A dad has set up a dog walking group to help men open up and talk about their emotions.
Rob Osman, from Bristol, who has in the past struggled with anxiety and depression, has set up Dudes & Dogs to create a space where men can relax and talk about their feelings.
The dad-of-one suffered with social anxiety from his early teens, especially around girls, which would make him to throw up but then he found walking his dog Mali, a Hungarian Vizsla, helped his mental health, Bristol Live reports.
Now, he’s hoping to help others by encouraging them to join his walks, Rob, 38, said: “The aim of the group is to create an environment where people can relax and drop their barriers.
“It [walking a dog] is a good way to do so because you do not have to look at each other in the eye and are in an open space.
“It is at their pace and there is no expectation for them to have to talk – it could be that they just listen the first few times.”
He realised that saying “let’s go for a walk” was a much easier way of saying ‘let’s have a chat’, which some people can find difficult to say.
The dog owner said that people were also able to get moments of relief and joy through interacting with his dog.
Currently the group has only held walks in Bristol but, as numbers increase, Rob is hoping to train more facilitators, or “dog dudes” and expand to other places like south Wales.
According to Rob everyone is welcome and no dog is needed to join the walk, he said: “The dog dude will facilitate the walk and will have a dog with them.”
He wants to show other men they are not alone and that many men struggle, adding that he would love to create a movement similar to well known, Movember.
A year ago Rob quit his job as a business developer manager to be a stay-at-home dad, knowing that he wanted to do something related to counselling at the same time.
He looked at local support groups but none were offering the support he wanted, so he started Dudes & Dogs by sharing a video on International Men’s Day on Facebook.
Since then, he’s shared several videos on his Facebook page Dudes & Dogs where he talks about his emotions, his previous struggles or how his day had been.
He did a video from places which have helped him like the barber’s chair and is always speaking of the importance of talking and its benefits.
Rob said: “I am quite an emotional guy and since I have opened about my feelings and emotions my life has got better.
“I started to realise what really helps me is walking my dog and spending time in the fresh air.
“Mali is a four-legged antidepressant.
“She makes me go outside and go into the woods to play.
“She makes me change my mood and I could not have asked for a better companion.
“She is key to the whole thing.”
Walks are free to join, for more information check their Facebook here for the latest information.