If you live with a dog, you are likely familiar with dog stress relief techniques. Perhaps you’ve felt a surge of relief burying your face in your fur after a difficult day at work, or you’ve experienced a release of calming chemicals after receiving a particularly enthusiastic greeting. And maybe those daily dog walks helped you shed a few pounds or had some welcome social interactions with other people and their dogs. And does life no longer seem to matter because there is a living being that depends on you?
For dogs, the emotional, physical, and even spiritual benefits of dog relationships are evident. These benefits feel just as real to us as the saliva-soaked tennis ball we hold in our hands. This is why it can be so hard to understand why the non-dog world has failed to see all of these life changing benefits. What’s worse is the fact that many people who have never lived with a dog seem to believe that we make it all up – that the only place these benefits exist is in our heads.
Science in action
Thanks to a special report from Harvard Medical School (HMS), we now have something important to share with these infidels – proof! Get well, get a dog is the first publication to compile hundreds of research studies from around the world documenting the physical and psychological benefits of dog ownership. Taken together, these studies provide the most complete picture yet of the many ways dogs can enrich human life: from lower cholesterol and improved cardiovascular health to weight loss, companionship, defense against depression, and longer lifespan.
“The most common reaction we’ve had from people about this report is that they’re so grateful that someone has finally printed what they intuitively knew all along,” said medical editor Elizabeth Pegg Frates, MD, overseeing the report The Lifestyle Medicine Advocacy Group at HMS teaches a college lifestyle medicine course at Harvard Extension School and directs wellness programs at Spaulding Stroke Research and Recovery Institute, a subsidiary of HMS.