For thousands of years, humans and dogs have shared a connection that shaped the evolution and development of both species.
“The ability of dogs to read human gestures is remarkable. Even our closest relatives — chimpanzees and bonobos — can't read our gestures as readily as dogs can,” reports Brian Hare and Vanessa Woods in an article for National Geographic.
The authors theorize that through centuries of interaction, dogs helped domesticate people, instead of the more accepted hypothesis that humans tamed dogs.
You might be skeptical about the impact of the symbiotic relationship of two disparate species. However, there is a plethora of scientific evidence this canine connection provides a host of perks for humanity.
“For nearly 25 years, research has shown that living with pets provides certain health benefits,” explains information from WebMD.com. But additional studies show the benefits aren’t just physical. Keep reading to learn about some of the ways people benefit when dogs are part of their lives.
An allergy boost
For decades, some parents kept young children away from pets in the belief they were protecting them from exposure to allergens. Now the evidence shows the opposite is true. Research at the University of Wisconsin School of Medicine found children who had a dog at home as newborns were much less likely to have eczema (12 percent versus 27 percent) and wheezing (19 percent versus 36 percent) by age 3.
Better mental health
Dog owners are less likely to suffer from stress, anxiety and depression than nonpet owners, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Pet therapy can help people deal with a wide range of mental issues including post-traumatic stress, panic attacks, obsessive-compulsive disorder and more.
“From a mental health standpoint, children aged 7 to 8 often ranked pets higher than humans as providers of comfort and self-esteem and as confidants,” reports the CDC.
Using dogs for animal-assisted therapy boosts children’s mental health and reduces the risk of developmental disorders by reducing anxiety and arousal or enhancing attachment. The center notes because dogs follow human communicative cues, they can be particularly effective agents for children’s emotional development.
Enhanced dating opportunities
Believe it or not, there is quite a bit of research showing men can improve their dating outlook by owning a dog. One of the more recent studies published in research journal Anthrozoos found women were more than twice as likely to say that they were attracted to someone because he had a pet and also about twice as likely to judge their date based on how they reacted to a furry companion. In other words, if you get a dog for the purpose of attracting women, you better treat the dog with caring and affection.
Better heart health
“Having a dog is probably associated with a decreased risk of cardiovascular disease. ...Pet ownership can be a reasonable part of an overall strategy to lower the risk of heart disease.”
“Having a dog is probably associated with a decreased risk of cardiovascular disease;” reports Harvard Medical School. “This does not mean that there is a clear cause-and-effect relationship between the two. But it does mean that pet ownership can be a reasonable part of an overall strategy to lower the risk of heart disease.”
If you’re questioning whether the effect of owning a dog is primarily mental, you should know research shows dog owners have lower blood pressure and lower cholesterol and triglyceride levels. Furthermore, the data shows these differences are not explainable by diet, smoking or body mass index.
Unexplained good feelings
Oxytocin is a hormone associated with a host of positive feelings. It plays a role in things like maternal bonding, social bonding, sexual pleasure and even the high of addictive behaviors. So far, researchers don’t know exactly how oxytocin creates pleasurable feelings, but several scientific studies verify human and canine oxytocin levels rise when people and dogs interact, according to a report in Psychology Today.
Owning a dog requires a significant commitment of time, money and care. But as these and other studies show, dogs return the favor by helping people in a host of measurable and immeasurable ways.
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