Six Benefits of having a dog in your life

India Knight is a well-known author, journalist for The Times, and passionate dog owner. She's also written The Goodness of Dogs, a warm, sensible and witty guide to the joys of dog ownership. Here, she shares some of the great life lessons her pets, Brodie and Tails, have taught her.

1. To appreciate the outside world

Nobody especially enjoys heading out when it's freezing cold and the rain is horizontal but, even in fairly grim weather, Brodie and Tail's sheer joy at running free outside is contagious. And there are human benefits to dog walking, too. What I most appreciate is the mental clarity that comes from a brisk walk: if you have a problem, a walk will always help. If you're trying to work something out, whether it's the plot of a book, or what to make for dinner, you come back more inspired than when you set off. It's also a complete joy and privilege to see the same bit of land change day by day from winter to spring.

2. That the best morale booster is often a dog

Even if you're in a foul mood, even if you've had an awful day, even if you feel that you're wading through treacle, the sight of your pet bouncing around, his eyes shining with love, is the most incredible life enhancer. Dogs are basically made of joy. Imagine if you could bottle that and sell it - you'd have the world's most effective antidepressant.

3. The importance of patience

There may be times when your beloved pet is the reason you're binning your favourite shoes or constantly wiping up. But my dogs have taught me patience: it's unfair to get angry with a small creature who really doesn't know any better. I've learnt that, as owners, it's our job to keep calm and teach our pets better.

4. It's OK to slow down

My dogs have taught me the value of de-stressing and relaxing. Before I had dogs, I'd feel vaguely guilty about doing nothing and that I should be doing something useful instead. So my relationship with them is mutually beneficial. I love and care for them, but they teach me all sorts of things too; like the absolute joy of being happily cosied up with them on the sofa and watching something good on telly.

5. To be consistent

Always do what you say you'll do. There's no point in making excuses or delaying the moment. Dogs don't let you; if it's time for a walk, it's time for a walk, and that is that. It's just not fair to keep them waiting around once they know a walk is in the offing. They are brilliant agents against procrastination.