Are dogs man's best friend?

Do you have a little fuzzy friend at home you like to pet when you walk in the door? Do you have a pet you can talk to, and connect with? I am definitely one of those people! I happen to have 3 pets, that I love and adore! They are definately part of the family, and something that I rely on!

A new study was released was about the psychological benefits of pet ownership called, “Friends With Benefits: On the Positive Consequences of Pet Ownership.” In it, it states ” pets can serve as important sources of social support, providing many psychological and physical benefits for their owners.” They go on to add…

For instance, research shows that pet owners are less likely to die within 1 year of having a heart attack than those who do not own pets (1% vs. 7% respectively; Friedmann & Thomas, 1995). Similarly, elderly Medicare patients with pets (especially dogs) had fewer physician visits than similar patients without pets (Siegel, 1990), and HIV-positive men reported less depression than similar men without pets (Siegel, Angulo, Detels, Wesch, & Mullen, 1999).

The current study found that of the participants who owned a pet, they showed greater self-esteem, higher levels of exercise/physical fitness, and were more often than not less lonely. These same participants also showed more secure and healthy attachment styles. Although, remember this correlation, not a causal relationship. It could be that people with healthier attachments and better self-esteem are more likely to own pets. However, there are benefits from pet ownership.

They did find the results listed above were even stronger when the participant felt their pet fulfilled at least some of their social needs. The authors added…

In fact… we repeatedly observed evidence that people who enjoyed greater benefits from their pets also were closer to other important people in their lives and received more support from them, not less…. Pets generally complement other forms of social support rather than compete with them (or serve as surrogates when other sources of social support are deficient).

Even the Center for Disease ControlNational Institutes of HealthAmerican Psychological Association all show support for the health effects of having a pet to turn to.  I’ll admit from personal experience, if I am stressed out, I spend time talking and playing with my dogs after work. If the dogs notice I haven’t been active enough lately (which often means I’m not exercising them enough), they will pick up the leash, and come drop it in my lap. They let me know when I am not doing everything I need to be doing.

So just think, the next time you think your life needs a little extra “umpf”… is it time for a pet?

Nicole Paulie is a Counselling Psychologist, and co-author of “How to be Happy and Healthy – The seven natural elements of mental health.” She provides therapy in the Dublin city area. Contact usto learn more or to book an appointment.

Are dogs man’s best friend?
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