The relationship between humans and dogs as companion animals is nothing new. The human-dog bond has been engrained in evolution. There are traces of humans owning dogs from over 15,000 years ago. There are many pros to sharing your life with a dog. Some things that come into mind are; physical activity, emotional support, and companionship! There are other considerations and benefits which include: better physical health and new studies reveal it can positively affect your mental health, too.
We know that physical benefits can come from the extra exercise that playing and walking require, and the stress relief from having a best friend on hand. But the physical benefits extend further. In a new Swedish study, published in the Scientific Reports Medical Journal, dog ownership (guardianship) can be linked to a reduced risk of cardiovascular disease and death. The study also concludes that for people who live alone, having a dog can decrease their risk of death by 33% and their risk of cardiovascular-related death by 36%. This is compared to single individuals, without a pet, according to the study. But how can this be? As a single dog guardian, the individual is the only person who is walking and interacting with their dog, as opposed to people who are married with children.
In addition to the physical benefits, studies reveal that there are mental health benefits! I’m sure that most people with a dog can agree that they are part of the family. Though mental health studies are just starting to appear, they suggest that animal therapy is a proven antidote to anxiety and loneliness! Dogs can help calm stress, fear and anxiety in young children, the elderly and other age groups. Humans by nature are social creatures and we crave social interactions. Relationships with people can be tricky because of emotions and circumstances. With animals, however, the love is there unconditionally. According to Dr. David Haworth, Chair of the Research Working Group at the Human Animal Bond Research Institute, animals have an innate sense of knowing when a person is in need. Dogs, in particular, are in tune with their human guardians and they can understand our needs. In addition to this, there are other mental health benefits to consider. Spending time with your dog takes your thoughts off issues that are on your mind. When you are fully in the moment with your dog, you simply aren’t worrying about the past or the future. It’s just you and your pal. Another way to keep distracted and present with your furry friend is to take photos or videos of his or her cute antics.
Why pay thousands of dollars to a therapist? Your dog can help boost your self-esteem – after all, they are great listeners! You can talk to your dog about anything — your day, your hopes and dreams. You can practice a speech with them or utter truths that you may be afraid to share with someone else. A dog can be the perfect friend to go to when you want to vent without repercussions. In addition, children under the age of 6, pre-adolescents and teenagers get boosts in self-esteem as well as the development of a real connection with their pets. The social support from dogs can help youths feel good about themselves which enables a positive self-image, reports Rebecca Purewal, lead author of the University of Liverpool Study published in the International Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health. Regardless of age, sharing your life with a pet (dog or cat) is a wonderful way to bring happiness to your life; even adults need a self-esteem boost from time to time.
Your dog will love you unconditionally. When you walk in through the door, seeing your dog can be an instant mood-lifting boost, for example, seeing his/her tail wagging, tongue hanging out, or the way their ears perk up! Your dog doesn’t care if you just messed up a deal at work, or just failed a test; they love you for being you, whatever that means on any given day. For those of you that do not share your life with a dog consider adopting a dog from a shelter, or if you are a dog guardian, you can take a visit to an animal shelter with a family or friend and help them find a best friend this holiday season! For those of you that cannot adopt a dog, for whatever reason, consider becoming a volunteer at a shelter; this experience can boost your mental and physical health and it can give the dog companionship, even if it is just for that moment!!