While my home is run by felines my boyfriend has a couple of pooches that welcome me as if I am one of the pack. For me, the best part of having dogs is that I never have to pick up a food item dropped while cooking. Be it romaine, carrots, cheese or crackers (okay, some are tossed versus dropped) I have kitchen helpers that would rival any top chef and that doesn’t include the cleaning of plates before they hit the dishwasher.
Such is the joy in sharing simple life pleasures with fur-kids and while there are countless other reasons such as “always happy to see you” and “non-judgmental” below are some scientific (and not so scientific) takes on why they make us happier.
1. They Help Us Cope with Stress
It’s true. According to a National Health Institute study, test subjects who owned a pet were found to have lower heart rates and blood pressure both at rest and when undergoing stressful tests, than those without pets. Further, studies show that just thinking of your pet can help ward off sadness and depression during stressful times.
2. They Help Us Be More Social
You can’t help but interact with people when you’re out walking your pooch but a Tufts University study also found that of 500 18- to 26-year olds surveyed, those with a strong attachment to pets also felt more connected to their communities and relationships. And those who loved a pet during teenage or young adult years were more empathetic and confident.
3. They Make Your Heart Happier
While we all know that getting out for a good walk helps our physical and mental health, studies show that if you have a pooch you’re more inspired to don the runners and make the effort. Harvard Health Publications state that a dog owner is more likely to exercise, have better cholesterol and low blood pressure.
4. They Show Us How to Slow Down
The enthusiasm of a dog is contagious. They don’t over-think a thing and their joy at the sound of their leash jingling or the treat jar opening is boundless. These tiny gestures on our part reap endless appreciation and simply reinforce the importance of setting down the smart phone and picking up a tennis ball from time to time… or smelling the proverbial roses.
5. They Stimulate Your Happiness Hormone
Seriously. A University of Japan study found that pet owners’ levels of oxytocin (the neurohormone that makes you feel happy) rose dramatically when they interacted with their pooches. All it took was for them to stare into Rover’s eyes – the longer the stare the higher the oxytocin level and the greater the feeling of happiness.
6. They Provide Us with Structure
Who hasn’t tried to dodge the daily walk and paid the price with a dog that repeatedly runs between you and the door trying to send you a visual cue. Yes, walks, feeding routines and even just scheduled playtime creates a sense of order in our lives and provides us with a sense of purpose that makes us happier and feel more productive.
7. They Just Make Us Laugh
Every pooch personality is unique and quirky. One of our boys won’t climb onto the sofa if anything is touching the cushion he wants to lay on. No blanket, cushion, newspaper can touch the pillow and I’m always jumping up to remove said offensive items so he can climb up. Let’s face it, we all love to nurture and indulge these crazy behaviors which never fail to provide a quiet chuckle.
Mary Simpson is a writer and communications professional from Port Credit, Ontario. A soft touch for anything stray, she shares her century home with an eclectic collection of rescues that include Schnoodles, Lexie and Ruby James as well as tuxedo Simon, and ginger Harry. She enjoys running, politics, exploring the wine regions of Niagara and is an avid supporter of the “shop local” movement.