Finals may be over but the stress of school never ends. As you stare at your planner, eyes running over the ever-present list of things to do, you think frantically of ways you can help yourself relax. While taking a walk, reading a book, and listening to some good music are all great options, there’s a simpler method that can cheer you up and get you to take some deep breaths. This solution? A dog. It’s no great revelation that dogs can cheer people up, but most of us are unaware of the proven psychological benefits canines can provide.

Our world is becoming increasingly screen-dependent and while technology has many benefits, people are more inclined to stay inside and watch TV than go outside. Our longing for a connection with nature is satisfied through our animals. Whenever you touch, hug or even see your pet, beneficial neurohormones are released. These hormones bring about a sense of happiness, joy and peace. At the same time, the stress hormone, cortisol, is squashed which can bring down your heart rate, blood pressure, and respiratory rate, leaving you feeling more relaxed and content. You can often find therapy dogs at hospitals, visiting and cheering up patients.

There are many people whose lives have been significantly altered by dogs. For people who are visually impaired, the prospect of travelling outside the familiar confines of home can be daunting. The idea that a specially-trained dog could help these people lead less constrained lives was introduced in 1931. The first four trained guide dogs, Judy, Flash, Folly, and Meta all went on to give their owners a new sense of independence and freedom, and also provided fantastic companionship. Guide dogs insure that blind people can have many of the same experiences as everyone else.

Dogs are also being brought into schools to help children gain confidence in their reading skills. Tail Waggin’ Tutors is an organization of therapy dogs that bring these keen canines into elementary schools to provide a relaxing and “dog-friendly” environment for children while they read. Children chosen for this program usually have difficulty reading and, because of this, have developed self-esteem issues. By reading next to a dog, there is no threat of judgement and the child is able to relax and focus on the book.

Honestly, what would we do without dogs? Sure, there’s always picking up some poop, but the many therapeutic benefits vastly outweigh the annoying necessity of always having to carry a plastic bag in your pocket. Dogs make us better people, and the world can always use a few more of those.

 

Graphic By: Jared Rose-Kim

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