Are Dogs Helping Reduce Stress in Uncertain Times? The Answer Is Yes!
The Covid-19 pandemic has caused unprecedented levels of stress for people across the world. There is no need to explain this any further, as you surely know what we mean. However, all this disruption has had at least one positive consequence: over the past couple of months, the number of pets being adopted has hit an all-time high. So much so, that some animal shelters have even been left completely empty.
While many of these same animal shelters were worried that the increased number of adoptions will result in increased numbers of surrendered pets shortly after, so far it hasn’t happened. The reason for this is simple: dealing with all of this uncertainty is simply easier with a dog by your side. You don’t have to take our word for it, though. Today, we’ll talk about all the ways dogs help us deal with stressful situations that have been proven by many scientific studies.
“With rising healthcare costs, the positive effects of dogs on our overall health and their role in assisting in the work of healthcare professionals continue to be avid areas of scientific study” – Dr Kath Dench – Veterinarian Advisor at The Gentle Dog Trainers.
A summary of research shown listed below by HABRI – Human Animal Bond Research Institute , highlights the many proven health benefits of dog ownership
“Healthy aging is a lifelong process of making healthy decisions and lifestyle choices. Ensuring physical health at every stage of life helps us live longer and reduces risk of illness, disability and death. A significant body of literature has demonstrated the positive relationship between pet ownership and physical health, including increased physical activity and cardiovascular health.” – HABRI
But what exactly does this mean? Well, here are 4 concrete ways in which our canine companions make us better at dealing with tough situations:
Have you ever noticed you feel calmer when you are around your dog? Well, studies have shown it’s more than a subjective feeling. Many studies, for example, have confirmed that just being around a friendly dog helps reduce your blood pressure – which is a common reaction to highly stressful situations. Other studies have shown that simply stroking an animal lowers our heart rate and makes us more calm – and there is no need to mention that dogs enjoy this too! Being around dogs also reduces levels of cortisol, which is another strong indicator of stress.
Interacting with your dog is, arguably, a form of social interaction. However, this is actually not the only way dogs help us be more social. For example, studies have shown that humans accompanied by pets tend to appear more approachable and trustworthy. Not only this, but having a pet tends to make us feel less lonely, less aggressive, and more empathetic towards other people.
Although it’s hard to prove this, due to many variables involved in every human’s life, there are strong indications that pet parents have better mental and physical health than those without pets. Go figure! But how is this possible?
Well, there is at least one simple explanation. Dog owners simply tend to get more exercise, on average, than people without pets. During the pandemic, long walks with your dog might not be always an option, but there are still activities you can do together with your pet. Enjoying a game of catch with your dog can be a pleasant and healthy activity for both of you.
After reviewing a sea of previous research, the study from Frontiers in Psychology concludes that interaction in dogs must have all of these positive effects because it stimulates the production of oxytocin – the hormone of happiness and love. There are countless reports of dogs helping patients suffering from depression and anxiety. These days, we all might be dealing with this kind of feelings, and having a canine companion definitely helps!
In the year 2020, the way we live has changed in ways we could not have imagined, and some speculate it might be changed forever. In any case, we are facing a lot of uncertainty, and having a faithful companion that is always there for us is a real blessing. There is no doubt – dogs help us deal with stressful situations in so many ways. They provide companionship, make us feel less lonely, and help us be in the moment. Not to mention that simply taking care of another living being is an incredibly fulfilling experience.