There’s no doubt that dogs make a difference in the world. From seeing-eye dogs to our friendly pet companions at home, canines have the power to interact with human society for the better. Today, we're going to look at some of the most recent scientific research that explains why dogs make humans happier and healthier.
There are many theories as to how dogs and humans became best friends as we evolved together over the years. A significant element to this evolving friendship is the idea that dogs and man began to benefit one another mutually at some point in time. From healthy dog food to doggy spas, it can be quite evident that our dogs live comfortable and better lives because of us.
As it turns out, there’s recent scientific evidence that supports the idea that dogs improve people's health and simply make us happier human beings as well. It seems this mutual benefit reigns as true today as it did hundreds of years ago before they could construct a control group study and publish the results in a peer reviewed journal.
By now we already know that dogs improve our physical and mental health, help our children thrive and keep them much healthier, give us a reason to exercise and interact socially with other pet owners, and can even help with marriage problems.
But how exactly did we arrive at these conclusions? Let's take a look at some of the research behind these claims, and even more cases of how exactly dogs make humans healthier and happier.
This is Why Science Says Dogs Make Humans Happier and Healthier
Dogs Help Relieve Our Stress
In a group of studies, researchers discovered how dog owners can overcome significant life stressors with the social support of their furry friend. Additionally, the study found that dog owners have a greater sense of self-esteem and have a greater conscientiousness about the life they live.
Researchers also discovered that owning a dog significantly increased the ability of the owner to overcome negativity caused by social rejection. Perhaps dogs are a natural stress reliever because dogs trust and enjoy being with their owners? It can be hard to find a friend that only wants to be with us, but dogs do an excellent job at this.
You don’t have to explain yourself to a dog.
No matter what sort of situation you might find yourself in, your dog will likely still view you as a wonderful person. This doggy confidence your pup has in you may be just what you need to let go of your stress and maintain your self-confidence.
Moreover, a few more recent studies, like this one and this one, have reviewed the interaction between dogs and kids, and found even more correlation between dog ownership and significantly lower stress levels in children.
Dogs Improve our Social Lives
Our dogs do more than give us social support. Something we've already know but has also recently been proven is that having a dog increases the amount and quality of social interaction a person receives.
This one clever study decided to look at the effects of being seen in public with a dog and what sort of social interactions that typically result in.
The results of this research clearly showed how people, especially strangers, are more likely to strike up a conversation with you if they see you with a dog. Owning a dog opens the door to authentic conversation, an increase in approachability, and you may even find a new friend.
The second part of the study decided to perform a social experiment involving a dog owner who was well dressed compared to a dog owner who was scruffily dressed. Scientists wanted to see who would be approached and talked to more. The results showed that the biggest factor in socializing wasn’t in how the men dressed, but in the fact that both had a dog beside them.
Researchers concluded that owning a dog can break down communication barriers, which in turn results in higher well-being and social health.
Going back to kids and dog ownership again, another study has found that canines and therapy dogs in particular help autistic children in their day to day lives.
Dogs Improve our Physical Health
Owning a dog comes with a certain amount of responsibilities. These responsibilities typically mean that owners are more active during the day and have greater physical health. Feeding your dog, taking it for a walk – it isn’t only healthy for your dog, but it's also healthy for you.
A study in Canada found that dogs, serving as companion animals, helped to keep elderly owners active which promoted physical health through exercise. These elderly dog owners stayed more physically active by taking care of their dogs compared to those who didn’t own a dog.
A second study suggests dog walking as an excellent strategy to combat chronic diseases and conditions that result from insufficient amounts of physical activity. Taking an evening walk with your dog means you are reducing your risk of contracting a host of diseases and sharing a relaxing, stress-reducing time with your companion.
Dogs Improve our Mental Health
Taking a walk with our dogs will not give us a reason to exercise, but it can also help balance our mind and organize our thoughts.
A heartfelt study involving US military veterans with HIV/AIDS showed how owning dogs helped these men mentally cope with their circumstances. Dog ownership enhanced their perceived well-being especially in the areas of companionship and responsibility.
97% of the men claimed that owning their dog was a positive experience which helped them in their mental health by battling depression. Because of the companionship with their dogs, these men were able to overcome emotional burdens and social isolation.
Since dogs seem to be no respecter of persons, they do not judge or treat their owners with any bias. It is likely that because their dogs can accept them, owners who have a hard time accepting themselves and their depression can overcome this mental block and move forward.
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Dogs Are Our Lifelong Companions
Perhaps our favorite quality in our dog isn’t something we can quite put our finger on exactly. Like any friendship, it’s a give and take – and the clearly defined reasons why you consider your dog to be a friend don’t necessarily exist.
It’s a general sense of enjoying time together – sharing a moment or an experience. Imagining if your dog could only talk to you, the incredible stories it would tell. It’s delighting in the simple pleasures of life together like scratching that itch your dog can’t quite reach.
And, whether you’re going for a walk with your dog, simply relaxing with them in the shade on a summer day, or dealing with the loss of a loved one, they’ll be with you.
Dogs seem to go through life trusting and looking for whatever good they can find.
Perhaps we wish to emulate them in this way and hope to see the very best in ourselves. Either way, the more we live life to the fullest with our dogs, the happier and healthier we will likely be along the way.