Dogs have been coexisting with humans for thousands of years. They have been our closest allies since the days we were roaming the plains as hunters and gatherers. Dogs have evolved needing us, but have we evolved needing them?
Dogs Can Lower Stress
According to a study from the International Journal of Workplace Health Management, conducted at Replacements, a repair and manufacturing company which had allowed their worker’s to have animals at the workplace for over 15 years. As part of the week-long assessment, they recruited over 75 employees to participate in the experiment, each of whom would give saliva samples upon waking and complete 4 survey tests each day.
Those that had originally brought their dogs to work were asked to bring their dogs on every other day for comparisons. The results of that test showed that those that brought their dogs to work had the lowest levels of stress, about 10 to 20 points lower than those who didn’t have pets with them or at all according to the study’s metrics. All members also scored high on the job satisfaction rate of the survey than the industry norm, which suggested that having animals can have an effect on overall stress levels and performance.
Protection Against Infections, Specifically Asthma
While the exact association between early exposure to animals and subsequent risk for asthma and allergic disease is still unclear, some scientists state that the presence of animals, specifically dogs, throughout the childhood years. According to a study conducted from JAMA Pediatrics, Dog exposure during the first year of life was associated with a decreased risk of asthma in school-aged children and in preschool-aged children 3 years or older, but not in children younger than 3 years.
In the comparable study cases that were referenced, scientists found that the results favored the hygiene hypothesis, which favored maturation of the immune system and exposure to microbes in childhood. The hygiene hypothesis referenced a study made by the University of California, San Fransisco, which stated that asthma-associated inflammatory responses in the lungs were greatly reduced in mice previously exposed to dog-associated dust, when compared to mice that were exposed to dust from homes without pets and control mice not exposed to any dust.
Increase Exercise, Increase Health
In the American Journal of Preventative Medicine, a study was published about the relationship between dog ownership and physical activity in Western Canada. The study revealed that there were signs of improved physical activity and overall health in dog owners over those who do not own dogs. According to the study, scientists used a method of 177 men and 174 women, ranging from ages 20 to 80 back in 2004. Researchers emailed a survey about their activity levels and other demographics to conduct a proper analysis a year later. Results showed that dog owners spent more time walking within a mild to moderate activity level than those who didn’t own pets. AHA Journals states that increased physical activity can be a mechanism for reducing obesity, lower blood pressure, lower total cholesterol, and better cardiovascular activity.
Improve Mood and Socialization
Finally, one of the main reasons why people seem to experience better health conditions when around dogs are the chemical reactions in the brain that are produced through human-animal interaction. According to a study conducted by the multidisciplinary journal Anthrozoos, The positive health consequences associated with human-animal interaction may be caused by oxytocin release induced by positive emotions such as affection and love, and by the physical interaction that takes place between the human and animal. The methods used involved ten Labrador dogs and their female owners, all recruited for the experiment within the testing facility, with each of them having an animal caretaker and a nurse within the room. The experiment was tape recorded for accuracy, and a hormone analysis was conducted through samples. The results showed that short-term interaction between the owner and dogs showed an increase in oxytocin in both the owner and their pets, as well as a decrease in cortisol, insulin, and heart rate in the owners.
The increase in oxytocin may also provide a connection to increase socialization. According to a study made by Applied Developmental Science, in which a survey was given out to more than 500 participants, aged 18-26 and predominately female containing questions about their attitudes towards and interaction with animals. The responses were indexed based off of positive youth development traits such as confidence, connection, and character. The results of this survey showed that young adults who care for an animal have stronger social relationships, including providing social services to their communities and demonstrating greater empathy and confidence, as well as demonstrating a stronger sense of leadership.
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