Research shows what we have worked out for ourselves that dogs really are your best friend. Dogs provide comfort, support, companionship and they are loyal without judgement. On top of that, dogs are also beneficial to your mental, physical and social wellbeing. They make you happier, reduce stress, help you keep fit and active while instigating social connections.
Dogs give you a boost of oxytocin (the love hormone) as you interact with your pooch. There is much to be said for the human-animal interaction – spending just 20 minutes with a dog reduces the stress hormone cortisol and increases the love hormone oxytocin. This connection also works in reverse with the dog’s oxytocin increasing while their cortisol decreases. Dogs will show you their happiness when they see you and wag their tails.
Today, Saturday 26 August, is International Dog Day, and while you celebrate with your beloved pooch it is an opportunity to recognise and appreciate the work therapy dogs do to help people in the community rehabilitate from illness and injury. Therapy dogs also act as companions for those who have lost a loved one, need social support or help them stay active and healthy.
Here are more ways your best dog friend and therapy dogs can boost your wellbeing:
Dogs get you moving
Dogs get you out in to the fresh air so you can move your body. Whether you are playing with the dog or taking it for a walk, the physical movement improves blood flow, strengthens muscles and improves joint movement for both you and your pooch. In addition getting out into the fresh air increases blood flow to the brain improving concentration, boosts your mood and relieves stress. Even in the winter months people with dogs tend to be more active in the winter (and throughout the year) than those without pets.
Dogs help you maintain a healthy weight
While you are walking your dog, that exercise helps you to burn calories and maintain your healthy weight. A 30 minute dog walk each day can reduce the risk of illness while improving your sleep patterns for a restful night’s slumber.
Dogs promote social connection
Humans are social creatures and crave connection with others. When you take your dog out on a walk it provides many opportunities for spontaneous social interactions with the neighbours or fellow dogwalkers. Your dog allows you to make new friends with people you may not have considered talking to before, but you share a common bond over your furry for legged hounds.
Dogs help you break the cycle of loneliness by providing companionship when there is no-one else around and are great conversation starters when you are out and about in social settings.
Dogs reduce your stress and anxiety
Petting your dog’s soft silky fur brings a feeling of relaxation releasing serotonin and oxytocin to push away feelings of stress. The physical act of touch is associated with improved mood and happiness. As dogs are present moment animals, they can help you practice mindfulness and be appreciative of the connection to your furry best friend reducing your stress levels even further while encouraging relaxation. When you are relaxed, your health and wellbeing improve.