My dogs make me a better and happier person. But it’s not just my own dogs I relish. Cuddling random dogs leaves me feeling energized. It seems to me that all dogs are therapy dogs. But in how many ways do dogs make us happier?
The bond between dogs and their guardians is chemically similar to the bond between a mother and a child. Scientific studies remain undisputed. People with dogs are happier and healthier than people without dogs. But why is this? The magic of a wet-nosed and floppy-eared friend can literally change our lives around.
If you are already a dog guardian, you may nod your head along with this article. If you are considering opening your life up to a dog, read on to discover how it will make you happier.
What is happiness exactly? What is there to learn about happiness? This article is a part of the most in-depth guide on how to be happy, which answers these questions in the first section: What Is Happiness?
What makes dogs so special?
They come in all shapes and sizes. Some are long-haired and some are short-haired. Heck, some have barely any hair at all (check out the Chinese Crested). There is a dog breed to suit every human personality type.
Dogs are not our whole lives, but they make our lives whole.Roger Caras
Are you a high-energy person who loves to run and desires an affectionate and sensitive soul? A Hungarian Vizsla may steal your heart. Perhaps you need a robust all-rounder to fit in and around life with children and other commitments. A labrador may slot right in.
Regardless of their coat type, or color, they all have important traits in common.
- Their propensity to love unconditionally.
- Their capacity to forgive.
- Their eagerness to please.
- Their willingness to join you on any adventure.
There is no such thing as a bad dog. Only bad owners.
Do all animals make us happier?
So whilst I am particularly obsessed with dogs, I love all animals. According to this study, having any type of pet helps raise our self-esteem and provides us with social support.
Until one has loved an animal, a part of one’s soul remains unawakened.Anatole France
Here at Tracking Happiness, we were curious to find out if pets make us happier. So, we conducted our own study.
We surveyed over 12,000 people with regards to their happiness levels and whether they had pets. Some of the results were as I would expect.
For instance, people with pets reported greater happiness than people without. But interestingly enough, those who considered getting a pet in the future were happier than those who had no plans for a pet.
As considered in the study, there could be a socio-economic factor at play here.
Do our pets bring us equal happiness? Well, apparently not. I’m sorry cat lovers, but dogs did trump cats in the happiness reports of their guardians. But there was one animal that exceeded the happiness levels derived by the dog.
Again, it is likely that socioeconomic factors come into play here. Also, it is worth noting that over 7000 of those surveyed were dog guardians and only 279 were horse guardians.
Either way, horses are magnificent creatures. I do not doubt the happiness they bring, and I have experienced this myself.
But let’s get back to our beloved dog.
Who is the best dog in the world?
I have the best dog in the world. So do you. So does your friend. So does your neighbor. And all of us are right.
Every dog is the best dog in the world. Some of the best conversations I have ever had in my life are with souls who have no comprehensible words. And yet, I feel my dogs understand me better than most people in my life. I feel a connection with my dogs beyond the comprehension of some people.
Dogs are our link to paradise.Milan Kundera
Sometimes it takes a void in our lives to recognize just how significant a dog is in our lives. When my late Princess Jasper passed away, she left a gap greater than any human being could have left. In her 7 years, she brought me more happiness than any human being ever has. My grief was crippling but disenfranchised.
But now researchers are recognizing that losing a dog can be as difficult as losing a human loved one. This shows the impact our dogs have on us.
Are dogs empathetic?
According to this piece, dogs have affective empathy, which means they can understand the feelings of someone they are bonded with. They can also differentiate between our facial expressions.
The more I learn about people, the more I like my dog.Mark Twain
Our dogs can tell the difference between laughing and crying. They often mirror our emotions. Not only do they sense how we are feeling but our feelings are contagious to them. This is positively correlated with the length of time dogs have been with their guardians.
My gorgeous boy, Zac can read me like a book. He knows when to comfort me, calm me or energize me. He is tuned in with my emotions.
5 ways dogs make us happier
My late Princess Jasper was the inspiration behind co-founding a canicross club. With Jasper by my side, I welcomed my human best friends into my life. Jasper spun my life around. Not only did she drag me out on adventures, but she brought kindred spirits into my world. I am eternally grateful for the impact she continues to have on my life.
It is readily accepted that dogs bring us happiness. But let’s look at 5 ways dogs make us happier.
1. Dogs elevate our mood
When we share eye contact with our dogs, oxytocin is released in our brains. Oxytocin is nicknamed the love chemical. It makes us feel good. Oxytocin gives us warm feelings when we are with those we care about – which includes our dogs!
This is mutually beneficial as oxytocin is also released in our dogs and makes them feel good too. This helps our bonding process.
In fact, oxytocin is the hormone responsible for bonding mothers and their babies. It helps build trust.
So next time someone criticizes you for parenting your dog, be sure to point them in the direction of science. We are bonded with our dogs like mother and baby!
2. Dogs alleviate stress and improve our wellbeing
Just spending time with my dogs brings me joy. I love watching them root around the woods. To me, there is no greater sight than seeing them in full flight on the beach.
Humans have used dogs for therapeutic purposes for years. But more recently, they have been used to help reduce stress in workplaces and education premises. Some universities have introduced dogs to help reduce the stress levels of students during exam times.
This study shows a positive impact of spending just 10 minutes with a therapy dog. Furthermore, those of us who are lucky enough to have dogs in our lives are less likely to suffer from heart disease.
In short, dogs lower our blood pressure and reduce stress.
As the inspiration behind my dog running group, Princess Jasper brought some of the most amazing people I know into my life. She brought like-minded people into my universe. She gave me the gift of friendship.
Now, on a daily basis, I interact with strangers. I stop on my walk and we chat. The only reason we do so is to ask each other about our dogs.
As all dog guardians will testify, we often come away glowing from beautiful interactions with other doggie-oriented humans. Most of the time we have learned the name, age, health issues, history and idiosyncrasies of their dog. Yet we forget to ask the human their name.
During the pandemic, I cherished these interactions. Social connection is nourishing.
4. Dogs give us love
The love of our dogs is painstakingly unconditional. It is powerful to the point I sometimes feel I don’t deserve it.
A dog is the only thing on earth that loves you more than you love yourself.Josh Billings
When we feel loved, we feel worthwhile. Our dogs raise our self-esteem and validate us. Their love is a cozy blanket on a winter’s day. Their love is the smell of flowers in the breeze and the feeling of the sun on our faces.
Is the love of a dog the only love we can rely on 100%?
5. Dogs keep us fit
Our dogs are great at getting us out on adventures and holding us to account. Even when we can’t be bothered, their pleading little eyes melt our hearts. Our dogs will never turn down a walk or an adventure.
My late Princess Jasper joined me running long-distance trails. Running in harmony with my dog brings me indescribable joy. No “thing” could ever compare.
It will come as no surprise that dog guardians are fitter than those who don’t have dogs in their life. And, we know that physical fitness increases our wellbeing, which increases our happiness.
There is a dog out there for all of us. They help quell loneliness, improve our health and facilitate social interactions. They bring us love and purpose. They make us feel whole.
If you have an empty dog-shaped space in your life, why not pop down to your nearest rescue center and find your soulmate? Life is altogether brighter with a dog! I’d love to hear from you in the comments below whether or not you agree!