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Petting other people's dogs even for a short duration can decrease stress levels, reveals expert

We have all realized how playing with dogs for a little while can lighten our moods and research reveals the same.

Petting other people's dogs even for a short duration can decrease stress levels, reveals expert
Cover Image Source: Pexels | Photo by Blue Bird

Pets have been sent to us to lighten up our moods and make us feel special and loved. We all know about this and after recent research, we have also found out how even a short brief interaction with a dog can be beneficial for our health. We have all realized how even looking at dogs or playing with them for a little while can lighten our moods but Nancy Gee, a professor of psychiatry and director of the Center for Human-Animal Interaction at Virginia Commonwealth University also agrees and says, "Absolutely. I think it is safe to say that animals are beneficial to our mental and physical health."

Image Source: Pexels/Mikhail Nilov
Image Source: Pexels/Photo by Mikhail Nilov

 

Gee says we can see how cortisol levels decrease after we interact with dogs for even as short as 5 to 20 minutes, as per NPR. Also, we see increases in oxytocin, that feel-good kind of bonding hormone," she says. "What I love about this research is that it's a two-way street," Gee adds. "We see the same thing in the dogs, so the dogs' oxytocin also increases when they interact with a human." In this research, therapy dogs have been used to screen for things such as "Pets are not a panacea," Gee says. "They're not necessarily going to be great for every single person. But for people who really get it, who really connect with the animals, they really can make a big difference," she shares. 



 

 

Research also revealed how dog ownership can lead to better heart health but the evidence is not clear on this till now. Some of it is credited to the use of different methodologies and others to how studies on pet ownership cannot prove cause and effect. National Institutes of Health and the Waltham PetCare Science Institute have funded several kinds of research on dog ownership and health benefits and the quality of evidence is also improving with passing time. "We're seeing really nice effects," she says.



 

 

Gee, and other researchers studied children 8 to 9 years old through a randomized controlled trial on how short exchanges with dogs improved brain function and cortisol levels in these children.  Megan Mueller, an associate professor at the Cummings School of Veterinary Medicine at Tufts University, says, "Animals, and dogs in particular, live in the moment. They're experiencing their environment with wonder and awe all the time, and they're not bringing up what happened to them earlier in the day or what they're thinking about in the future. They're there right now."

"They sort of pull you out of your phone and into whatever environment that you're in," Mueller adds and continues, "Some of the initial research has shown that physical touch might impact our nervous system in a way that's beneficial." Gee says dogs can connect to humans easily as they have been domesticated for several years now. "They really can connect with another human being. And they do it in a very unassuming way," she emphasizes. 

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