All Things Dog

Dogs and Happiness

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Did you know that August is "Admit You’re Happy Month"? Don’t take our word for it, look it up.

It would seem that this designation is meant for people who DON’T own dogs. Why? Because dog owners are happy EVERY month—and they admit it whenever their furry friend wags his tail, gives a wet kiss, puts his head in their lap, and rolls over to have his belly rubbed.

To dog owners it’s no secret that our pets make us happier, healthier, and more productive. We know that canine karma enriches our life with an overall feeling of love and joy.

To scientists, this is called "anecdotal evidence." And, being scientists, they have a need to investigate the exact nature and cause-effect relationship between dogs and human happiness.

Oxytocin, serotonin, prolactin and other "happy" words

Those strange-sounding words are actually hormones that the human body produces. You can think of them as "happy hormones" because they are generally associated with feelings of, you guessed it, happiness. They are also associated with dogs, because studies—such as one conducted by the University of Missouri-Columbia—show that petting our pooches causes our systems to release those hormones.

When people are happy, it’s not surprising that they also feel better in other ways. Allen McConnell, a researcher at the University of Miami (Ohio), reports, "…pet owners had greater self-esteem, were more physically fit, tended to be less lonely, were more conscientious, were more extroverted, tended to be less fearful and tended to be less preoccupied than nonowners."

In the words of dog owners

With apologies to diligent, thoughtful, and hardworking psychologists and researchers, the greatest insights come from dog owners themselves. We asked dog owners in our office a simple question: "How does your dog make you happy?" Their answers differ in sentiment from that of scientists. Where a researcher would say something like, "Dogs stimulate the production of hormones such as oxytocin…", dog owners say:

"My 3-year-old son says our dog is his best friend. That makes my heart sing!"

"I feel like my dog can sense my emotions and knows my moods. He knows when he needs to be extra cuddly, and he knows when he should be excited about going somewhere."

"I love my dog’s uncontrollable happiness and excitement. She doesn't just wag her tail, she does a full body wiggle that can transform a bad day into a day filled with giggles and laughter."

"My dog makes me happy when I wake up in the morning and he climbs under the sheets to cuddle. He has fun and wears it on his face. And I love the way his ears perk up and his head tilts when I ask him a question."

And our favorite: "Well, my husband doesn't wag his tail when I come home at night!"

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