No matter how topsy turvy my day has been, I can count on one absolute constant in my life; when I walk in the door, August our gorgeous Labrador will greet me as if we’ve been apart for months. Bad or good days, rain or shine, my four legged friend goes completely nuts with excitement to welcome me home.
More than any other animal, dogs have evolved to become incredibly aware of our behavior and emotions. While dogs are able to understand many of the words we use, they’re even better at interpreting our tone of voice, body language, and gestures. Like any good human friend, a loyal dog will look into your eyes to gauge your emotional state and try to understand what you’re thinking and feeling (and to work out when the next walk or treat might be of course). When August spots a suitcase emerging out of the cupboard he goes into a complete decline, showing first hand how connected he is to our family and to change.
While we all know the joys our furry friends can bring, I spent the past week engaging in the ways dogs can help us mentally and physically.
Hanging out at the Dog Park
I know this is an obvious dog necessity but one I have truly taken for granted, so this weekend when I headed off to our local dog walking park, I looked at it in a new light. Being able to take Augie off his lead and let him run with wild abandon was not only exhilarating for him but myself too. Seeing his obvious joy gave me such a sense of happiness and completeness, I felt I benefited just as much, if not more. Besides the fact that studies have shown that dog owners are far more likely to meet their daily exercise requirements than attempting to go to the gym. Let’s not forget the social aspect of chatting to other crazy, dog people. It’s like you all seem to speak the same language when you have your dog mate with you.
Brushing your Pooch
Something I have also discovered over the past few weeks is that brushing your canine is incredible for your wellbeing. When you pat and brush your pet this simple act helps to release serotonin, a hormone which helps fight depression and anxiety. So when I had a particularly bad day last week I started brushing Augie and the effects were almost instant (plus it also saved my newly vacuumed floors from more malting Lab hair – well for 5 minutes anyway!) The motion of the brushing not only soothes, it fulfills the basic human need to touch. Stroking, hugging, or brushing your dog can rapidly calm us when we’re stressed or anxious and the same sense of happiness can be received in turn by your pup. Who doesn’t want to make someone else feel happy, and if it can’t be another person why not a pet!
A Canine Companion
Having a furry friend also eases loneliness and has proven to keep us living longer. Seeing how my mother‘s dog, Coco interacts with her is beautiful. Coco loyally sits by her side and I feel she is a big part of keeping my darling mother calm over the years as she deteriorated from Alzheimer’s. Research at the University of California at Davis proved that Alzheimer’s patients suffer less stress and have fewer anxious outbursts if there is a dog in the home. In many cases a patient’s problem behavior is a reaction to the stressed response of the primary caretaker. Pets can help ease the stress of caregivers so even more of a reason to look at having dogs in care facilities or at home if you are a live in carer.
A new study on the brain chemistry of canines is that dogs really are capable of loving us, and the warm, fuzzy feeling is mutual. Our furry friends provide such a source of positivity and love. When my besties dog Louis died recently the devastation for her and her family was emense and reinforced even more what powerful impact dogs have on our lives. The only sad part is they just don’t live long enough. As my mother always said when we have lost family pooches over the years, we are only sad as we loved them so very much.
If you don’t have a puppy in your life and considering it, it will be one of the best decisions you ever make for your wellbeing, for your family and for the pure joy of having absolutely, unconditional love and a best mate for life.