Trust me, if you don’t have a dog, there’s a special kind of love you haven’t known. It’s no wonder they are called man’s best friend.
Dogs are steadfast and amazingly loyal. They are those companions who offer unconditional support and non-judgemental love every day. To have a loving dog is to have a source of comfort that never dims. The acceptance they give is like none other. Whether they are greeting you when you’ve just arrived home or they are begging for food, the joy and happiness they bring into your life are indeed immeasurable.
To put it simply, dogs are amazing.
From service dogs and therapy dogs to working dogs and home pets, canines play a huge role in the lives of several people. Below are seven more reasons why dogs will continue to retain the title of ‘man’s best friend’.
They help us live a healthier life
Numerous studies have documented the health benefits of owning a dog. Some of these benefits include a lower risk of cardiovascular disease, longer life span, reduction in allergies and asthma in kids, etc., all of which are derived from exercising our dogs regularly.
One of these studies is the Kardiozive Brno 2030 conducted by researchers at the International Clinical Research Center at St. Anne’s University Hospital in Brno. The study looked at the health of people who owned dogs, people who owned other types of pets, and people who didn’t own any pets. They found that people who owned dogs and exercised them significantly benefited from physical activity.
“In general, people who owned any pet were more likely to report more physical activity, better diet, and blood sugar at an ideal level. The greatest benefits from having a pet were for those who owned a dog, independent of their age, sex and education level,” said Andrea Maugeri, Ph.D., a researcher with the International Clinical Research Center at St. Anne’s University Hospital in Brno.
Dogs help to improve your mood
Dogs can help to improve your mood and relieve tension. Studies have revealed that playing with a dog will elevate the serotonin and dopamine level in your system. These neurotransmitters will create feelings of emotional stability and well-being, which can help with mild to moderate depression.
Whether you’re an older adult, a patient dealing with mental health conditions or a caregiver, it’s easy to feel alone and overwhelmed. Depression isn’t uncommon, either, a byproduct of isolation and loneliness.
In these cases, bonding with an animal can help fill this void with social support and, from dogs in particular, unconditional love.
An Australian study of 199 patients who were dealing with mental health conditions such as depression, anxiety or post-traumatic stress disorder found that 94% reported a “reduction of anxiety through tactile stimulation” thanks to a psychiatric assistance dog (PAD). Additionally, 51% of the patients reported that their PAD was responsible for “interrupting undesirable behavior.”
Pets can also foster human connections for their owners. Take a dog for a ramble and strangers who would never dream of approaching you in other situations will strike up a conversation centered on the animal. Even a mere smile from a passerby is a connection that can brighten your day.
Dogs offer loyalty and protection
Full-body wags. Sitting with devotion in the window until you pull into the driveway. Stepping boldly between you and any possible threat. Your dog shows her affection and loyalty in countless ways. But why are dogs so loyal to their people? It’s a question dog lovers have long pondered, and one scientists are researching more and more.
The most straightforward answer is that dogs are loyal because we provide them delicious food and shelter from the elements. While this no doubt plays a big role in dog loyalty, we do this for cats too, and it’s easy to see there’s a difference. No offense intended to the cat people among us, but felines simply don’t respond to our homecomings with quite the same gusto.
Which leads to the next explanation for the depths of dog loyalty—they are pack animals, and people are their pack. Dogs evolved from wolves, pack hunters who depended upon each other for survival. When dogs split from wolves, their social connections expanded to include humans, who offered them food, ear scratches, and even invited them inside warm tents on cold nights. You are your dog’s pack leader and your dog appreciates the safety, dog treats, and affection you provide.
There have been numerous stories of dogs who continue to visit their owner’s tomb after death. This is a testament to their loyalty. They are loyal to their owners and will go to great lengths to protect them from any harm. Dogs are territorial, and they have sharp instincts that will help them react quickly if they feel you are in danger.
Dogs will keep you happy
Dogs make great company and will keep you happy. Even when you’ve had a bad day, seeing your dog wagging its tail and offering you unconditional love will surely improve your mood.
We know that unconditional love and increased physical activity can make people feel better. But what if we could prove scientifically that dogs make us happier?
As it turns out, we can.
Studies have shown that even small interactions with dogs cause the human brain to produce oxytocin, a hormone often referred to as the “cuddle chemical.” Oxytocin increases feelings of relaxation, trust, and empathy while reducing stress and anxiety.
That warm and fuzzy feeling you get when you cuddle with your pooch? Oxytocin!
Research published in the journal Science in 2015 reported that simply gazing into each other’s eyes causes a tremendous spike in oxytocin levels in both dogs and dog guardians.
“Of the duos that had spent the greatest amount of time looking into each other’s eyes, both male and female dogs experienced a 130 percent rise in oxytocin levels, and both male and female owners a 300 percent increase.”
Dogs are great companions for the elderly
Dogs help to reduce anxiety and depression are great companions for the elderly. They are non-judgemental listeners that will provide companionship for older people suffering from conditions like dementia and Alzheimer’s, a study found.
The study, which was conducted on 56 residents from two suburban Maryland nursing homes, found that the duration and frequency of socialization behaviors (smiles, leans, verbalization, look toward, and tactile contact) increased, and agitation decreased in Alzheimer’s patients who owned dogs. What’s more? They had fewer emotional outbursts and less aggression than patients who did not own a dog.
Dogs have amazing talents.
Dogs play a significant role in our lives. From therapy dogs that are trained to provide affection and love to people who are going through mental health conditions or facing fatal health illnesses to service dogs that guide the blind and help to heal war-scarred veterans, dogs are truly man’s best friends.
To start, let’s talk about what service dogs are and how they work. Guide dogs help the blind and visually impaired navigate the world around them. These special pups go through rigorous training (as do their owners!) at special schools, which you’ll learn about shortly.
In addition to guide dogs for the blind, there are several other types of service dogs. Each service dog is rigorously trained to accommodate those with certain disabilities.
Dogs see us as their family
No, it’s not an exaggeration; neither is it our imagination. Dogs see humans as family. A group of cognitive scientists at Emory University placed dogs under an MRI machine. Before their brains were scanned, the dogs were presented with different odors. Some aromas were from other dogs, some were from food, and some were from the dogs’ human companions.
The scan showed that the dogs’ brains’ reward centers lit up most when presented with their companions’ scents, showing that dogs recognized and prioritized human relationships.
Dog-lovers have committed a few notable gaffes in interpreting dogs’ facial expressions, e.g., assuming the often-documented hangdog look signifies guilt, an emotion that, most behavior experts agree, requires a multifaceted notion of self-awareness that dogs probably don’t have.
But, as with family, our instinctive hunches about dog behavior are often correct.
“Sometimes our intuition about what’s going on inside dogs’ heads is dead-on,” said Laurie Santos, the lead researcher at Yale’s Canine Cognition Center. “Like, that dogs are seeking out help from us — and that’s true based on studies — which is different from even their closest relatives, wolves.”
The precise wish or worry lurking in a dog’s doleful look may not always be clear. But we can relish the fact that we know our pets love us as much as we hoped, maybe even more. Even if they’re not full-fledged children, they see us as family. And to us? Well, they’ll always be our babies.