Pet ownership is a life changing experience for many of us. To feel fulfilled, we each need strong interpersonal bonds and positive interaction in our lives- as Psychologytoday.com puts it “the lack of such connections can lead to many problems, including loneliness”. While People will always need eachother for a multitude of reasons, we find the companionship of Pets a less complicated relationship that meets deep human needs to be accepted and loved. What could better summarise the positivity Pets bring us than the moment we walk through the front door and we are, without fail, greeted cheerfully? This positive social interaction is perhaps a bit of an unsung hero of our daily lives. The numbers do all the talking; animalmedicinesaustralia.org.au esitmates that as of 2016, 5-7 million Australian households have a Pet. Additionally, there is nearly as many Pets as there are Humans in Australia! The need for a strong bond in our lives is undeniable. Pets (dogs and cats especially) have evolved symbiotically with us, understanding our needs and developing effective communication techniques- typically used to remind us that it’s time for dinner.
A big benefit to owning a Dog is the increased need for physical activity. Without regular outings, Dogs become unhealthy both physically and mentally. If you have never been the type to work out, Dog ownership will give you the motivation to atleast get outside and walk- an obvious energy and well-being booster. Along with fresh air and sunshine, the chit-chats you find yourself having with neighbours and other pet owners make for a healthy exercise for both you and your pooch. Conditions like obesity, osteoporosis and arthritis can be fought off with regular physical activity, allowing us to stay active and mobile into our later years. Dogs have even been reported to save the lives of chronically ill people by alerting them or assisting them in a crisis. We found a great TED talk from Zach Skow, a recovering alcoholic and addict who used daily mountain walks with his dogs to prepare for a much needed liver transplant. According to Zach “I was terrible at caring for myself, but incredibly good at caring for dogs.”. Because his dogs needed him, Zach found the strength to overcome intense chronic illness and suicidal thoughts, in his own words “Every time I got a doubt or felt sorry for myself or wanted to commit suicide, we would go for a walk”. Watch Zach’s insightful TED talk here.
Pet owners experience great mental and emotional benefits from the release of oxytocin and serotonin- important neurochemicals for mental well-being. The development of Animal Assisted Therapy (AAT) in Psychology is great evidence of the profound benefits to mental health that Pets offer. In researching AAT, we found a Psychology Clinic in Sydney with three Spoodles (Cocker Spaniel / Spoodle) on staff! They are paired with patients depending on their specific needs, aiding in reducing anxiety, improving empathy and developing better social skills.
The mental and emotional benefits for Children is significant, it has been found that Children living in homes with pets are less likely to test positive for anxiety. The responsibility of caring for a pet properly improves a Child’s understanding of themselves and the importance of empathy. The social hierarchy is a bewildering place for children, and for them to come home to a friend that adores them is invaluable emotional support during formative years.
Ofcourse, we are huge advocates for adopting. Giving a pet in need a good home is an act that will increase your self-esteem, giving you a sense of pride. Improving the lives of others is one of the greatest ways to improve our own lives. There are many pets that need a home and displaced pets is an issue we as a society have to tackle together.
Adopt a pet and see the improvement in your own well-being.
“I truly believe that dogs are medicine” - Zach Skow Link References:
https://kidsandco.com.au/services/animal-assisted-therapy/ https://www.psychologytoday.com/us/blog/emotional-nourishment/201612/why-we- need-each-other https://animalmedicinesaustralia.org.au/wp-content/uploads/2016/11/AMA_Pet- Ownership-in-Australia-2016-Report_sml.pdf