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How Dogs Make Us Happier

Posted by Matthew Conn on

Reprinted from

We all love our dogs. We love how they greet us when we come home, we love playing with them, we love snuggling with them, and we love all the time we spend with them. None of this is news, because we wouldn’t own and raise dogs even they didn’t make us happy. But the question remains: exactly how do they make us happy? Here’s how.
They Show Unconditional Love
Dogs have a way of making you feel like the most important person in the world–because to them, you are. Dogs live in the moment, and right now is the best time ever. A wag of the tail, a lick on the arm, and the way they look right in your eyes let you know that you’re the absolute best. And who doesn’t like to be appreciated?
They Are Loyal
Many dogs love people, but are naturally more attached to the people who provide food, water, treats, walks, toys, and entertainment. They’re also very protective and alert, and will react immediately if they think their people are being threatened. Because they value their routines, if they think something’s amiss, they’ll let you know
They Relax Us
What’s better than scratching your dog on the head, or belly, or haunches, or chest, or anywhere? Doing something that makes us happy boosts the stuff in our brains that lessens our stress. Less stress equals less depression.
They Know When We Need Comfort
Dogs aim to please, and they like making us happy. Just like us, they need to be needed. Whether it’s curling up next to you when you’re sad or sick, or just wagging their tails when you come home after a tough day at work, they offer themselves to us to provide comfort.
They Are Companions
If we live alone, dogs keep us from being completely alone. If we used to live in a full house that is now emptier, dogs help ease that transition. Service dogs help those with needs get through the day. Dogs give us a daily purpose, and someone to talk to, because everybody talks to their dogs.
They Make Us More Social
We’d spend all our time with our dogs if we could. We take them with us on errands and vacations, and we indulge in activities that provide fun for our dogs. Whether at the park or just around the neighborhood, our dogs bring us into contact with other dog owners and dog lovers. Many modern offices have instituted pet-friendly policies to increase morale in the workplace.
They’re Great With Children
Kids who grow up with pets will most likely continue to have pets throughout their lives. Kids who don’t live with pets can get over their fear of unfamiliar animals if they’re introduced to a friend’s dog, and learn how to interact with them. Kids who grow up with pets are less likely to develop pet allergies. Children with autism or other learning or communication difficulties can sometimes interact easier with a dog, which can help them interact with people. Also–and we hate to say it–a dog’s life expectancy is much shorter than ours, and while losing a pet is an unfortunate inevitability, it provides a valuable learning experience about life.
They Provide a Routine
Our dogs need us to live. They need us to feed them, walk them, play with them, and take care of them. When we have pets, our lives have a specific structural element we must follow, and being on a schedule offers daily stability.
They Encourage Empathy
Having something to care about makes it easier to care about other things. Having nothing to care about makes it less possible to care about anything.
They Force Us to Be Active
Not everybody goes to the gym, lifts weights, or “works out.” But anytime you take your dog for a walk, you’re getting exercise. If you’ve got room to run or throw a ball, that’s exercise too. Scientists have shown that the longer we can be physically active, the longer we’re likely to live. And that means we can spend more time with our dogs.
They’re Good for the Heart
Scientists who study these things have also determined that pet ownership can help lower your cholesterol and triglycerides, lower your blood pressure, lower your likelihood of obesity, lessen the risk of heart disease or stroke, and increase your chance of surviving a heart attack. We don’t have the numbers handy, but it sounds good to us, so we’ll believe it.