Ways Canine Companionship Can Boost Your Health
Arriving home from work to see the happy face and wagging tail of your furry best friend can immediately turn around a bad day. While lovingly petting the wiggling creature that simply cannot contain its excitement, you can’t help but feel the stress slip away.
Such feelings are not imaginary. Research shows there are many benefits to owning a pet, including stress reduction. From a stronger cardiovascular system to a more fulfilling social life, here are some of the many ways dogs can improve our lives and health.
Starting with some benefits for the heart: As dog owners typically get more exercise as they care for their canine companions, it leads to lower blood pressure levels. Male pet owners were also found to have lower triglyceride and cholesterol levels — which are signs of heart disease — than non-owners. What’s more, studies on patients recovering from major cardiovascular events found those who owned a dog had better outcomes. In fact, heart attack survivors who lived alone with their dogs had a 33% lower risk of death compared to those without.
Dog walking is not the only element aiding in heart health. Scientific findings have shown positive human-animal interaction can result in biological responses with measurable clinical effects for both parties. For instance, petting a dog just for 10 to 15 minutes can reduce cortisol and relax muscles — easing mental and physical stress. As stress is one of the biggest contributing factors to poor heart health, these alleviating effects can do wonders.
Petting and playing with a dog can also increase oxytocin levels as well as serotonin and dopamine rates. As these nerve transmitters are triggered, calming properties and feelings of pleasure are released, leading to a sense of happiness. Such positive effects are being utilized to help stressed college students, aging patients with dementia, and individuals with PTSD.
Another benefit to owning a pet is the structure and validation it could bring to a person’s life. Ownership calls for many responsibilities. Pets need to be fed, exercised, and given attention routinely. While fulfilling these needs, owners have reportedly felt a stronger sense of purpose and security overall. The same goes for children caring for pets; many grow up to be more responsible, secure, and active adults.
Lastly, dog owners have been found to be more social and less isolated. Whether it’s due to the attention gained from the little cutie or from activities involving them, pet owners often have an easier time socializing. More remarkably, people who experience a strong attachment to their pets have deeper connections in their human relationships and within their community.
Modern research has shown us that the advantages of the love and unconditional support a dog brings to our lives go beyond what we see on the surface. For further scientific-based health benefits of owning a dog, please see the accompanying resource.
Graphic created by Recherche Kennels – Goldens