We know that exercise is good for the heart. We know that having companionship is good for health. But did you know that owning a dog helps relieve stress and lower blood pressure and heart rate?
Psychology Today Magazine published an article in its April 2006 edition about a research project completed at the State University of New York at Buffalo. In this study, 480 people experienced various stress-inducing tasks. Sometimes, the subject could have their dog present during the task, and in other cases, the dog could not be with its owner. The same was true of the subject’s spouse. Sometimes, the spouse could participate, and the spouse was absent in others. Before, during, and after the experiment, blood pressure and heart rate were carefully monitored and documented. The results of the study were fascinating:
The tasks required of the subjects were successful in sending heart rates and blood pressure soaring.
When a participant’s spouse was present, blood pressure and heart rate were the highest of all participants, even though the spouse could provide any social support they thought necessary.
Stress response was lowest among those allowed to have their dogs present during and after the task.
It is not surprising that the researchers speculated that those with their dogs present had a better outcome because dogs are comforting and non-critical.
This study coincides with another recent research project, which showed that loneliness and the lack of social support in an individual’s life lead to high blood pressure. A pet, particularly a dog, goes a long way toward providing owners with a sense of responsibility, comfort, and companionship that has real health benefits.
The mere process of walking a dog leads to the opportunity to speak with people and interact. Children, other adult dog owners, and interested neighbors stop interacting with those walking their dogs. In addition, dogs are always welcoming when their owner returns home from having been elsewhere. This welcome feels very good and reassuring for those who live by themselves and may feel socially isolated.