The human-canine connection extends back to at least 16,000 years ago, though recent studies on the wolf-dog divergence reveal that this unique relationship may date to 32,000 years ago. Although one can only imagine the initial approaches between these two species, today, dogs are an important part of the lives of many Americans, with around 78 million dogs living in our homes. Assisted animal therapy involving dogs is used in a wide array of settings, including helping vets with PTSD cope with everyday life, enhancing recovery for patients in hospital and at home, assisting those in addiction recovery, and helping children with autism. In this post, we focus on how dogs can improve life for everyone in the family, including little children.

Pets Boost our Psychological Well-being

A report published in the Journal of Personality and Social Pscyhology found that although pets provide owners with direct, material benefits (such as scaring away burglars or eliminating vermin), they also have positive psychological implications, which include improving self-esteem, encouraging adults and children to get more exercise outdoors, bestowing greater well-being, and helping human beings better with rejection and social isolation.

As noted by the researchers, “Owners whose pets provide greater social needs fulfillment fare better and that this source of social support is distinct and independent from the support they receive from key people in their lives.”

One study even showed that in the wake of rejection, a pet could be as effective at offsetting hurt feelings, as a best friend. In fact, the greater one’s social needs, the more benefits are provided by pets.

The findings are interesting both from an adult and child’s point of view. With bullying and cyberbullying being common phenomena at schools, it is interesting to think that a pet can provide the mental support and companionship that some members of a family may be particularly in need of. Interestingly, studies have also shown that children in household with dogs have lower stress levels.

The Physical Benefits of Having a Dog

In addition to keeping us more active, dogs can do amazing things like sniff out specific cancers; an article in The Lancet reported a case in which a dog had sniffed out melanoma; soon afterwards, a theory emerged suggesting that tumors may emit volatile organic compounds that dogs can detect, thanks to 200 million olfactory receptors they have on their nose.

Dogs help in other ways, with two recent studies showing that early exposure to them in early life could help protect against childhood eczema and asthma. The researchers noted that “Although eczema is commonly found in infants, many people don’t know there is a progression from eczema to food allergies to nasal allergies and asthma.” Therefore, children who are not already allergic to dogs can benefit from having them around.

The long list of benefits that dogs can bring is endless and includes stress reduction, an improvement in mood, and better physical fitness. Dogs and other domestic pets enrich the lives of children as much as they do adults, helping keep specific diseases at bay.

Submitted by Chrissy Jones (Thank you!)