Dogs are fantastic. It’s been not only widely acknowledged, but scientifically proven, that dogs make us happy. A study published in the journal Society & Animals found that dog owners reported more laughter per day than cat owners or people who had no pets. However, research shows that they provide more than just a boost to our morale. Having a dog, scientists say, can benefit our mental, social, and physical health.
Dogs help our bodies.
Studies have shown that children who grow up with dogs, in addition to producing thousands of adorable pictures, are at a decreased risk for asthma and infection. Scientists attribute this to the changes in gut microbes that canine cohabitation can stimulate. Specially trained therapy dogs can also alert their owners to an oncoming seizure or an irregular spike or drop in blood sugar. Additionally, dogs can keep us healthy on a more everyday level. According to a 2010 study, elderly people who walked with dogs were more likely than those who walked other humans to engage in regular exercise.
They also showed more improvement in fitness over the course of the experiment. This could be why dog owners have been found to have a decreased risk of heart disease.
Dogs help our minds.
The hormone oxytocin is crucial to our happiness and ability to bond. One study determined that dog owners, after gazing into their dog’s eyes, experienced elevated levels of this hormone. Other studies have shown that owning a dog increases our self-esteem – although, anyone who has ever seen a dog greet their owner after a long day of work could probably have told you that! These factors, as well as the entertainment and unconditional love that dogs provide, can help to alleviate depression and reduce stress as well.
Dogs help our relationships.
Stephen Zawistowski, a science adviser at the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals, explains that dogs see their owners as fellow members of their pack and, therefore, form an incredibly close bond with them. Other studies confirm that pets, in their own right, can be a great source of social support.
This relationship, as any dog owner will tell you, is incredibly special and beneficial in hundreds of ways. However, dog ownership can also promote healthy relationships with other humans. Dogs need to socialize, and bringing your pet on a walk or to a dog park can be a great way to meet other people with similar interests.
In one study, elderly patients who owned dogs were found to be more satisfied with their physical, social, and emotional health than those who did not. When considering the findings above, this is no wonder! If you have been thinking about getting a dog, but are still not convinced, consider fostering to adopt. This can be a great way to either give a sweet canine a temporary home, or, hopefully, find yourself a new best friend!