People who own pets tend to be healthier and happier than those who don’t. They are less likely to suffer depression. Pet owners often have lower blood pressure and cholesterol levels and make fewer visits to the doctor. Interacting with a pet can boost serotonin and dopamine levels making a person calmer and more relaxed.
There are some benefits which come particularly from owning a dog. A dog owner who suffers a heart attack has a greater likelihood of being alive a year later than someone who does not own a dog. Some dogs are able to smell significant drops in the blood sugar level of their owners and will change their behaviour to draw attention to the change. In the USA an organisation called Dogs4Diabetics has been established to train dogs as companions for people with unstable glucose levels.
A dog can encourage its owner to exercise. Even if the owner isn’t feeling energetic he/she is quite likely to make the effort to take Fido for a walk. Who can resist those pleading eyes? My little dog has a way of putting his head to one side and lifting up one paw. I can’t say no. When we are out walking we often come across other people walking a dog and will say, ‘Hello’. Even walkers who do not have a dog will sometimes stop to talk and ask if they can pat my dog.
Children benefit from living with a pet. Animals in the child’s environment help strengthen his/her immune system and reduce the likelihood of getting allergies. Children who have pets have fewer days off sick from school. Therapy dogs are now being trained as companions for children with autism. The trained dog can often sense when the child is becoming tense and will nuzzle the child or put its head in his/her lap which has a calming effect.
A social dog can help break the ice when someone visits by giving the visitor something to talk about. This can be good for a child who is shy. A pet tends to take the attention away from the child, allowing him/her to feel less self conscious. The child may feel safer because his/her dog is present. If a dog likes a cuddle and the visitor likes animals, stroking the dog may also help the visitor relax.
A dog can be a great caregiver, providing company when someone is unwell or feeling down. Years ago I had a dog called Ricky who was very much in tune with the humans in his environment. Ricky always sat next to the person who needed care or company most. When my baby was born Ricky would come and get me when he cried.
Dogs are being used to help soldiers in the USA who suffer Post Traumatic Stress Disorder. It has been found soldiers with a dog have a decreased suicide rate and .are able to get back into society more quickly. It is thought being responsible for looking after their dog gives the soldiers a purpose and the company is beneficial. Also, a dog doesn’t ask questions about the traumatic experiences of war.
Owning a dog can lead to some amusing situations. Laughter is the best medicine so having a laugh about something funny your dog has done can boost your health. It is also a tale (or should that be 'tail'?) to share with the rest of the family and your dog loving friends.
A dog is great company and will give its owner unconditional love. Those of us who love dogs would have one even if research hadn’t been done proving the health and psychological benefits of dog ownership.