What does it mean to have a bond with your dog? More than you know. Genuine affection between you and your dog has many benefits towards emotional and physical wellbeing. Luckily, there is plenty of research dedicated to this topic that showcases exactly how having a dog in your life changes it for the better. Here are six scientific reasons why affection is healthy for both you and your pooch.
It’s All in Their Heads
In an MRI study, Emory University measured dogs’ neural responses to smells that are either familiar (like the scent of their favorite human!) or unknown. They found that the dog owner’s smell directly triggers the caudate nucleus, also known as the “reward center.” In other words, each time your dog gets close to smell you, you’re activating their reward circuits!
Dog Therapy Really Works
In 2018, the University of British Columbia’s psychology department did a study of the benefits of one-on-one dog therapy with their stressed-out university students. “The results were remarkable,” said Stanley Coren, study co-author and professor emeritus of psychology at UBC. “We found that, even 10 hours later, students still reported slightly less negative emotion, feeling more supported, and feeling less stressed, compared to students who did not take part in the therapy dog session.” In other words, cuddle your dog for some much-needed stress relief.
Dogs are Linked to a Healthier Lifestyle
In 2014, the Mayo Clinic did a study entitled “Dog Ownership and Cardiovascular Health.” Here they included 1769 subjects including pet owners in general, dog owners and non-pet owners. Dog owners reported higher levels of physical activity, a better diet, and blood glucose at an ideal level more so than any other category. The conclusion reads that dog owners had a much higher chance of achieving recommended behavioral cardiovascular health metrics than non-dog owners.
Praise Good Behavior
Teaching your dog the ropes sometimes is challenging. Rewarding good behavior by praising them, even if they’re sitting there looking especially cute means you’re reinforcing good behavior. “Go over to your dog and give him 30 seconds of love or a healthy treat,” suggests Dr. Oscar Chavez DVM on PetMD. “You may also end up having a calmer pet over time if you are consistent about this.”
The Calming Touch
Having a dog has been linked to many studies about lowered blood pressure and cardiovascular disease. A Harvard study shows that dogs have a calming effect on humans due to them experiencing a heart rate and blood pressure patterns that go up and back to normal quicker. There is also something known as the “pet effect,” where studies show blood pressure going down almost immediately when a person pets a dog.
Cuddling Your Dog Means Less Doctor’s Visits
Interestingly, when someone has a dog in their life, they are less likely to go to the doctor for minor issues. Research suggests this likely is due to the release of oxytocin, also known as the “cuddle hormone.” This hormone plays a huge role in bonding with people and animals, and the release of this hormone regularly is also tied in with helping people with depression or anxiety.
In other words, you have six more reasons to love your furry best friend.