Dog’s Best Friend? You!
Dogs have long been known as man’s best friend. But scientists have come up with the first proof that the feeling is mutual.
Several studies have already shown that stroking pets helps relax owners and can also boost their health.
Now researchers have found that dogs also love spending time with humans, and doing so helps them unwind.
Dr Johannes Odendaal, of the Pretoria Technikon University in South Africa, took blood samples from dogs and owners who had been relaxing together for up to half an hour.
He then tested the samples for substances associated with a happy, relaxed frame of mind.
Concentrations of ‘feel-good’ chemicals called endorphins, dopamine, oxytocin and prolactin doubled in the bloodstream of both owner and dogs.
Blood pressure also fell in humans and canines.
‘The increase in dopamine concentrations for both humans and dogs suggests that both participants derive pleasurable sensations from their interaction,’ said Dr Odendaal.
The research, published in New Scientist magazine today and in the latest issue of the Veterinary Journal, is good news for dog lovers such as singer Geri Halliwell, who dotes on her shih-tzu Harry.
Beverley Cuddy, editor of Dogs Today magazine, said: ‘It’s lovely to see scientific evidence that dogs really do love us just as much as we love them.
‘I think some people, like cat owners, are a bit disparaging sometimes about the relationship between humans and dogs.
‘They describe it as a bit subservient, like master and dog. But this really proves that it’s an equal relationship.
‘They are getting something out of it, just as we are. There are very few animals on Earth that really love us, but dogs are one of them and that’s wonderful.’
She said there was a ‘great deal’ of evidence to suggest that owning a dog boosts human health.
Previous studies have shown that having a pet may be better for easing stress than a marriage partner.
Pet owners cope better with stress
Psychologists have found that pet owners cope better with stressful situations simply by having their dog or cat around compared with those who turn to a spouse or friend for support.
Dr Deborah Wells, a psychologist specialising in animal behaviour at Queen’s University Belfast, said: ‘Support from a spouse or friend may be perceived as judgmental even if it isn’t, whereas people don’t feel that way about their pets.
‘It seems their presence alone helps their owners maintain a lower level of stress. It is probably even more helpful to touch and stroke them.’
Scientists say the average cholesterol level of patients who own pets is 2 per cent lower than those who do not. Pet owners also have lower blood pressure and lower levels of harmful blood fats.
There is also evidence that animal lovers live longer than those who do not own pets, with the late Queen Mother, who always kept dogs, a prime example.
The health benefits are so well founded that the charity Pets As Therapy takes 4,000 dogs on hospital visits, giving 100,000 people the chance to stroke and talk to them every week. The boost to those in nursing and care homes, and hospitals and hospices, is underpinned by research showing that touching animals helps keep people healthy.
‘The unconditional love you get from a dog you probably won’t get anywhere else,’ said Mrs Cuddy.
‘Dogs get so in tune with their owners that in people who have epilepsy, for example, many are able to give a 40-minute warning of a seizure. They devote their time to getting to know us well.
~Courtesy of http://www.dailymail.co.uk