Dogs are special creatures, brimming with love to share (for the most part!). If you’ve ever gotten home at the end of a long day to see your pup, tail wagging, excitedly greeting you, you know what I mean. No matter how long you leave your dog alone, they are always happy to see you when you return – and often ecstatic. There’s a reason dogs are known as humans’ best friends.
Research has shown that dog companionship has a positive impact on our well-being, including:
- A 2019 study found that dog owners reported higher “physical functioning, social functioning, pain, vitality, and emotional well-being” than non-dog owners. In addition, dog owners had significantly lower BMIs (body mass index). (https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6765935/)
- Another 2019 study found that dog companionship was associated with a reduction in loneliness among dog owners. (https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6829935/)
- A 2017 study with university students found that spending time with a dog led to “significant improvements in mood and well-being, as well as a significant reduction in anxiety.” The researchers concluded that “even a short 20 min session with a therapy dog can be an effective alternative intervention to improve student well-being, anxiety, and mood.” (https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5451934/)
- A 2020 study with adolescents found that “dog ownership had a positive effect on mental well-being compared to no dog ownership.” (https://www.mdpi.com/1660-4601/17/3/884)
- A 2016 review article noted that animal-assisted therapy can be effective for treating PTSD. “In one study of the effect of dogs with patients, psychologists noted an 82% reduction in symptoms.” And: “One particular case noted that interacting with the dog for as little as one week, enabled a patient to decrease the amount of anxiety and sleep medications by half.” (https://www.tandfonline.com/doi/full/10.1080/23761407.2016.1166841)
In addition to published research studies, there is a wealth of anecdotal evidence and testimonials on the positive impact dogs can have on our lives.
Of course, it is important to consider that cultural and socio-economic factors as well as other health conditions can play a role in the impact dogs and dog ownership has on us.
And as anyone who has lost a pet knows, the heartache that comes with the loss of a dog is tremendous. But as Tennyson’s famous line states, “Tis better to have loved and lost, Than never to have loved at all.” I think our dogs would certainly agree.
May you, and your animal companions, be well.
The information provided here is not intended to replace medical advice or to treat or diagnose any medical condition. Please consult your doctor with specific questions and prior to beginning any significant diet or lifestyle changes.