Do Dogs Make You Happier?

by Sundays

Woman with a smile happy holding a small scruffy dog who is liking the person's face

6 research-backed ways to prove that dogs do indeed make people happier humans.

In general, you can safely say that dogs do have the power to make people happier. Of course, there are all sorts of “what-ifs,” like maybe you’re allergic to dogs or scared of them, or maybe you never had a dog, so you don’t know how rewarding it can be to have a dog.

But if you’re thinking about getting a dog and wondering if you’ll be happier for it, then the answer is yes, you most likely will be. Dogs have some amazing natural talents, like being able to form close relationships with their people, read your mood, help your body and mind calm down, and even boost your happiness hormones.

Anyone who has a dog can tell you their dog makes them happy, and if you want to know exactly how, there’s plenty of research to back it up.

How do dogs make you happy?

What does it mean to be happy? When we say dogs can bring happiness, we’re talking about all the different positive effects your dog can have on your emotional state as well as your body that lead to overall happiness.

Here are just some of the ways dogs have the power to make you a happier person:

1. Just petting them can help us de-stress.

It’s true–petting a dog (even a friendly dog you don’t know!) or cuddling up with your pup can help lower your stress levels. To be more precise, it messes with your hormones, but in a good way.

For one, petting your dog can lower the stress hormone, cortisol. And then it can also prompt your body to release oxytocin, the “love hormone.” This is the same hormone that floods your system when you get a really good hug from someone you’re close to. Mother dogs also use this hormone to bond with their puppies when they nurse.

2. Hanging out with your pup helps fight off depression.

Dogs are also literally natural antidepressants. When you pet your dog, you also get a hit of serotonin and dopamine. These are two important neurotransmitters, or chemicals that send messages to your body, because they can help create feelings of happiness. This could happen when you pet any dog, but it’s even more powerful when it’s your own pup because you’ve formed a relationship.

3. They make us laugh more.

Have you ever heard that laughter is the best medicine? It’s actually true, and it’s also been shown that people with pets laugh more in general than people without pets.

Laughter can stimulate important organs in your body, help you get more oxygen, give you a boost of endorphins, lower your heart rate and blood pressure (after you’re done laughing), relax your muscles, and increase circulation. And all of this equals a happy body and mind.

4. They just “get” you and accept you for you.

Have you ever gone somewhere where you don’t really know the people, but there’s a dog, so you end up talking to the dog more than the people? Okay, this might only be introverts, but still, the reason is that pets don’t judge you if you say something weird. 

Your pup knows you the best, and they accept you for whoever you are, because to them, you’re the best person in the world. That feeling of unconditional acceptance is really hard to come by in the world, and it contributes majorly to our core sense of happiness.

5. Your dog can get you moving, which releases endorphins.

Having a dog means you have to go for walks, at least two or three times a day. So even if you are mostly a couch potato and perfectly happy with that, you have to get moving at some point to carry out your pet parent duties. 

Movement is good for the body, but it’s also good for the soul. In terms of your physical health, walking can reduce blood pressure, strengthen muscles, reduce your risk of heart disease, and even help you get better sleep. Some of these naturally lead to a better mood. 

And then there are direct impacts on your happiness. When you walk your dog for 15-30 minutes or so, you reduce the amount of stress-inducing hormones that your body produces. Less stress equals happier humans.

6. Pets give us a sense of purpose.

Aside from unconditional acceptance and chemical neurotransmitters, another big part of a person’s happiness comes from having a sense of purpose. Several studies have linked having a purpose to greater satisfaction in life, and being more relaxed and joyful overall.

When you adopt a pet for the first time, you’re taking on a whole new identity as a pet parent. And as we all know, that comes with a set of responsibilities and a purpose for being. Even if a lot of things are not going well in life, you will always have the job of being the best pet parent you can be to your four-legged friend.

Can you think of a better purpose than loving, cuddling, and caring for your pup?

Try Healthy, Easy Sundays