The benefits of owning a pet

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Scientific information and studies show that dogs are called “Man’s Best Friend” for good reason. The interactions between dogs and humans is like no other. Pets are known to reduce loneliness and provide psychological health benefits.

A study in the Journal of Aging and Mental Health showed that pet owners over 60 years of age were 36 percent less likely than non-pet owners to report loneliness. Dogs promote routines that require activity and bring their owners to greener spaces. Walking the dog or throwing the ball in the backyard reduces negative moods and encourages exercise for the owners. Getting the dog out and about also increases the opportunity for other human social interactions. We all know that dog owners love to talk about their dogs and build canine relationships.

An article in the journal Science investigates the hormone oxytocin and the “gaze positive loop” phenomenon in the human-dog bond. Humans bond emotionally when we gaze into each other’s eyes through a process mediated by oxytocin. Researchers have found that gaze-bonding also exists between us and our dogs by increasing oxytocin release. Oxytocin release has the physiological benefits of slowing heart rate, inhibiting stress hormones, and creating a sense of calm, comfort, and focus. 

Research is also underway exploring how dogs may predict and possibly prevent seizures in humans. Dogs already provide companionship and emotional support for epileptic patients. Some dogs have even been trained to notify other family members or lie down next to someone having a seizure to prevent injury. Work is being done to determine if dogs can recognize a scent from the owner that predicts when a seizure is about to occur. 

Dogs are very helpful for veterans recovering from mental health issues related to post-traumatic stress disorder. Studies have shown that when these vets are given service dogs their symptoms improve. There are many personal stories of better sleep patterns and less depression in as little as three months after canine interactions. 

Living with dogs can promote feelings of contentment and trust in children that have anxiety issues. Yale studies have shown that the benefits range from lower stress and loneliness to increased social interactions and mindfulness. It’s always great for kids to have a friend to hug who wags her tail in return.