Companions for Life: Why Dogs are More than just Great Pets

Companions for Life: Why Dogs are More than just Great Pets
By Jenny Holt

Everyone knows the saying ‘a dog is a man’s best friend’. Dogs were the first species to be domesticated around ten thousand years ago, and have lived side-by-side with humans ever since. However, they are more than just great pets.

Health and exercise

Dogs provide many important psychological and physical benefits for their owners, and are positive sources of social support, as well as motivating people to get out and exercise more. Exercise boosts energy levels, quality of sleep, self-esteem, and general mood, as well as reducing the risk of major illnesses and chronic diseases. Dog ownership is also proven to help build immunity to germs and reduce the development of allergies; a recent study showed that the risk of eczema for children at 4 years old is significantly reduced if a dog lives in the house.

Depression and loneliness

Further studies have shown that dog ownership helps to reduce the symptoms of depression. The daily routine and responsibilities involved in caring for a pet help to provide motivation for those who might otherwise find it hard to engage in their daily life. Dog ownership also reduces feelings of loneliness and isolation, providing a trusted companion and unconditional love for those who find interaction with other people difficult.

Therapy and trauma

There is well-documented evidence from studies involving veterans and other sufferers of post-traumatic stress disorder that the presence of therapy dogs helps to reduce a person’s blood pressure, heart rate, and stress hormones. Several studies also report that visits from therapy dogs and their handlers provide clinically meaningful pain relief. In a 2013 study, patients’ endorphin levels (an increase which is linked to pain reduction) increased by over 250% after a visit from a dog and handler. Dogs also encourage a more rapid recovery after surgery.

Rescue and assistance

The inherent trainability of dogs, coupled with their superior senses, mean they are invaluable as assistance animals for those with disabilities. They are also vital team members for emergency services; particularly in search and rescue efforts after events such as earthquakes, terrorist attacks, avalanches, fires, and mountain accidents. Dogs can also be found in police and security service teams, where they detect explosives and illegal substances. There are many stories in popular media where dogs have alerted owners to house fires or have detected diseases; dogs have up to 30 times more scent glands than humans, and they can be trained in bio-detection to identify cancer.

The enjoyment and companionship dogs provide make them a fantastic choice as a pet for anyone, but their intelligence and versatility truly allow them to become a partner for life for those needing extra support.