If you think about it objectively, it’s a weird idea to have an animal living in your home, walking around freely. One who has fur, long nails, and sharp teeth.
One who could just as easily cause you a great deal of damage as lick your hand. Yet millions of people live with a dog–sometimes more than one.
A great deal of research has been performed to figure out the symbiotic relationship between humans and canines. No one can deny the mutual attraction and it goes much deeper than a cute furry critter to warm your lap on a cold night.
There are quantifiable psychological benefits to owning a dog. (Some people object to the use of the term “owner” and prefer “guardian”; no offense is intended by using any term to describe the dog-human relationship.)
Time for Walkies
There are physical advantages to having a dog as well: a dog needs exercise or s/he will trash your house. You get exercise when you engage in activity with your pet. Even on a rainy or cold day, you usually must go outside to walk your dog. Dogs are great activity companions for walking, hiking, and swimming and they never complain. They are also a good social ice-breaker and a way to meet other people (with and without dogs).
Bond, Dog Bond
One study measured blood pressure when a person interacted with a dog with whom there was a bond, someone else’s dog, and reading quietly alone. It found that the effect of petting and spending time with a bonded dog reduced heart and blood pressure rates to the level of quietly reading: calm and content. Another examined the effects of having a companion dog present during and after a stressful situation and found that sometimes dogs are better friends than people:
“This study indicates that even when relationship quality is similarly high for companion dogs and friends, dogs may be associated with greater reductions in owners’ cardiovascular reactivity to stress, particularly if there is a potential for evaluation apprehension in the human friendships. These findings support the value of the human-companion animal relationship in promoting human welfare.”
When “I’m Feeling Blue, all I Have to do is Take a Look at You”
People who own dogs are less likely to suffer anxiety and depression ; even thinking about your dog can reduce blood pressure and relieve depressive feelings. Pet guardians have higher self-esteem and experience less perceived stress and loneliness than people who don’t have pets. You’re better off, however, not sharing your bed with them.