This week is National Dog Week and in celebration of these wonderful creatures, we looked into the science behind the common belief that our dogs can reduce stress and anxiety, ease loneliness, encourage exercise, and generally spark joy on a daily basis.
Dogs can understand many of the words we use, but they’re even better at interpreting our tone of voice, body language, and gestures – like a good friend, a loyal dog will try to sense your emotional state to understand what you’re thinking and feeling. As a result, it’s been found that dog owners tend to be less lonely, have higher self-esteem, be more extroverted, and harbor less fear about getting close to other people.
In a comprehensive review of the scientific literature on the topic, the authors of Human-animal interactions, relationships and bonds: a review and analysis of the literature, published in the International Journal of Comparative Psychology, found evidence of wide ranging beneficial effects of companion animal interaction. These included “benefits such as reduction in stress as evidenced by reduction in cortisol, heart rate and blood pressure; general improved physical health, particularly with respect to cardiovascular disease; social attention, social behavior, interpersonal interactions, mood, and self-reported fear and anxiety.”
In addition, the authors found that it’s even possible to detect changes in brain activity that indicate lower stress in human subjects just in the mere presence of a companion animal, without any interaction!
From the daily comfort of your own dog, to those that are specially trained for therapy and assistance dogs can provide confidence, relieve loneliness, provide motivation or assistance with walking and other movement, and generally give a sense of purpose to life for those recovering from brain injury or stroke, or living with aphasia, Parkinson’s and other neurodegenerative disorders.
Specifically, dogs can provide these five benefits:
And so, a round of appaws for our furry companions!