10 Ways Dogs Make Us Better People

10 Ways Dogs Make Us Better People

If you’re a pet owner you likely consider your fur baby part of your family. You dote on his dopey doggie smile or marvel at her fabulous feline grace. You brave frigid early morning walks and daily poop scooping duties. You do it all in the name of L.O.V.E. and feel deep in your heart that your efforts are worth the reward.

A BarkBox study found that pets don’t simply make people happier – they make them better humans. Wanting a deeper understanding of the pet/human bond, they commissioned a revealing poll of pet parents that revealed that 93% of dog dads and moms think that their pet made them a better person by improving their emotional, behavioral and physical well-being.

For some it was as simple as the motivation to get out of bed in the morning. Apparently, the presence of an enthusiastic and loving dog made greeting a new day much easier for seven out of ten people polled. Others claimed that caring for their pet made them more patient (54%), responsible (52%) and affectionate (47%).  As a pet owner you likely relate to many, if not all of these sentiments. But it turns out this is just the tip of the proverbial tail. There are a lot of other ways that loving and caring for animals actually improves our own humanity.

  1. Improved Fitness: Owning a dog necessitates more physical activity; they need to be walked and played with on a regular basis, and we, as responsible pet owners must rise to the occasion – even when we’d rather stay in bed or on the couch. As a result, most dog owners are getting the recommended minimum of 30 minutes of exercise a day, keeping them in better overall shape as well as lowering the risk of heart disease than people without pets.
  2. Better Social Skills: A 2006 study conducted by Kansas State University’s Department of Sociology, Anthropology and Social Work demonstrated that prison inmates who cared for animals tended to have better social skills and less violent behavior. It also found that pet programs have the potential to “break down barriers of fear and mistrust between staff and inmates.” While most of us will never face the stress of incarceration, the study’s findings have applications for everyone facing the interpersonal challenges of 21st Century life. On a most basic level, getting outside and to the dog park provides daily opportunities to engage with the broader community.
  3. Stress Reduction: Recent studies have confirmed what pet-lovers have known for years: being with our pets makes us feel better – especially in tumultuous and difficult times. Science magazine published a revealing study that showed that when a dogs and their owners looked into each other’s eyes, levels of oxytocin, the so-called “love hormone,” increased in both of their systems. Interestingly, this is the same chemical reaction that creates and promotes the bond between a mother and her child. Another study found that people’s blood pressure readings were improved by owning a pet.
  4. Models of Resilience: If you need a role model for resilience, look no further than your local animal shelter. Abused and neglected dogs have an almost saintly knack for forgiveness and rarely fixate on the past. It is this indominable spirit that makes them so suited to their work as service animals and therapy dogs for veterans and other people suffering from trauma and emotional challenges.
  5. Unconditional Love: This is the first quality that comes to mind when many of us think of our pets. No matter what we do or how we act, our pets seem to find the best of us and don’t know the meaning of the word “grudge.” Unlike humans, they are incapable of holding resentment or coming from a place of judgement. They also live fiercely and freely in the present moment which allows them to have complete presence with us – mere mortals who they believe are gods. But they also have an ability to evoke unconditional love from us; it’s the reason so many who distrust other people can feel completely at ease with their animal companions.
  6. Evoking Compassion: No matter how large or small, how old or young, out companion animals depend on us for their health and wellness. As sentient beings who feel deeply cannot speak nor advocate on their own behalf, they require that we protect and care for them. In fact, studies reveal that children raised in a home with companion animals adopt a sense of empathy more quickly and deeply than other children. Having a family pet puts children in the position of a caregiver who soon learn that if they want to be loved & trusted by the household dog, they’ll need to treat him with consideration. 
  7. A Love of Laughter: Animals, by their very nature, are comedians. Sometimes they know it and try to make us laugh, other times it happens inadvertently when we witness their uninhibited, goofy behavior. Laughter, like love, releases feel-good hormones that strengthen your immune system, boost mood, diminish pain, and protect you from the damaging effects of stress. And if you don’t have your own furry clown around, Youtube has plenty of videos to bring it on!
  8. A Love of Life: If you’ve ever spent any time with a dog outside on a sunny day, you will have witnessed a being in complete contentment. Every scent is to be explored, every butterfly to be chased and the green grass is an open invitation for revelry. Or consider a cat lounging on a windowsill in a warm shaft of sunlight. Delicately licking her paws and basking in the beauty of her being and the present moment, she is in the bliss of the present moment and knows there is no better place to be. If we, as humans, could enjoy even one tenth of this contentment, imagine how much happier we would be.
  9. Encouraging Adventure: Cats are known for their curiosity. Dogs are appreciated for their openness to new things. We, as human beings would do well to emulate them both. Although most veterinarians agree that a structured routine makes for a healthier, happier pet, our companion animals lack the rigidity that makes everyday life a bit lackluster.
  10. Healthier, Happier Lives: The combined effect of the benefits listed above is a better life for pet lovers. Both anecdotal and scientific studies confirm that our pets give us far more than we could ever give them in terms of health and wellness. Some studies even point to longevity as a benefit. From buffering us from the effects of stress to modeling forgiveness and teaching empathy, our companion animals make us healthier, happier and better human beings.

 

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