn responsibility, but also open up and develop empathy. We’ve seen them kept by community groups and other charities to bring people together and support mental and physical health.

“And we hear so many stories from our adopters about how hens have helped to give them a positive focus and provide so many bright moments in life. They have so much love and affection to give that you can’t help but feel better when you’re around them.”

David Lloyd is the coordinator for Growing Lives, and he’s seen first-hand the impact these feathered friends can have on the people around them. He shares how children from a local special school visit them several times a week and, while some are non-verbal and avoid eye-contact with humans, they happily stroke, interact, and chatter away with the chickens in a way they can’t with other people.

“Having rehomed chickens fits with our ethos; they’re a bit of a metaphor for the work we do here,” David explains. “They’ve had a difficult first part of their life, they’re saved from death, they’re then given a lot of love and nice surroundings, and within months they’re thriving and growing into their potential.”

Out of London and down to Cornwall, mother-of-three Billie-Jo Pascoe has also seen how beneficial chickens can be when it comes to supporting children with autism.

George, her son, didn’t speak until he was five-and-a-half-years old. But, after noticing that George smiled and made happy sounds whenever he saw chickens, the family adopted five from the BHWT.

“George was instantly in love,” Billie-Jo says. “He spent ho