I remember when I first encountered a dog. She was my grandma`s dog, Julia, and she hated me. My parents traveled a lot, so I had to spend some considerable time with my grandmother. Although she was the sweetest person ever, all that I can recall from that period, besides her tasty apple pies, is that up until high school, I was scared shitless every time I saw a dog, a cat, or anything that moved on four. It was only when I started dating when I realized that no self-respecting woman would date a guy afraid to touch her puppy.
In June 2006, I got my first dog ever, Arsène—proudly named after the back-then prolific soccer coach, Monsieur Arsène Wenger—and he made me regret all the years I spent without a dog. Arsène passed away on February 6, 2014, just before the National Puppy Day, which is on March 23 this year (2018). For that sake, here are five scientific reasons to why getting a dog may not be the worst thing you can do. Here they are:
1. Makes you less stressed.
A 2008 study by Ohio State University suggests that students are more likely to handle stressful situations better if they have a pet. Among the surveyed students, those who owned at least one were less likely to feel depressed or lonely.
Dogs are excellent providers for unconditional love and acceptance, which is why Professor Sara Staats, the lead author of the study, believes owning them can increase the quality of life especially for freshman and sophomores in an early transition from living at home to living in dorms or off-campus.
Another study by Professor Karen Allen at the State University of New York found that owning a dog can significantly change the life of Wall Street`s stressed-out stockbrokers. Allen`s team gave a group of participants, all stockbrokers, a dog to look after. Six months later, the “dog” group were significantly more relaxed and had lower blood pressure compared to the “no-dog” group. They also felt more compassionate and emotionally attached, and refused to return the dogs after the study was over. They should probably vote to replace the Charging Bull of Wall Street with a Golden Retriever.
2. Reduces cardiovascular risks.
According to the American Heart Association, owning a dog may reduce your risk of heart disease. One reason may be just because owning a dog forces you to engage in more physical activity than non-dog owners. The survey that included more than 5,000 adults found that nearly 50 percent of them were more likely to get the recommended level of physical activity just by walking their dogs outside every day.
Another study by the University of Missouri-Columbia found that owning a dog is especially important to the health of old people. Two groups of participants were assigned a walking buddy, either a dog or a partner, for 12 weeks. Those with dogs improved their walking capabilities by 28 percent which is seven-times better than the other group who said their human walking buddies discouraged them and were more likely to find excuses not to go out.
A third study by author and psychologist Richard Wiseman, suggests you’re 900-percent more likely to stay alive a year after a heart attack if you own a dog than if you live with a cat or don’t own a pet at all.
3. Increases your persuasion and people skills.
How do you train an animal? Through positive reinforcement. According to Karen Pryor, behavioral psychologists and author of Don’t Shoot the Dog!: The New Art of Teaching and Training. People are much like pets when it comes to changing their behaviors. The better you get at teaching your dog how to follow your orders, the better you`ll get at persuading people to do what you want and what`s better for them.
4. Makes your child more cooperative.
A recent study by Cambridge University found a correlation between owning a pet—especially a dog—and children’s social behavior. According to Matthew Cassels, the lead researcher of the study, children who had suffered adversity in their lives, such as illness or a divorce, were more likely to turn to their pets for support. The same study found that children with strong pet bonds were more co-operative and had better pro-social skills than their peers.
5. You make more casual conversations.
Talking about dogs can be a great icebreaker, especially for old and shy people. You`re more likely to chat with strangers walking your dog than walking alone. A 1993 study found that dog owners who walked them frequently were significantly more satisfied with their physical, social, and emotional states compared to non-owners.
Another study by professor Nicolas Guéguen from the University of Southern Brittany found that, in general, dog-owners are more likely to get people to accept their requests compared to non-owners. The same study found that walking a dog increases a man’s chance of getting a woman’s phone number by 300 percent.
6. Finally, a dog will tell you more about your personality.
If you want to talk self-exploration, then a pet may tell you a lot about your personality, and that of other people. Psychologist and bestselling author, Richard Wiseman examined the relationship between pets and their owner’s personality through a large-scale online study and found that fish owners were the happiest, cat owners where the most dependable and sensitive, while dog owners provide the best company.
Another study by the University of Leicester found that young people who are disagreeable are more likely to prefer bull terriers, boxers, and other aggressive dogs. A third one also found that conservatives tend to choose their dogs based on loyalty and obedience—think a German Shepherd—whereas liberals prefer a gentler type of dogs like a poodle or an Irish Setter.
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