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The Psychological and Health Impacts of Human-Dog Relationships

Human-animal interactions have been studied widely and while there are conflicting results, many pet owners believe what some studies have shown, which is that human-animal interactions have positive impacts including:

  • More positive social behavior, interpersonal interactions, and mood;
  • Lower stress-related measures such as cortisol, heart rate, and blood pressure; 
  • Less self-reported fear and anxiety;
  • Stronger mental health; and
  • Better physical health, specifically a lower likelihood of cardiovascular diseases.

While conclusive evidence is not yet available, from experience we know that pets create many positive situations in our lives that lead us to better emotional, mental and physical wellness. These include:

  • Dogs make us more social, which can contribute to our well-being.
  • Dogs can make us feel less lonely, or depressed. They are our steadfast companions.
  • Dogs can give us a sense of meaning or purpose. When we have to care for another living being, this responsibility can bring more meaning to our lives.
  • Dogs get us out into nature. Nature is known to calm and soothe, and to bring us back into the present moment.
  • Dogs help us practice mindfulness and encourage us to be fully present in the current moment — just as they are.
  • Dogs can help relieve stress and provide loving support.

Even though the scientific basis for the physical and emotional benefits of having a dog is still being established, it is clear that dogs bring their owners a lot of happiness and joy — something that feels good but also contributes to better emotional and physical health. 

References:

  • https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3408111/
  • https://thepsychologist.bps.org.uk/volume-24/edition-3/value-pets-human-health 
  • https://www.psychologytoday.com/us/blog/animals-and-us/201808/does-having-pets-really-make-us-healthier 
  • https://www.psychologytoday.com/us/blog/the-right-balance/201804/how-dogs-drive-emotional-well-being 
  • https://www.npr.org/sections/health-shots/2012/03/09/146583986/pet-therapy-how-animals-and-humans-heal-each-other 
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