Dogs as Stress Relievers

Charli Saltzman

In my social psychology class, a partner and I did a project on dogs and humans. We wanted to find out if people who owned dogs experienced relief from every day stress. Obviously, stress does not go away. There are different events in our lives that bring about stress. These events can include weddings, funerals, and the exciting new birth of a child. It can also be stressful moving into a new house, graduating from college, or starting a new job. All of these events bring about some sort of stress, whether it is good or bad. Keep in mind that some stress is good. It makes you strong. But how, you might ask, do people handle stress. What are the different ways in which people deal with it? We decided, then, that we would survey both dog owners and those that do not own dogs. Because this isn’t an actual formal research project, I cannot say these are facts. They are only theories and hypotheses that we came up with and some of the results we received. So, let’s begin.

Can owning a dog lower stress? It would be incorrect to say that dogs relieve stress, but the companionship and the care of the dog are related. For example, suppose you have a huge project to do, and you are really stressed about it. Things just are not going well, and you can’t figure out what to do next. So, because you feel your back is against the wall and you are unsure where to go, you decide to take a break and exercise. Exercising brings about a relief in stress. While the project didn’t just sprout wings and fly away, never to exist again, you feel better and more relaxed about it. Now, let’s add in a dog.

Many dog owners enjoy walking their dogs, and walking is probably the best way to relieve stress. No, your dog will not complete that project for you. In fact, he would probably rather eat it if he could, that way you would stop working on that stupid thing and spend more time with him. Obviously, that would just make you more stressed, so this would not be a good idea. Still, not only walking your dog but also spending time with your dog can relieve stress. When I’ve been working on my homework all evening, taking a break to play with my dog seems unlikely, and I don’t feel like I have time. However, after I take him outside to do his business for the last time that day, we go inside and play with his favorite toys. We usually play for 10-15 minutes, and then, if I’m really busy, I sit down and pet him for a couple more minutes and get back to work after that. The time spent with my dog gave me the opportunity to relax my mind. So, now that we know that walking your dog and spending quality time with your companion relaxes you, let’s talk about therapy dogs.

A dog with the right behavioral training can be a therapy dog. You don’t want an extremely hyper dog serving as a therapy dog. No, it should be a dog that is social and loves to be petted. With this in mind, let’s talk about why therapy dogs are often used. They are often used at my school towards the end of the semester. Someone usually brings a therapy dog to school, and students who feel they need that dog therapy will take time to pet the dogs. Therapy dogs are also used in nursing homes and hospitals for the residents suffering from illness or whatever the case may be. I have heard that petting a dog can decrease or relax your heart rate. Perhaps that’s why therapy dogs are popular.

While dogs do not have an exact correlation to stress, they are vaguely related and can help in relieving stress. It would make sense for other animals such as cats to do the same thing. We just love are animals, don’t we? So, if you are feeling overwhelmed, just take some time off with your furry friend. Your furry friend will make you feel better.


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