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The Psychological Benefits of Owning a Dog

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The Psychological Benefits of Owning a Dog

There’s nothing quite like the love and loyalty you get from having a dog. Those puppy dog eyes, getting up with you as you make a cup of tea and the excitement of walkies are enough alone to melt your heart.

But owning a dog has far reaching psychological benefits, that extend beyond being your BFFF (best furry friend forever).

Research shows that being in the company of a companion animal such as a dog can improve our physical and mental health as well as bolster our social skills.

For our physical health, a report published in the Scientific Reports journal in 2017 concluded that owning dog can make us live longer, especially if we live alone. The study was conducted in Sweden and it found that those living with a dog had a lower risk of death from cardiovascular disease.

This, the researchers say, is due to a variety of factors – dog owners tend to be more active, have a better reaction to stress and have more robust gut bacteria (called the microbiome) that helps support a healthier immune system.

But physical health aside, dogs have multiple benefits to our mental health: 

  • Dogs lower our stress hormones – research shows that cuddling dogs reduces the stress hormone cortisol and raises the feel-good hormones serotonin and dopamine, making us feel less stressed after just a few short minutes.
  • Dogs make us more attentive and mindful – our canine friends are experts at being completely and utterly in the moment. The unbridled joy they experience at discovering something to sniff on a walk, or having the same treat they’ve had a thousand times before is so inspiring. They can motivate us to feel the same – 100% engaged and present in what is happening in the right here and now. Take a deep breath and notice the sights, smells and sounds around you, and see how relaxed that makes you feel. If only we had tails to wag in appreciation!
  • Dogs help with motivation and purpose – there’s nothing like a wagging tail, pleading eyes and excited panting to get us up and outside for a walk.
  • Dogs provide company and combat loneliness – repeated studies have proven that dogs are beneficial for elderly or lonely people. Dogs make great, loyal companions for people living alone or who struggle with social anxieties. They also help promote social connections when out for walks.
  • Dogs give us comfort – the effects of depression, anxiety, PTSD and other mental health problems can be relieved by having a pet dog who provides warmth, love, comfort and familiarity.

So if you already have a dog, give them an extra treat today as a thanks for being so good for your health. If you don’t already have a dog but you’re considering it, do it! Visit your local rescue centre and invite in a new canine member into your family. With all that love and devotion they’ll bring with them, it’ll be the best thing you’ve ever done!

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