Petting a dog not only brightens your day but also has numerous health benefits. More and more studies show that even the shortest interactions with dogs can lower stress hormones and increase the production of the 'love hormone.' So, next time you're feeling down, you can just pet your friend’s or neighbor’s four-legged companion and reap the benefits!
In a 2022 study, a group of medical researchers and psychologists from Australia examined 129 peer-reviewed studies on human-dog interactions. The findings revealed that over half of these studies observed positive physiological changes occurring within the bodies and minds of individuals.
Studies have revealed that spending just 5 to 20 minutes with a dog can lead to a significant decrease in the stress hormone cortisol. Interestingly, it doesn't matter if the dog is your own or someone else's. Additionally, researchers have observed an increase in oxytocin, the bonding hormone that makes us feel good.
The Australian team has also found that human-dog interactions can increase heart rate variability, which is a good indicator of overall health improvements. Medical experts have linked higher heart rate variability to relaxation and lower rates of major depression diagnoses and fatal heart disease.
Another randomized 2022 study explored the positive effects of regular playtime with dogs on school-age children. The researchers discovered that students who had the opportunity to spend time playing with dogs during the week experienced reduced stress levels and saw improvements in their executive functioning. This means that their reasoning skills and ability to concentrate noticeably improved over time.
As animal lovers, we all share the irresistible urge to pet every dog we come across. However, asking for the owner’s permission before petting their dog is a must. Respecting their boundaries and considering their unique circumstances is the best way to ensure a positive interaction for both you and the dog you encounter.
When you're out and about in public, dogs can easily become anxious due to the unfamiliar surroundings, loud noises, and people. If you approach them too quickly and startle them, they may feel the need to defend themselves. Trust us, you don't want to learn the hard way what this means.
Additionally, some dogs may have aggression issues or a traumatic experience of mistreatment in the past. Others might be in the middle of training for specific purposes, such as obedience or becoming a therapy or support dog. Petting them could distract them from their important goals.
Lastly, service or assistance dogs are specially trained to support individuals with disabilities. Guide dogs for the blind and those assisting people with physical disabilities, autism, or post-traumatic stress disorder have a primary responsibility to keep their humans safe. So, it's best to refrain from petting or playing with them.
Knowing how to read a dog's body language can help you communicate better with them and avoid any potential danger. Dogs use their body to convey a lot of information, both to other dogs and to humans. So, by understanding their signals, you can interact with other people's dogs in a safer way.
The speed of a dog's tail wag can tell us a lot about their state of mind. A slow, wide wag that makes their whole body wiggle usually means they're happy and calm. On the other hand, a fast and sharp wag indicates that the dog is alert or under stress, and they might not be too thrilled about what's going on.
There are also other small movements, like lip-licking or yawning, that are known as "appeasement gestures." These gestures show that the dog is trying to cope with nervousness rather than calmly enjoying something.
Meeting a new dog unexpectedly in a park or at school can be a delightful surprise, but the positive impact on our well-being cannot compare to the advantages of having a loyal furry friend of our own. Nonetheless, petting other people's dogs can certainly brighten up your day and boost your serotonin levels.