Can dogs and other pets help relieve stress? If you’re a pet owner, your initial response may immediately be, yes! If you have a good relationship with your dog or cat, you probably feel a smile forming on your face just thinking about him or her. But what’s the science behind the effects a pet can have on you and your health? More specifically, how can dogs help relieve stress? Let’s dig in and find out.
A study was conducted at The State University of New York at Buffalo that involved 240 married couples. Half of them owned a pet, while the other half did not. During the study, subjects had to do two things: place their hands in icy cold water for two minutes, and figure out a difficult math problem in their heads. Each subject was either alone or with a spouse, friend, or pet.
The outcome of this experiment showed that blood pressure and heart rates were lower when a pet was present in the room with a subject than when a friend or spouse was with them. It was also observed that subjects who owned pets, on average, actually had lower blood pressure and heart rates overall.
According to Ian Cook, MD, psychiatrist, and director of the Depression Research and Clinic Program at UCLA, “Pets offer an unconditional love that can be very helpful to people with depression.” Pets can lighten the mood and help reduce anxiety and tension. With your dog, you can be yourself. You don’t have to worry about impressing or talking about something you don’t want to talk about. And instead of being alone and isolated, a dog can make an excellent companion who will always stay by your side. He might even help you interact more with others while you’re out on a walk or at the park. Having a dog forces you to take on extra responsibilities and focus your attention on something positive. Experts say that having a daily routine helps people with depression; your dog will force you to stay on track by requiring you to let him outside in the morning, give him food and water, and get you to play with or take him out for a walk.
A study conducted in 1995 that was published by the American Journal of Cardiology reported that heart attack patients who owned dogs were six times more likely to live another year than those without dogs.
Living a Healthier Lifestyle
Another way dogs can help you lower your stress level and blood pressure is by getting you out of the house. This goes for everyone! If you walk your dog regularly, you’re getting exercise and fresh air, a chance to socially interact with neighbors, and a chance to lose weight as well.
Some Science Behind It
Various studies show that by playing with, petting, or gazing into a dog’s big, adoring eyes can increase oxytocin levels in the brain (which reduces stress) and decrease cortisol production (a stress hormone). When humans physically interact with (hug, kiss, shake hands, etc.) people they love, such as a good friend, a spouse or partner, or a son or daughter, they experience a blast of oxytocin. This oxytocin increases a person’s feelings of love and trust and can increase levels of optimism and self-esteem and relieve stress. The same thing happens when you look into your dog’s loving eyes; it triggers that oxytocin response in both you and your dog!
What do you think? Can dogs help lower or relieve your stress? We’ll let you decide.
Seattle Dog Training
Are you a dog owner living in or around the Seattle area? If so, you can apply to be in The Dog’s Way training video that we’ll be filming at the end of the summer! If you’re chosen, you’ll receive FREE dog training from Sean McDaniel. We have opportunities for puppies and older dogs. Click the button below to apply for free dog training with Sean or contact us with any questions or concerns you have about The Dog’s Way or dog training in general. We’d love to hear from you!
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