9 Ways Dogs Improve the Health (& Happiness) of Their Humans
Did you know that the second week in November is Human-Animal Relationship Awareness Week? In 2021, November 13 to 19 have been dubbed a holiday to celebrate the bond between pets and humans.
To raise awareness about the bond between pets and their humans, we’ve compiled a list of ways dogs can improve the health and happiness of their humans. The following are nine key ways your dog can help your health and well-being.
1. Dogs encourage their humans to get enough exercise.
There’s scientific evidence to support the idea that dogs encourage their humans to embrace a healthier lifestyle. In fact, one study in England found that people who walk their dogs meet the recommendation to get at least two and a half hours of exercise each week.
Compared to adults without pets, pet owners were more likely to meet their exercise requirements. After all, most dog owners spend around five hours a week walking their dogs, especially if they have a breed that requires lots of outdoor exercise.
2. Dogs can make a person appear more attractive.
This may sound made up, but we promise it isn’t! Over the years, a several studies have found that dogs make people seem more attractive or likeable. One study had people rate the appearance of others in photographs.
They were asked to rate approachability, how happy the person looked, how relaxed they looked, and which photos were the best. Participants looked at photos of people alone, with a dog, and surrounded by flowers. The study's most significant finding showed that individuals with a dog in their photo were rated higher than those without.
Hilariously enough, one study found that 39% of people with dating app history swiped right on profiles with dogs because they wanted to meet the person’s dog more than they wanted to meet the person. If you’re trying to find a romantic connection, sharing photos of your dog might help you get the conversation started!
3. Dogs push their humans to be more social.
If you’ve walked around your neighbourhood with your dog, you know how true this is. Dogs often push their humans to connect with other people, most often those who also have pets.
One study discovered that pet owners are more likely to get to know others in their neighbourhood, especially when compared with non-pet owners in the area. Around 40% of pet owners report receiving social support through people they met because of their pet.
4. Dogs make their humans feel less alone.
In the point above, we mentioned that dogs push their humans to be more social. While this can help combat loneliness, pet ownership combats loneliness in other ways, too.
A small study in Australia found that owning a dog can reduce loneliness, especially for people who live alone. The group of individuals were studied over a significant period and individuals with dogs reported less incidents of loneliness than those without dogs.
5. Dogs can improve the heart health of their humans.
There are a few ways that dogs help the heart health of their humans. First, they lower blood pressure and help humans cope with stress. Second, living with a dog can reduce stress levels. Since the stress hormone cortisol can cause major heart problems, owning a dog can help your heart health.
While a dog's stress-reducing abilities play a major role in improving heart health, walking your dog also helps you get the exercise to maintain a healthy heart.
6. Dogs can help reduce stress.
There’s a reason why dogs make great companion animals. They have a special ability to offer comfort and reduce stress. Researchers took a closer look at the effect of dogs on university student stress levels. This randomised study found that even ten minutes of petting a dog significantly lowered stress hormone levels in stressed-out college students.
Because of this, dogs make great companions for humans suffering from anxiety disorders. This is a significant role played by dogs in the animal-human relationship.
7. Dogs can help those with PTSD.
Dogs are so great at reducing stress that they’re even helpful for military veterans with PTSD. One study discovered that a trained PTSD service dog helped veterans cope with anger, anxiety, sleep problems, and substance abuse symptoms.
Even if you don’t have PTSD, dogs are beneficial to people going through traumatic events. Since they’re adept at sensing and relieving stress, they offer great support during times of extreme stress or grief.
8. Dogs can make their humans happier by boosting oxytocin levels.
Oxytocin is often dubbed the “love hormone” for its ability to increase positive emotions and bonding between people and pets. A study in Japan took a closer look at the bond between humans and animals. They discovered that oxytocin levels were higher in dog owners after they spent time gazing into their pet’s eyes.
This study proves that time spent with dogs can improve happiness. Dog owners who regularly spend time playing with their dogs have a built-in emotional support system to help them cope with traumatic situations.
9. Dogs can help seniors facing long-term care for mental illness.
Even if you aren’t facing mental illness caused by aging, having an animal in your home can help support the seniors in your life. One study found that using animal-assisted therapy in nursing facilities helped dementia patients. Patients in the study showed a significant decrease in agitated behaviours. They even showed significantly better social interaction with other humans!
Another study found that pets helped reduce depression symptoms for seniors in nursing facilities. Although pet ownership isn’t always a viable option for the senior adults in your life, exposure to family pets during visits can provide seniors with mental health benefits.
There’s no denying that pets have a special bond with their humans. Scientific research provides evidence that our dogs can significantly impact our overall mental and physical health. As you celebrate Human-Animal Relationship Awareness Week, lavish your pet with love and affection. This is a truly special and mutually beneficial bond!