It’s coming up to national pet week, so I thought I’d do a bit of a different post, writing about the positive effects of having a dog. I hope after reading you’ll look at your pet with new found understanding, and if you don’t have one, maybe you’ll adopt, sign up to pet sitting websites like me, or just go on ‘puppy therapy’ walks in the park to get your puppy fix.
Almost everyone I know feels better after contact with a dog, cat or other domesticated animal. There’s something about their unjudging looks and innocence that just makes you feel good. Having signed up for multiple pet sitting websites at university, I know how much of a difference it makes to my happiness when there’s a dog around in the house. But why is it? What is so special about pets – dogs especially – that makes them so wonderful?
A little background: dogs evolved around 130,000 years ago, where they are thought to have originated from grey wolves. They were thought to scavenge food around temporary human settlements (humans hadn’t even moved on from hunter-gatherer societies at this point) and become more and more closely associated with those humans. Those that were the least scared of humans survived better, and over time the friendliest, most trainable and useful dogs were later bred into the many breeds of dog we see today. Some were used for hunting, some for companionship, some as watch dogs – there were even some breeds specifically bred for keeping your feet warm in bed
So what makes dogs (and pets in general) so awesome?
- People with pets have higher well-being (e.g. greater self esteem, more exercise) and individuality (e.g. higher conscientiousness, less lonely)
- Pets can alleviate social isolation and reduce negativity from bad social interactions in everyday life.
- Spending time with animals releases endorphins, the same feel good hormones that we get when we exercise.
- Pet owners are less likely to die within 1 year of having a heart attack and elderly people with dogs have fewer medical visits
- Lower blood pressure and heart rate just from stroking a pet, and also in the long term – those with pets maintained lower blood pressure and cholesterol even when apart from their pets.
- Encouragement to go outside and walk in fresh air – this has a multitude of physical and mental benefits all by itself.
Has having a pet helped you in any way? Could you consider adopting one if circumstances allowed?
If you’re interested in getting a pet of your own, please consider adopting at your local shelter.