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Dogs Contribute To Our Physical And Mental Well Being

  • 19/05/2022

Dogs have associated with humans for tens of thousands of years. They have stood guard over them, hunted with them and watched over their children. The dogs benefited from having convenient access to food and shelter. Humans benefited from having a responsive companion that seemed to understand us and our needs. Today, dogs are our faithful companions, enriching our family lives and providing comfort. They help keep us mentally healthy and stable. A closer look at the science involving this relationship shows the many benefits of having a dog.

Caring for Dogs Aids Children’s Physical and Mental Health

A recent study found that 49 percent of households in Ireland have a dog. Parents often consider getting a dog for the family to teach children about responsibility and caring for others. But having a dog may actually have profound effects on both physical and mental health. Providing care for the family dog keeps children actively engaged in feeding, walking, grooming and playing with the animal. This increases their physical activity and can be helpful in weight control and keeping children active. Dogs can also provide emotional support for children, helping sensitive kids to overcome social anxiety and separation anxiety. The behavior and personality of dogs can be a conversation starter that helps social interactions for both children and adults. And dogs make very interactive companions that help to keep both young and old from feeling lonely.

Therapy Dogs Help People Cope After Traumatic Events

Frequently, news programs highlight therapy dogs who are brought in after a traumatic event like a natural disaster has taken place. These therapy dogs are specially trained to interact calmly in groups of people, especially after trauma. Studies support the data that indicates interaction with a therapy dog reduces stress and anxiety often associated with a traumatic event.

Dogs and Posttraumatic Stress Disorder

People suffering from posttraumatic stress disorder can benefit from having a dog to help them deal with powerful emotions they experience. PTSD encompasses a wide range of symptoms that include anxiety, hypervigilance, sleep problems and irritability. Military veterans who suffer from PTSD because having the animal nearby  helps to reduce anxiety reactions. A dog can also help to keep the individual in the present, when flashbacks cause them to relive the traumatic event.

Dogs Help Seniors Stay Fit and Connected

According to the World Health Organization, older people can experience a number of mental health challenges. They may have medical conditions that cause anxiety and fear. Different types of medication can affect their physical condition and cognitive ability. They may have physical impairments that cause them to feel isolated and lonely. Having a dog can have a significant effect on seniors' health and well being. Dogs not only give their owners unconditional acceptance and love, they require care that can provide motivation and physical activity that improves seniors’ quality of life. The companionship of a dog is often a significant benefit to an older person, both physically and mentally.

Dogs Help People With Mental Health Conditions

Dealing with a mental health condition on a daily basis can be stressful. But a dog can act as a calming companion that allows you to focus on something outside yourself. Dogs have a unique ability to sense distress in their owners, and they often come to your aid when you feel overwhelmed. For those with mental health conditions, this outside support can be of immense benefit on a day-to-day basis. In many cases, just having the dog come along allows the person to get outside more often, because they distract them from symptoms of anxiety or panic that may suddenly arise. Simple actions like coming to the person when the animal detects tension can help to reduce the need for psychiatric treatment, hospitalization and even medication. For this reason, psychiatric service animals are becoming more popular among individuals with anxiety, depression, panic disorders, PTSD, autism and other issues. This ability of animals to soothe stress and anxiety is also used in substance abuse treatment.

Are You Ready to Commit To Having a Dog?

Because dogs require a certain amount of care, you should make sure you are up to the challenge before adopting a dog. Canine care requires that the animal be taken outdoors to go to the bathroom and to get exercise. A healthy diet, plenty of fresh water and regular veterinary treatment are also necessary. Dogs form bonds with their owners, which means you must be available to spend time with them or they become very unhappy. All these needs ensure that the owner stays involved, and any emotional turmoil they may be experiencing becomes less important and less overwhelming.

Sources - Ireland’s Largest Pet Ownership Study: Here's all the facts you need to know - Pet dogs and children’s health: Opportunities for chronic disease prevention? - Therapy Dogs as a Crisis Intervention After Traumatic Events? – An Experimental Study - Study finds the most important task for a PTSD dog for veterans is disrupting anxiety – Mental health of older adults - Seniors and pets: Health Benefits and Challenges - Psychiatric Assistance Dog Use For People Living With Mental Health Disorders – Equine Therapy at Mountain Springs Recovery

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