Do dogs make us happier?

The question is: Do dogs make us happier?
My answer is “yes,” which I know from personal experience.
Every time I think about my dogs, a smile comes to my face. They welcome me with wagging tails when I come home, and not just because they expect some “carry-out.”
They are my constant companions. And as I write, both dogs are by my feet.
Even my husband, who never wanted a house dog until our beautiful white “Phoebe” came to us 17 years ago, says that our lives are happier because of “Amber” and “Nina.”
Our dogs always make us laugh.
So from our experience, the answer is an unequivocal “yes.”
But if you need more proof than that, read “100 Simple Secrets Why Dogs Make Us Happy: The Science behind What Dog Lovers Already Know” by David Niven.
Niven is a psychologist and social scientist who teaches at Ohio State University, and also is the author of the best-selling “100 Simple Secrets” series.
The titles in this series include “100 Simple Secrets of Happy People,” “100 Simple Secrets of Successful People,” “100 Simple Secrets of The Best Half of Life,” and four others. All eight books are documented by scientific research.
In “100 Simple Secrets Why Dogs Make Us Happy,” Niven tells us in a down-to-earth way what social scientists have found about the way dogs positively impact our lives.
The findings of scientific studies on people who have dogs are most interesting. Overall, people who have dogs live happier, healthier, and more satisfying lives.
Here are some findings that Niven reports:
•Fact: People who have dogs live an average of three years longer than those who do not have dogs.
•Fact: Contact with a dog lowers our blood pressure by six percent.
•Fact: People who have dogs make fewer visits to their doctors.
•Fact: Petting a dog has positive effects on stress levels and immune function (the positive effects begin in less than five minutes and continue nine times as long as the petting).
•Fact: Dog owners walk 79 percent farther in an average week than people who do not have a dog.
•Fact: People who live alone are 37 percent less likely to say they often feel lonely if they have a dog.
•Fact: People who live with a dog are 14 percent more likely to be optimistic.
These are only a few of the positive effects on humans referenced by Niven. Just imagine how happy and healthy your life could be if you had a dog.
And also remember, you’re never too old to enjoy a dog. Niven tells a story of an 85-year-old woman who was thinking about getting a dog and her children thought it was a poor idea.
She said, “They suggested I might be too old to get a dog. But I think I might be too old not to have one.”
Without question, research tells us about the health and social benefits of interaction with dogs, especially for older people. That’s why many retirement centers have companion dogs.
So if it isn’t practical for you to own a dog, at least pet your neighbour’s dog and smile while you pet. The dog will like it and you will, too.
Marie Snider is an award-winning health care writer and syndicated columnist. Write her at thisside60@aol.com or visit www.visit-snider.com

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