Why We Need Dogs
It is said that dogs are a human’s best friend, and the logic behind this sentiment is evident to most dog owners. Dogs are loyal, devoted, loving, dependable, and adorable. Who wouldn’t want that in a best friend? But, according to research, dogs can be much more than a trusted friend. There is evidence proving the physical benefits of living with a canine companion. It varies from increased physical activity and improved cardiovascular health to decreased blood pressure and lower cholesterol. Dogs bring so much to our lives, and science supports it!
Emerging research shows a variety of ways that dogs provide support and a sense of ease from the daily emotional and psychological stresses we deal with, to helping us deal with trauma.
Dogs have so much to teach us, and one of those things is mindfulness. When your dog is bathing in the sun as the light streams through the window, they are doing nothing but that. They are entirely in the moment, experiencing the warmth that the sun provides and not worrying about anything else. We could all learn to slow down and appreciate the moments in the sun as our dogs do. Dogs can even inspire mindfulness during your ordinary walk! Dogs can make us appreciate each moment — the sounds, sights, and smells. As you go through your day, take a cue from your dog and try to take a minute to absorb the world around you. Savor what is happening and try to engage your senses. Then thank your pup for setting such a good example.
It is also proven that dogs relieve stress. Life is filled with to-do lists that never seem to end and various other stressful things we have to deal with. Recent studies have shown the immense psychological benefits of having a furry friend come to work. Many companies offer a dog-friendly environment to attempt to reduce stress among their employees. College students are another population under immense pressure. The University of British Columbia brought therapy dogs in and provided 246 students with a chance to cuddle during drop-in sessions, and the results were impressive. The students surveyed before and after seeing the dogs reported a significant drop in their overall stress level, accompanied by increased happiness and a higher energy level following the session.
Another thing dogs do is force us into the outside world. Dog owners are outside walking our dogs every day, hopefully, a few times a day, even if our dogs have backyards to run around in. Having a dog motivates us to get into green spaces such as a walk along a beach, in the park, or into the woods, which is also incredibly beneficial for our physical and mental health. Research in recent years has shown that nature provides a myriad of positive impacts on us by relieving stress, increasing social interaction, boosting your mood, encouraging physical activity, enhancing your creativity, and soothing pain. Even if you’re in an urban environment, you reap the benefits of just getting outside with your pups. Studies suggest that being in any space with natural elements will boost your mental health, whether it’s a small park, a tree-lined street, or an endless coastline.
Dogs can also offer endless amounts of empathy. The comfort that dogs can bring touches people in various circumstances, even in people suffering from trauma. A recent Los Angeles Times article reported how young sexual abuse victims have been finding comfort in therapy dogs provided by the district attorney’s office in Orange County. The program aims to help comfort victims of sexual abuse when meeting with prosecutors on their cases.
Dogs also can help provide a sense of purpose to those who are struggling. Studies are being done that show that people are happiest when they feel their lives have a purpose. People find joy and renewal in their hopes for the future when people have something to take care of, such as plants or animals. The need to care for something other than oneself offers a reason to get up and do what needs to be done. This is especially helpful for older people. However, dogs can help drive that intention for many people despite their age because they are nearly impossible to forget about. They remind us when we need to walk them, feed them, care for them, and we get little love in return.
Along with giving people a purpose, dogs also decrease depression and loneliness. We might be more connected than ever on social media, but loneliness is becoming a health epidemic in these times of physical disconnection. However, research shows one of the benefits of dog ownership is a sense of companionship that leads to fewer feelings of loneliness. Pet owners also show lower rates of depression and those who do have depression suffer fewer symptoms when there is an animal in the home. Our animals bring a calming presence, and the social bond they bring is compelling. They give us something to focus our energy on instead of negative thoughts. When a pet pays attention to you, they’re giving you unconditional love and acceptance.
Dogs also promote socialization, even during a pandemic. For nearly a year, one of the times we have an excuse to get out of the house is when we go for a walk with our dogs. This usually leads to casual conversations with neighbors, from a safe distance, of course. In a study of nearly 1000 people, those who walk their dog at least four times per week were more likely to feel a stronger sense of community than people who didn’t own a dog. Even if it’s just from seeing neighbors every day, having social support gives people a sense of belonging, which is necessary to our overall well-being. Walking your dog is also a great way to explore your community.
In a study of wheelchair users, people who had a dog with them received more smiles from strangers and had more conversations with passersby than wheelchair users who did not have a dog. This is important because non-disabled people often react uncomfortably when in situations with people who have disabilities. They will often avoid gaze and keep their interactions brief, which causes emotional distance, which means dogs are encouraging friendlier exchanges between people! These results also suggest service dogs have a more significant role than just work tasks; they enhance social connections opportunities. So, next time you’re out with your pup, try to enjoy some banter with another dog owner, from a safe distance, of course. Even a smile and a wave across the street can go a long way.
Silver Lucy wouldn't exist without our dogs loving us, and us loving them in return. Our goal is to honor your dog and the love you have for them so you can keep them with you wherever you go, even if it's just to work every day. Our dogs give us so much, we think they deserve the world in return.