7 Reasons Why Dogs Are the Perfect Quarantine CompanionsNone By Jessica Cassity
Does your COVID-19 “quaranteam” include a furry four-legged friend? If the answer is yes, you know firsthand that canine companionship can be comforting, healing, and fun, especially during times of stress. Dogs bring joy and levity, provide a sense of purpose, and can help us stay active and healthy. “Most of all, they can serve as a reminder about the wisdom of staying in the present,” says Melisa Kahn Tietz, LMFT, a therapist in Portland, Oregon who specializes in relationships and has a dog of her own.
As a bit of a silver lining to the world’s current events, pet ownership is on the rise. Animal shelters across the country are reporting a surge of interest in pet adoptions and fostering, which means animals are benefiting big-time. Whether you’re new to the dog mom or dad club, are just starting to consider adding a pet to your family, or have a longtime companion animal, here are seven ways dogs are really delivering on their “best friend” promise. (If you’re more of a cat, bird, or hedgehog lover, you, too, can reap some of the same positive rewards.)
They’re Natural Comedians
If you’re feeling drained or overwhelmed, recruit your canine pal to lighten the mood. Just as listening to stand-up or watching a rom-com can inspire laughter, so too can watching your dog fumble a ball, delight in a new toy, or chase his tail. There’s even a name for intentionally setting out to lighten your mood with a few good chuckles—“laughter therapy,” a technique psychologists have been studying due to its promising results at lowering feelings of stress.
They Make Great Personal “Trainers”
Dog owners know there’s wisdom behind the words “a tired dog is a good dog.” When a pup is bored or has energy to burn, it may be more inclined to resort to bad, destructive behaviors. But there’s another positive to having a regular dog-walking schedule—it guarantees that pet owners, too, will get a healthy dose of exercise. In one study, researchers in London found that dog owners engaged in significantly more moderate exercise than non-owners and, as a bonus, they also reported sleeping better, too.
They’re Easy to Please
Being cooped up together can strain even the most tightly knit family from time to time as the boredom sets in. But there’s one member of the household who never gets cabin fever—your pooch. Whatever activity you want to do, she’s ready. Whatever food you dish up, she thinks it tastes delicious. Perhaps most importantly, whatever you want to watch on Netflix, she’s 100 percent down. That’s why people who responded to a 2018 survey from the TV- and movie-streaming company rated their dogs as the best TV binge partners. "Even though the world may seem a little upside down right now, dogs continue to offer steady affection and sweetness,” says Kahn Tietz, making them agreeable companions, even during challenging circumstances.
They Unlock Good Feelings
Pet owners know that just gazing at their furry friends can bring out their warm and fuzzy feelings, but there’s a whole body of research that shows that simply looking at images of cute animals—whether or not they’re yours—can improve your mood. For example, a paper in the journal Frontiers of Psychology found that people who viewed pictures of cute puppies, kittens, and babies felt a greater sense of trust, belonging, and generosity, and the same likely applies to your dog’s puppy pics—or his actual presence in the room. This spells good news even for people without pets—anyone scrolling through #dogs on Instagram can get an instant jolt of joy.
They Inspire a Sense of Purpose
The tasks associated with having a dog can add up—pet owners are responsible for meal time, entertainment, exercise, and grooming. But being in charge of giving your dog the best possible life is a satisfying obligation, and one that may actually help you stay healthy in the long run. Having a sense of meaning and purpose in life has long been associated with increased longevity. If your relationship with your dog is one of your favorite and most important reasons for being, you’re both very lucky. "Your relationship with your dog provides a daily reminder that what you do matters,” says Kahn Tietz. “Because they’re eternally responsive to the smallest gestures from us humans, caring for a dog feels especially good."
They‘re an Oasis of Calm
If your dog is always game for a good rub down, go ahead and indulge him on the regular. It turns out that all those pets, scratches and strokes are good for boosting his levels of oxytocin—the “love hormone”—and yours. In one study, after just three solid minutes of attention, during which dog owners petted and talked to their animals, the dogs showed significantly increased levels of oxytocin. Owners displayed the same after about five minutes. But there’s no need to stop there—longer sessions brought out other positive effects, including decreased levels of the stress hormone cortisol and even insulin.
They Provide Companionship
Even before the outbreak of the pandemic and the resulting social isolation, some psychologists referred to loneliness as an epidemic. And, although scientists are still trying to unpack whether animal companionship and social support are equal to that of human interactions, many pet owners will volunteer their own stories. Dogs will listen to you vent, sit with you when you’re sad, and may even try to comfort you when you’re upset. “Dogs can be exquisitely tuned into our emotions,” says Kahn Tietz, explaining that her own dog comes close when needed, as if waiting to provide comfort and offer unconditional love. Dogs can also help you expand your circle of human support, even now: Before social distancing, studies suggested that passersby were more inclined to smile at strangers who had dogs than those who did not,; and, there’s a good chance that, even now, taking your dog on neighborhood walks may elicit a few smiles and pass along some positivity, too.
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