Happy Love Your Pet Day!
Make sure you give your pet an extra cuddle today. That’s because they’re not just cute, they’re also good for you.
Research shows spending just ten minutes a day patting a dog can make you feel more relaxed and happy.
“Having pets, and being around animals, can make you less depressed, less anxious, and less stressed,” says anthrozoologist Dr Pauleen Bennet.
Researchers have also found people with pets tend to have higher self-esteem and better physical fitness. Plus pet owners are seen as more friendly, approachable and attractive (just sayin’).
Don’t like cats or dogs? Pauleen says humans are hardwired to be social, so living with any type of pet can improve your mood. “Guinea pigs, rabbits, snakes… But don’t rush out and get a pet. Think about what you’re doing, get a pet that fits your lifestyle.”
Inside dog, outside dog
The more time you spend with your pet, the more benefit you’ll get from it.
“What’s important is not whether you own a pet, but your relationship with it,” Pauleen says.
“If you have a dog and put in the yard and never spend time with it, or you have a cat and it’s out wandering the neighbourhood, you don’t get the same benefits.”
Pauleen’s research shows that people who think their dog is cute have a better relationship with that dog.
Want to excel at school?
“School-based studies show kids concentrate better and perform better if they have a dog around them,” Pauleen says. “Things like following instructions, remembering things, solving problems…kids were better at doing it when there was a dog in the room.”
Don’t forget: pets need love too.
“You have to think about the welfare of the animal as well as the welfare of the people,” Pauline says. “Class pets are really good, but someone has to look after them after hours and on holidays.”
It’s a cave dog’s life
Why do we respond so well to pets? It could be evolution.
“This is all speculative, but there’s good reason to believe that early people who lived with dogs survived better,” Pauleen says.
“Dogs could warn when other tribes approached, they helped hunt and track things to eat, and they cleaned up rubbish, so there was less disease.”
- Anthro: people
- Zoo: animals
Pauleen is an anthrozoologist. “I have the best job on earth,” she says.
If you like the sound of anthrozoology, Pauleen suggests you get started right away: “Read everything you can about animals and people, do volunteer work with animals, and work really, really hard. Make sure you work at something you love.”
I originally penned this article for CSIRO’s Double Helix magazine. Hope you enjoyed it 🙂 And happy Love Your Pet Day!