“The Pet Effect, also known as the human-animal bond, is the mutually beneficial relationship between people and animals that positively impacts the health and well-being of both.” Dogs are playful, loyal, and friendly four-legged friends; however, there is more to them than just a cute face. They are companions who will never judge or criticize you. When you first wake up in the morning or arrive from a long day at work or school, they are there to greet you, making every worry disappear for a spare moment. Moreover, they have also been proven to help people have better mental health. Recently, I became the owner of two dogs and they have taught me, in the small amount of time I have been with them, why they are a man’s best friend.
A dog means responsibility and compromise, yet the activities that are beneficial for their health also contribute to people’s well-being. For instance, taking them for a walk is even more beneficial to the owner than for the dog. According to the Mental Health Foundation, pets help with depression by encouraging you to exercise, socialize with other pet owners when walking your dog, and calm down after petting or sitting next to them. For me, taking my dog for a walk is not about exercising, it is about clearing my head and doing a different activity. It makes me have a type of routine and not stay inside my house watching movies the entire day. Sometimes, when we let them run around in the backyard, it makes me laugh and distracts me from all the work I have to get done. Also, in an interview with Camila Medina, 12th-grade students and logistics leader for the dog training organization Huellas Sanadoras, she stated, “When I feel very anxious about something I like to sit down with him, pet him, give him a hug, maybe take a nap beside him and this makes me feel much more relaxed.” In addition, according to The human-animal bond research institute, “74% of pet owners reported mental health improvements from pet ownership. 75% of pet owners reported a friend’s or family member’s mental health has improved from pet ownership. 54% of pet owners reported physical health improvements from pet ownership. 55% of pet owners reported a friend’s or family member’s physical health has improved from pet ownership.”
Furthermore, petting a friendly and familiar dog changes factors in one’s body. Psychologist Alan Beck of Purdue University and psychiatrist Aaron Katcher of the University of Pennsylvania conducted a study 30 years ago to analyze what changed in someone’s body when being with a dog. According to Psychology Today, the results included lower blood pressure, slower heart rate, more regular breathing, and relaxed muscles, which indicate reduced stress. Moreover, being with a dog has proven to make people happier. “Some studies have also shown that it raises the levels of dopamine in the brain which are the ones that make people happy and it also lowers cortisol which is what causes stress in people,” Medina said. When I am feeling bored, lonely, or just want to go outside to clear my mind, I know my dogs will always be there for me. Sometimes, when I feel I am spending way too much time on the computer because of online classes and feel like I am starting to get a headache, I pause for a few minutes and go spend time with my dogs. I take them out for a walk or just sit beside them to pet them, but no matter what I do, in the end, I feel happier and relaxed.
With the current global pandemic, in some countries, people have to practice social distancing by being quarantined with their families or by themselves. Sharing a space with the same people without having interaction with others can be tough for relationships and feelings of loneliness and isolation will kick-in. “In a survey that I did for my ISC, we could show that people that have a dog during quarantine are being able to deal with it more easily. They are happier, less stressed and they feel less bored. A dog gives you a reason to go out and walk with him,” Medina said.
Not being able to go outside or do different activities each day makes life monotonous and dull. Having a pet, especially a dog, makes you have a different routine, an unconditional companion, and a sense of purpose which helps with the constant feelings of loneliness and isolation.