Dudes and dogs – the new walking initiative on the South Downs to support men's mental health

Men are being encouraged to walk and talk – joined by some furry friends – to help their mental health.

Tuesday, 27th April 2021, 2:57 pm
Michael Seaborne withhis Labrador cross Loki

The free walks, called Dudes and Dogs, is exactly that – men and dogs being able to walk with together while enjoying the company, the fresh air and the beautiful South Downs scenery. And, if they want to talk, they can do that, too, and they may find it really helps.

The walks, which started earlier this month from Devil's Dyke, are being led by Michael Seaborne, who discovered first hand the benefits of walking and talking, along with his Labrador cross Loki. He was so impressed with the Dudes and Dogs initiative, he decided to ask if he could lead a group in the Brighton area to share the benefits with others.

Michael, from Henfield, said: "Having struggled for a long time with my own mental health, specifically anxiety and depression, I found I didn’t have a space or time where I felt safe to discuss my thoughts and feelings, so I just kept things in until it became unhealthy.

Michael's dog Loki leading the way on the South Downs

"Having connected with the Dudes and Dogs initiative, I have discovered the benefits of a walk and talk. This is a chance to share and talk stuff though – accompany that with a friendly dog, some fresh air and stunning South Downs views it is a winning combination allowing yourself the time and space to breathe.

"Hey, sometimes we don’t even need to speak to get benefit! However, I know that I feel better afterwards, and I know that I will be a better partner, father, brother, or friend as a result."

Michael, 50, said there is no pressure to talk about feelings in front of lots of people, with some people splitting off in pairs. Michael said everything on the walks is confidential.

He added: "It's just a non-judgmental space, sharing our own experiences. We try to bring some of our own things to the table. People can talk about whatever is on their mind or sometimes you just want a walk. If you did want to talk, it would be ok. But it's also fine just to talk about the dogs and the scenery.

"We're not a therapy but it is a bit of medicine. It is a great escape. Now I've said these things out loud, I know how I feel about it."

Men do not have to attend the walks every week and there's also no requirement to bring your own dog if you do not have one.

But Michael said: "The dogs are an important part of the walk. They can offer an opportunity for a distraction. They also have an incredible ability of knowing who they need to integrate with."

The dad-of-two admitted that men are 'rubbish at speaking about feelings' adding that men think about things 'in their head and it just goes round and round'.

Michael said when you walk it can help you 'come to some conclusions and get some perspective'.

The walks take place at 10am every Saturday from the northern side of the car park opposite the Devil's Dyke pub. Anyone wanting to join must book a slot using the website bookings page: https://dudesndogs.co.uk/pages/walks.

Walks are limited to a maximum of six men at the moment due to the Covid restrictions. For more information, visit https://dudesndogs.co.uk