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More Than Man’s Best Friend

Some of my fondest memories from growing up are with my childhood dog. To this day, I still remember the times my family dog was there to support me. Being a tall individual, walking down stair cases with short ceilings proved difficult at times. Once or twice, I would hit my head very hard on a large beam down our family stairs. Of course I’d tumble down the stairs in agony as if I had just cracked my skull open. No sooner than I could check for blood (which there never was any) was our family dog Bridger there to provide me emotional support. With an expression of deep concern on his face he would nudge his nose near my face and lay there with me in my pain. This support for my brief pain was a memorable experience from my teenage years.

Flash forward a few years to now where my wife and I have our own dog Baloo. While pet ownership is not always easy, my wife and I can both attest to the emotional benefits that Baloo has brought us in our day-to-day stresses and anxiety. Our dog is always available to snuggle or just provide love when we are home, which has been a large stress reducer for our family. Whether he’s providing a sense of love and affection or making you laugh by silly behaviors, your pet is there provide you some joy.

For adults, pets have been shown to do the following:

  • Reduce blood pressure
  • Reduced heart rate
  • Less visits to your doctor by 30% for those older than 65.
  • Adults or children interacting with animals often experience higher levels of oxytocin which promotes trust, bonding, and increased love. Which in turn decreases stress.
  • Reduced isolation and the feelings associated with it.
  • Provides feelings of unconditional love and safety.
  • Reduced depressive symptoms
  • Stress reduction
  • Improved health because if that pet is a dog they are going to get you out of the house.
  • 1 month into pet ownership has been found to increase family activities together (2012).

Here is some ammunition for all those children out there begging their parents for pets. Recent research done by Tufts University found that children tend to have better coping skills in correlation to a relationship with a pet (Rajewski, 2016). The study found that pets provided children with more confidence, better peer relationships, and more stability when parents were often out of the home (Rajewski, 2016). Animal ownership was also shown to help with providing all children with emotional support which is non-judgmental (Rajewski, 2016). Animals are able to provide loving and caring support just by being there for a child or adult.

Let me provide a disclaimer here: Pet ownership is a huge commitment and should not be taken lightly. In some circumstances it can lead to increased stress, anxiety, or an additional financial expense. If you are unsure about animal ownership spend some time with the animals at a shelter or volunteer to help with a friends pet. Benefits can still be found with these animals and reduce the need for an immediate commitment.

While our pets can be supportive, they are not always able to help us overcome all adversity. For help with the complex and simple challenges of life, consider visiting a therapist. Just like your pets, therapists will not judge you and can be there to support you through life’s many changes. If you are considering therapy and are worried what it will be like, please come and see me at Wasatch family therapy. I strive to provide everyone who comes with a comfortable, safe and non-judgmental atmosphere so that those I work with can succeed. Please do not hesitate to contact me at Wasatch Family Therapy at 801-944-4555.  Together, we can learn further tools to help you through your specific changes, and I will be sure to tell you some funny stories about my dog.

Nathan Watkins, AMFT

 

References

Beetz, A., Uvnäs-Moberg, K., Julius, H., & Kotrschal, K. (2012). Psychosocial and Psychophysiological Effects of Human-Animal Interactions: The Possible Role of Oxytocin. Frontiers in Psychology, 3. doi:10.3389/fpsyg.2012.00234

Haley, E. (2017, March 26). The Healing Power of Animals. Retrieved January 18, 2018, from https://whatsyourgrief.com/healing-power-of-animals/

Rajewski, G. (2018, January 18). How Pets Help People. Retrieved January 11, 2016, from http://now.tufts.edu/articles/how-pets-help-people

Robinson, L., & Segal, J. (2017, October). Mood-Boosting Power of Dogs. Retrieved January 18, 2018, from https://www.helpguide.org/articles/mental-health/mood-boosting-power-of-dogs.html

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