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One Simple Way to Boost Your Bond with Your Dog

August 25, 2014

Story at-a-glance

  • Dogs, our forever friends, have a way of evening out the rough spots. Clinical studies even give examples of how this has worked in real life. Visits from gentle pups help ease the jitters of students under exam pressure, and comfort patients of all ages in trauma centers and VA hospitals.
  • Research shows a dog owner’s “bonding” hormone, oxytocin, actually spikes when their pet gazes adoringly into their eyes. That goes to show you there’s science behind the suggestion that just one look in your sweet dog’s face can brighten your day.
  • You can also draw on the practical ways having a dog can come in handy. One is as an exercise buddy. People with a dog to walk get twice the exercise than those who don’t. Dogs also are great ice breakers and conversation starters. A canine companion even makes you more attractive to the opposite sex, studies say.
  • The unique bond between a dog and his owner is simple and profound. Unlike other relationships that can do fine online, your hands on, up-close-and-personal pet connection demonstrates that having a four-legged friend can improve your sense of well-being.

By Dr. Becker

Most people can tell you what made them get a dog. Perhaps the family made a conscious decision to adopt a shelter pet… or the youngest in the family had grown responsible enough to take proper care of a dog… or they were finally ready, after the death of a much-loved former pet, to open their hearts to a new one. These are all wonderful reasons to get a dog. But what is it that really bonds people so closely to the canine companions they choose to bring into their homes? Can a dog actually improve your life? Let me count the ways…

Stress Relievers

The caring, affectionate qualities a sweet dog conveys can be worth its weight in gold. The presence of a four-legged friend can also bring a sense of calm in tense situations. Hospitals, schools, and nursing homes often take advantage of these attributes in dogs for patient therapy. Another example is when support staff at Winnipeg’s Red River College brought in half a dozen dogs to help relieve student stress during exam time,1 knowing that having a pup by your side, even for a little while, makes everything seem right with the world.

Exercise Buddies

Most people would agree exercise is a good thing, even if they don’t do it regularly. But conscientious dog owners know their four-legged friend needs lots of physical activity, so whenever they take Fido out for a walk, the benefits are doubled. In fact, one study showed people who have a pup that needs walking get twice the exercise compared to those who don’t have a dog.2 It’s important to know exercise helps you both physically, but the activity done together is another added bonus.

They Make You Happy… And You Know It

It’s clinically proven: just one look in your beloved dog’s eyes is enough to boost your oxytocin, described by Psychology Today as a powerful hormone linked with the bonding that takes place between parents and children, and even couples when they hug or kiss. One study3 determined that the longer a dog was allowed to gaze lovingly in his owner’s eyes, the higher the level of oxytocin the owner produced, measured by researchers before and after the interaction. Most dog owners will tell you, even without the studies, that their dog makes them smile.

Mental, Emotional, and Physical Healers

Dogs don’t judge, they don’t find fault, and interestingly, people can bond instantaneously with a canine companion in ways they can’t with humans, whether they’re strangers or friends. A dog’s ability to break through emotional barriers has gone a long way toward helping children with autism, and easing the pain of people suffering from PTSD, depression, or disabilities.4 Therapy dogs representing numerous groups and organizations, can even merit certifications in related areas of assistance.

Social Ice Breakers

Taking a spin in the park with our best buddy on a leash is a great way to get acquainted with new people and encourage conversation, even if it’s just for networking purposes. Ironically, dog ownership has a way of helping others see you in a more human light. It shows you have an open heart, at least for dogs, and presents new avenues for socialization… for both you and your pup. 

Keeping It Simple

One of the most compelling aspects about dog ownership is that your relationship with her is pure and simple. In return, her love for her chosen human is uncomplicated, unaffected, and real. When it comes to communicating with your best girl Sadie, tweets, texts, and social media will never do; it’s got to be one-on-one or nothing. It’s a unique bond. Just be sure your connection to Sadie doesn’t supersede human friendships.

Animal Magnetism

Hitting the street in the company of a pooch instantly ups your own appeal,5 according to a study conducted by Dogs Trust, Britain’s largest dog welfare charity. The CEO of that organization actually believes dogs could be considered a “21st century cupid.” One reason is because dog owners are perceived as easier to talk to. A whopping 95 percent of study participants said they feel more comfortable approaching someone of the opposite sex if they know they owned a dog.

With dog ownership, it’s not just about what your pet can do for you. Even if he’s not human, the bond is mutual. His loyalty, love, companionship, and lifelong support becomes one of your greatest joys, making your world a better place to be.

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Sources and References

  • 1 Therapy dogs help stressed-out Winnipeg students, Nov. 30, 2013
  • 2 Brown S.G., Relationships among dog ownership and leisure-time walking in Western Canadian adults, Feb 2006
  • 3 Nagasawa M. et al, Dog's gaze at its owner increases owner's urinary oxytocin during social interaction, Dec. 14, 2008
  • 4 Marcus D.A., et al, Animal-assisted therapy at an outpatient pain management clinic, Jan. 2012
  • 5 O’Meara Ryan, Proof: Owning a Dog Makes You More Attractive to Opposite Sex, Feb. 10, 2012
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