Over the past couple of weeks we've all cheered Jessica Ennis to her heptathlon success, watched Andy Murray smash his way to gold and held our breath as Rebecca Adlington claimed two bronze medals.

And while you may have thought it was years of gruelling training regimes, buckets of determination and natural athleticism that helped our athletes to victory, it turns out that there could be another element to their winning formula.

Psychologists and the Kennel Club have pointed out that many of our medal-winning athletes from Team GB have credited their dogs with helping them to relax and unwind - something that could be key to their overall success.

"Dog ownership could well be the secret weapon of our top winning athletes," says Dr Lance Workman, psychologist at Bath Spa University.

"Stroking a dog elevates the levels of happy hormones dopamine and serotonin, which in turn lowers blood pressure and helps us to relax in stressful situations."

In the past we've heard Andy Murray say that his two Border Terriers help him to unwind between matches, while Jess Ennis has spoken about how she loves to relax while walking her dog and Becky Adlington has told us that she looks forward to seeing her pups after she has been away competing.

"Dogs have also been proven to boost morale, improve immune systems and help to keep us physically active," Dr Workman adds.

"Dogs are so good for a physical and psychological wellbeing that health professionals really should consider prescribing them."

And if it's good enough for Britain's top athletes then it's good enough for the rest of us. So next time you're feeling stressed out or anxious then give your pooch a cuddle and some dry dog food treats or head out for a long walk with your pup, and feel yourself relax and unwind.

Written by: Hannah