Everyone knows that dogs are man’s best friend. But is this knowledge based on just a feeling in our hearts? Nope! It turns out there are scientific reasons why dogs have the ability to drastically improve the lives of the people who open their homes to them.
A study done by Goldsmith University discovered that dogs show empathetic responses to human distress. Participants were asked to cry, talk to a dummy, hum, or do nothing, and then describe how their dog or puppy reacted. While the dogs did not react to the talking, significantly more dogs looked at, approached, or touched the humans who were crying as opposed to humming.
The study also found that the dogs did not care whether or not they knew the person; if a participant was crying or showing distress, the dog responded to them. Even if the dog’s owner was in the room, the dogs would lick, nuzzle, and sniff the crying person even though they were a complete stranger.
While the scientists did add that these behaviors could be because the dog was rewarded at some point for comforting a distressed human, the overall conclusion of the study was that these behaviors were consistent with an expression of empathic concern.
A similar study conducted by Elsevier Inc. found that dogs are able to discriminate emotional expressions in human faces. Researchers discovered that dogs who were in regular contact with humans actually learned their personalities and were able to recognize their emotional facial expressions and their meaning.
Lowers Symptoms of Anxiety & Depression
Did you know that one of the best things for someone who suffers from the effects of depression and anxiety can do to overcome their symptoms is to play with a dog? While owners are responsible for the well-being of their pets, they also are just as dependent upon the benefits that their pets give them. There have been multiple studies done on the effect dog ownership has on people’s mental well-being. A 2019 study looked into how daily interactions with a therapy dog affected adults who were diagnosed with “moderate or greater anxiety”. The patients were given 15 minutes a day of uninterrupted time with a therapy dog and it’s handler. The patient’s anxiety levels were measured before the dogs entered the room, and measured again when they left.
The study concluded that even though the visits were short, interacting with the dog significantly lowered anxiety, pain, and depression scores.
The National Center for PTSD states that owning a dog can lift your mood and help you feel less stressed. They help bring feelings of love, are fun, contribute to reducing stress, and are a great reason to get out of the house and meet new people.
Another article outlines a study of 48 hypertensive patients with high-stress occupations who agreed to get a dog or puppy (or cat). Similar to the earlier study, the patient’s physiological responses to mental stress were measured before and after getting the pet. Those who did get a pet reported lower blood pressure, lower heart rate, and lower plasma renin (plays a major role in the body’s regulation of blood pressure, thirst, and urine output) than participants who did not.
Improved Physical Health
Dogs are high-energy companions, love to play, and need exercise. People who own dogs get more activity in their day simply by making accommodations for their dog’s lifestyle. Because dogs need consistency, you’ll learn how to make exercise a part of your daily routine and create a healthy habit that can last a lifetime.
In fact, a study done by the American Heart Association found that dog owners are 54% more likely to get the recommended amount of exercise than their non-dog owning counterparts. So, yes, those walks around the block are good for you, too!
Getting a good night’s sleep is also a crucial part of overall physical health. Can a dog help with that as well? Of course!
While some people advise against letting dogs share the bed with their humans, many scientific studies show sleeping with your dog could mean a better night’s rest. In fact, it’s even been shown that when a child shares a bed with the family pet, the frequency of their nightmares tends to diminish.
Increased Sense of Companionship and Belonging
How do dogs help us with feelings of belonging? Their constant companionship can help prevent feelings of isolation and loneliness, both of which have been known to trigger bouts of depression. The responsibility of caring for a live animal can make you feel needed and wanted, and take your mind off your troubles, especially if you live alone. Additionally, most pet owners talk to their pets, using them as sounding boards to work through their problems. And even though your pets can’t give you advice, nothing beats loneliness like coming home to a wagging tail. But if you’re a dog owner, you don’t have to worry about being single for long!
A survey was sent to a random sample of people who were registered online at Match.com and indicated any pet information on their profile. Of the 1,210 people who responded:
- Women were a lot more discriminatory on whether a potential partner had a pet
- 26 % of men and 5 % of women were more attracted to another pet owner
- 75 % of women WOULD NOT date someone who did not like pets, only 54 % of men agreed
- 64 % of women and 49 % of men were more attracted to a potential partner if they owned a RESCUED dog
- 500 out of 600 women said that dogs were the hottest pet a guy could own (cats only got 80 votes)
Dog owners report having higher self-esteem, being more conscientious, and having a much higher bounce back rate after being rejected or broken up with. A recent survey by Dog trust found that you are 85 % more approachable with a dog by your side and 60 % of people find dog owners more attractive.
So now you have scientific proof that interacting with your dog can, in fact, make you happier. When you cuddle your dog, several hormones can be released including oxytocin, which is a powerful hormone. When we hug or kiss a loved one, oxytocin levels drive up. This hormone is also greatly stimulated during sex, birth, breastfeeding—the list goes on. Dogs provide much more than the few benefits we listed here. So not only are interactions with your pet important to them, but they also have health benefits for you. Now go play with your pet and live a happier healthier life!