My household has four dogs: two black and white ones, a tan one, and one with brassy fur that looks like a dye job gone wrong. It can be chaotic and loud…but it is never boring. Just sitting and watching how four dogs, each with very different personalities, interact with each other is beyond entertaining. Calm is probably the last thing that comes to mind when you picture a house with four dogs, but it is surprising just how often our dogs pull us out of a bad mood. Each of my kids falls asleep at night with a dog at the foot of their bed. The dogs’ steady breath seems to lull them to sleep. When they are afraid of nightmares, we pretend that the dogs “eat” their bad dreams.
Once when my son was having a particularly bad day, we heard a strange splash/crash noise and ran upstairs to find one of our dogs swimming around in the bathtub. Apparently, he fell in while trying to get a drink of water (don’t worry, we don’t make a habit of leaving tubs full of water). My son laughed so hard he forgot why he was upset. We have many times like this in our house. While my kids know our dogs are funny and help them sleep, the value of these animals goes way beyond what our kids understand. If you are reading this post, you probably don’t need to be convinced that dogs are great, but here are some interesting benefits of owning a dog (or four):
- Reduced Cortisol. Studies have shown that pet owners showed a significant decrease in cortisol (“the stress hormone”) levels after interacting with a dog for 5-20 minutes, regardless of whether it is their own dog or an unfamiliar dog. [i]
- Lower blood pressure. Contact with a dog, such as by petting the dog, has been shown to reduce blood pressure in both children and adults during stressful situations.
- The potential for increased learning. Some studies have suggested that children followed directions and showed better memory in the presence of a dog. Other studies show that children read better and are more motivated when reading to a dog.[ii]
- Increased social interaction. Research has also shown positive effects on the social behavior of humans when a dog is present. People smile more and engage in friendly conversation more often with a person who is in the company of a dog.
- Reduced aggression. A few studies have shown that the presence of a friendly dog in a classroom of young students reduced aggressive behavior of the students.
- Reduced depression and improved overall mood. It has been shown that the presence of a dog, especially when there is direct contact, can reduce depression and improve mood over time.
- Increased perception of trustworthiness. In an interesting study, experimenters in the company of dogs were instructed to ask strangers for money on the street or ask young women for their phone numbers in public. The experimenters with dogs were more likely to have people comply with their requests than those experimenters without dogs.
These are only some of the many benefits of owning a dog or even just interacting with a friend’s dog. Caring for four dogs is not easy and not always “calming,” but the good far outweighs the bad. If you found this interesting, please comment, share or like. Thanks!