Fur babies are more than just cute and cuddly. Did you know your dog can potentially help your mental health? It’s true! Your dog may help to promote calm and release stress, and they may even help to improve your overall well-being.* Wondering why? Keep reading to find out.
Mood-Boosting Benefits of Your Pup:
- Studies suggest your pooch can help reduce anxiety, stress and depression. In a survey of pet owners, about 74% said they noticed an improvement in their overall mental health, and 75% reported they noticed a friend or family member’s mental health improving because of the furry friend in their lives.*
- Feeling isolated and lonely? Your pup might be able to help with that! Studies suggest your dog can help ease loneliness and feeling of isolation. When you see, touch, hear, or talk to your loyal companion, it may bring a sense of goodwill, nurturing, and happiness.*
- Your dog can help encourage new friendships to form. If you need a little more human interaction in your day-to-day, you can take your pup out for a walk or to the dog park and spark up a conversation with a neighbor or fellow dog lover. Your dog can be a helpful facilitator in getting to know new people.*
- Do you sleep with your furry friend by your side? If you cozy up to your dog like a big, squishy teddy bear, studies have shown that snoozing with your four-legged pal can provide security and comfort, plus foster an emotional connection that may improve cortisol, heart rate, and blood pressure. So, snooze on, snuggle buddies.*
- If you and your pup are a duo of old birds, we have some good news for you. In a survey on aging healthily, adults over 50 reported less stress, a better sense of purpose, and more social connection because of their pets.*
- If you undergo work-related stress, like the 40% of employees who say their job negatively affects their health, try asking your boss for a bring-your-dog-to-work day. Studies show that pets in the workplace can improve stress levels and even promote employee satisfaction.* Wagging tails does sound like the perfect medicine for those work day blues.
Dogs Working Hard for Their Humans
These incredible dogs are extensively trained animals instructed to offer assistance to disabled people. They can perform tasks like guiding a visually impaired person, alerting a hard of hearing person, pulling a wheelchair, protecting a person having a seizure, and so much more. The federal ADA (Americans with Disabilities Act) allows service dogs and handlers access to public spaces. Service dogs can be adopted, already trained and ready to go, or raised and trained by their handler. Service dog evaluation and certification is much more extensive and thorough than therapy or ESA certifications.*
These dogs are trained pups capable of providing comfort and affection to the elderly in retirement homes, patients in hospice or hospitals, students in schools, survivors in disaster areas, and more. Therapy dogs require an evaluation and certification, along with an amiable, sociable temperament. ESAs, comfort animals, or therapy dogs are not service animals under Title II and Title III of the ADA.*
Emotional Support Dogs
ESAs are loyal companions that can help their owners process difficult emotions and feelings, and are usually not trained. They require a letter from a licensed therapist. According to Fair Housing laws, ESAs are recognized as assistance animals, therefore granting them the right to live with their human, who may experience depression, anxiety, PTSD, or other disability, as a “reasonable accommodation.” This rule is typically applied when an ESAs’ human is traveling on a plane or living in a building that might have a ‘no pet policy.’ ESAs are not limited to just dogs, either, like service animals are.*
Our Emotional Bond to Our Pets
You love your fur baby, and you feel like you understand them. Did you know there is actually a science to this bond?
A 2017 Finnish study found that empathetic, sensitive humans are more likely to interpret the facial expressions of dogs, also implying that humans perceive human and dog facial expression in a similar way.*
Plus, we have long history together - the canine and the human.
We even share some of the same genetic characteristics. It is estimated that the domestication of dogs began almost 32,000 years ago, and over time we developed similar genetic markers for diet, neural processing, and disease.* We’re closer than you might think!
So, it’s no wonder our dogs have a profound effect on us emotionally and mentally. They are, after all, man’s best friend.
How has your dog helped your overall well-being?
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Shintani, M., Senda, M., Takayanagi, T., Katayama, Y., Furusawa, K., Okutani, T., Kataoka, M., & Ozaki, T. (2010, April 1). The effect of service dogs on the improvement of health-related quality of life. OKAYAMA UNIVERSITY SCIENTIFIC ACHIEVEMENT REPOSITORY. Retrieved from https://ousar.lib.okayama-u.ac.jp/en/32851
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Kujala, M. V., Somppi, S., Jokela, M., Vainio, O., & Parkkonen, L. (n.d.). Human empathy, personality and experience affect the emotion ratings of dog and human facial expressions. PLOS ONE. Retrieved from https://journals.plos.org/plosone/article?id=10.1371%2Fjournal.pone.0170730
Pietrangelo, A. (2020, October 13). Sleeping with dogs: Benefits for your health, risks, and precautions. Healthline. Retrieved from https://www.healthline.com/health/sleeping-with-dogs
Lee, J. J. (2013, May 14). Dog and human genomes evolved together - animals. Dog and Human Genomes Evolved Together. Retrieved from https://www.nationalgeographic.com/animals/article/130514-dogs-domestication-humans-genome-science
5 ways pets help with stress and mental health. www.heart.org. (2021, October 28). Retrieved from https://www.heart.org/en/healthy-living/healthy-bond-for-life-pets/pets-and-mental-health#:~:text=It's%20no%20secret%20that%20pets,likely%20to%20develop%20heart%20disease.
Feldman, S. (n.d.). For better mental health, experience the pet effect. Mental Health America. Retrieved from https://mhanational.org/blog/better-mental-health-experience-pet-effect