A dog is a man’s best friend, or so they say. But a dog can be so much more than just a companion and walking partner as discovered from the news making the rounds. Dogs provide us with comfort and companionship. It’s hard to feel lonely with a furry friend around who insists on sharing your bed or curling up next to you on the couch. Studies have shown however that owning or even just being around one can have real, measurable health benefits. Beyond the obviously increased exercise, you get from walking your dog, there are other less obvious benefits your fur baby is affording you that you might not even know about.
One study conducted involved dog owners bringing their dogs to work with them. The tests conducted measured cortisol levels in the participants and measured their stress levels via surveys conducted four times a day. The results found that dog owners who brought their dogs to work with them consistently scored ten to twenty points lower on stress tests than those who didn’t. This is just one more recent study out of many that have been conducted to quantify the correlation between dog ownership and lowered stress levels.
The evidence of studies like this is popping up all over the place. Universities all over the world are setting up “puppy rooms” for students, especially at exam times. Students can take a break from cramming and pulling all-nighters to cuddle some puppies to relieve the stress and pressure of finals. Schools that have implemented these rooms for their students have found that the students handle the stress at the end of semester test times better and perform better academically. Therapy dogs are becoming more and more common to help people in all kinds of stressful situations. In hospitals to provide comfort for the sick and their relatives. In retirement homes to provide companionship to the elderly. And even for children with autism to help them connect with something or someone.
Dog owners experience a myriad of benefits from their furry companions. They are less likely to suffer from depression and show evidence of higher levels of serotonin and dopamine. These feel good are produced in everyone’s brain and help keep us balanced and feeling happy. Petting your dog can help to lower your blood pressure through sensory stress relief. The benefits are particularly pronounced in older people. As well as helping to manage stress owning a dog helps you to stay active. Walking the dog daily is good for both them and you. They provide an easy way to engage with your community, meeting new people at the dog park or chatting with other owners out walking their dogs.
Numerous studies have shown the benefits of owning a dog on a person’s mental health. They provide you with unconditional love and affection. Having an excited companion to come home to is a great way to brighten anyone’s afternoon. Dogs tend to be very in tune with their owners, when you are feeling sad you may notice that your dog is more affectionate than usual. They may stay closer to you for longer periods of time. Having them close to you, as demonstrated above, makes you feel better on both a superficial level as well as an actual change in brain chemistry.
Dog ownership isn’t something to be taken lightly. It comes with a large responsibility, taken on the care of another life. They need regular exercise and medical care. But the benefits to both you and your pet can be enormous. If you have the time and facilities to provide a loving home for a pet, it can be one of the best choices you ever make.