Dogs can be a panacea for owners. Man’s best friend is known for alleviating many medical illnesses, notably hypertension, depression and low immune functioning. Dog is man’s best friend for a reason–they provide stress relief and social interaction, and improve overall health.
Dog and human have been companions for many years. In Israel, a 12,000-year-old human skeleton was found with a six-month-old wolf pup. Dogs have always been a popular pet because of the bond they develop with their owners, which is a powerful bond that any dog owner will tell you is for real.
While dog owners will say their pets make them feel better, thus improving their general health, there is no concrete evidence that dogs actually improve human health. The evidence is mostly anecdotal, with a few small, focused studies, but the results have been mostly mixed.
But one substantial study, funded by the National Institutes of Health (NIH), focused on 421 adults who had suffered heart attacks. One year later, the researchers learned that dog owners were more likely to be alive compared with those who were not dog owners. Another study, also funded by the NIH and focused on 2,000 adult dog owners, demonstrated that those who walked their dogs regularly suffered less from obesity compared with those who did not walk or own a dog. These studies show owning dogs can be a panacea for owners.
The simple act of petting a dog can calm and ease stress. Dogs benefit from petting, too, as they feel soothed. Dogs love receiving human attention and to play, so they encourage physical activity and a sense of playfulness. They require daily walks, which is helpful for humans to get in some physical activity. It is important to train the dog to walk on a leash appropriately, which can be a task all on its own depending on the personality of the dog, but once the leash training is accomplished, walking dogs is stress reducing and can encourage humans to take in their surroundings and become more in tune with nature.
Owning a dog encourages social interaction. A good example of this is when coming across another owner walking his or her dog , thus encouraging the start of a dialogue. This happens at dog parks, too. When people are alone and not walking pets, they are less inclined to strike up a conversation but owners and their dogs feel comfortable initiating interaction. Dogs are a great conversation starter (and they don’t even have to talk, just bark), and dogs themselves benefit from receiving attention and petting from other humans.
Dog owners also benefit from improved mood and a better sense of well being. Being responsible for another dog helps the human feel needed and wanted. However bad a day it is for the human, the dog will need to be fed, played with and taken on walks. These daily responsibilities provide structure to daily life, especially for retired or elderly owners.
Best of all, owning a dog provides companionship. Owners talk to their dogs all the time, as a way to communicate and as a way to solve personal problems. This also helps the owner focus on the dog instead of his or her own worries or concerns. The companionship of a dog is a healthy combatant against loneliness, which is common among the elderly, housebound and the ill.
With these health benefits gained from dog ownership, it is clear that dogs are a panacea for owners. Owning a dog eases stress and encourages social interaction and, in return, the dog owner gets a dog’s lifetime of unconditional love and companionship.
By Juana Poareo