Dogs: Our best friends in sickness and in health. pets.lc

Dogs, often hailed as humans’ best friends, have been the topic of many scientific studies looking into how they might boost our well-being. In this Spotlight, we’ll explain how your friendly pup can benefit your health across the board.

According to the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (ASPCA), an estimated 78 million dogs are owned as pets in the United States.

It is unclear when dogs were first domesticated, but a studyTrusted Source published last year claims that, at least in Europe, dogs were tamed 20,000–40,000 years ago.

It is likely that humans and dogs have shared a special bond of friendship and mutual support ever since at least the Neolithic period — but why has this bond been so long-lasting?

Of course, these cousins of the wolves have historically been great at keeping us and our dwellings safe, guarding our houses, our cattle, and our various material goods. Throughout history, humans have also trained dogs to assist them with hunting, or they have bred numerous quirky-looking species for their cuteness or elegance.

However, dogs are also — and might have always been — truly valued companions, famed for their loyalty and seemingly constant willingness to put a smile on their owners’ faces.

In this Spotlight, we outline the research that shows how our dogs make us happier, more resilient when facing stress, and physically healthier, to name but a few ways in which these much-loved quadrupeds support our well-being.

Dogs are one of the most popular pets in the world – and many owners regard them as an important member of the family unit. Just looking at our dogs can put a smile on our faces. But why is this?

Well, in a nutshell, dogs look cute. With their large, round heads, big eyes that face forwards, soft fur and floppy ears, dogs simply look very appealing to us. They also behave in an endearing manner, with their clumsy movements, nuzzling noses and wagging tails.

In many respects, a lot of these characteristics (with the exception of the wagging tails) are very similar to those of a baby – something else that triggers us to feel a bit mushy inside. In fact, some research has even shown that if we look at a picture of a baby and a picture of a puppy, our brains respond in the same way, flooding our body with feelgood chemicals.

Happy chemicals

These chemicals, in turn, help to put us into a good mood and make us feel protective, loving and – importantly – happy. This could explain why so many people search for dog images on social media – it gives them their daily dose of cuteness therapy.

Not only is it normal to find our “fur babies” engaging, it’s also very important that we perceive them that way. If we find something cute, we are much more likely to look after it. Cute things are usually regarded as vulnerable and needy – again, just like babies.

This is important from a survival perspective. And it seems that the younger a dog is, the more likely it is that we will find it attractive.

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