As humans, we have developed an amazing relationship with our household pets. We keep these animals in our home, we feed them, play with them and above all, we love them – often to the point where we cannot bear to think of our lives without them. Yes – pets definitely bring us love, attention, and a lot of fun. But did you know they can also improve our health and wellbeing too – dogs in particular. Is this something you have noticed or considered before? There is of course, the psychological benefit of having a dog, but also many physical benefits too. Let’s have a closer look at the link between dogs and health.
1. Dogs can reduce your stress levels
All dog owners out there will know that our dogs make us feel good, often providing much needed love and attention that you can always rely on them for. Loyal and dependable – dogs help us emotionally in many ways. Dogs will run to you when they are experiencing emotion themselves- when they are worried, scared, or when they are happy to see us. When you have had a bad day and you walk through the door to be greeted by your dog, you can’t help but smile and feel instantly better. A study by Mariah Jane Picard of the University of Maine looked at the relationship between dogs and stress. The study states this:
One investigation compared adult women, ranging from 27 to 55 years, within their own homes with either their own pet dog in the same room, a close friend in the same room, or neither as the control group (Allen, Blascovich, Tomaka, & Kelsey, 1991). The results of this study demonstrated that during the performance of a stressful task, the presence of pet dogs provided a nonevaluative social support system compared to those who were with a close friend when they completed the task. The presence of pets may induce positive feelings 5 that are not evoked by one’s close friends during a stressful task.
The emotional affect of dogs goes even further than this, with dogs being known to help those who suffer from depression. Dogs are said to lower the levels of the stress hormone cortisol and help ward off depression- a very debilitating illness, which can leave sufferers wanting to lock themselves up indoors away from the world, being critical of themselves and shutting themselves away from their friends and family. However, having a dog may help to break this cycle. A dog will always be there for their owner, ready for cuddles and affection, causing a calming presence.
2. Dogs can help you develop emotional bonds
Having a dog can help build relationships and emotional bonds. This not only benefits those suffering from depression, but also children with autism and learning difficulties, as they learn to emotionally connect with their pet.
3. Dogs can improve your physical health
Dogs need to be walked – how much often depends on what breed, but there’s no doubting that you will definitely spend more time outdoors! Dog walking benefits your mood, and your heart health. As you exercise your dog, so you also exercise yourself, and this can actually lower your blood pressure and impact your cardiovascular health!
4. Dogs can detect medical issues
Studies show that dogs can actually detect medical conditions too – something we wrote about a little ago. There are claims that dogs can pick up on diseases, and warn their owners if they are about to have an epileptic seizure. Dogs can also be trained to help people living with diabetes and epilepsy, and dogs are even being trained to detect cancer! With a sense of smell 10,000 sharper than ours, dogs can smell what is happening in our bodies before we have any idea! Pretty amazing stuff!
From reducing stress to detecting illnesses, there are so many ways that having a dog can improve your health. Events such as Bring Your Dog To Work Day, which takes place tomorrow aims to improve the welfare of dogs, so they can continue to benefit our welfare too!