Do dogs really make us happy?

Last Saturday, we had a very special guest. She stayed four hours and we had little conversation, but still it was a lot of fun.
I didn’t make coffee or tea. Instead, I served delicious dog cookies because our guest, “Paris,” was a dog.
My daughter, who lives next door, had a coffee with three of her high school friends—Elizabeth, Rhonda, and Kris. Elizabeth adopted Paris from the local humane society at the same time we adopted our dogs.
After our wonderful white dog “Phoebe” died, my daughter visited the humane society the very next day. She was completely taken with a litter of five-month-old puppies—Paris, Carmen, and Nina.
We adopted Carmen (now Amber) and Nina while Elizabeth took Paris. The dogs are lucky to have such wonderful homes—but the people are luckier!
After four hours, Paris was delighted to see Elizabeth and her tail wagged in greeting. The two obviously have bonded.
That’s the way it is with dogs. You always feel greatly appreciated.
In his book “100 Simple Secrets Why Dogs Make Us Happy,” psychologist David Niven states: “Dogs do not ask us why we didn’t get a promotion. They don’t ask us why we don’t have a bigger house or a new car. They don’t ask for anything superficial.”
They just take us as we are and gladly wag their tails when we come home.
No wonder people who have dogs live happier and live longer—an average of three years longer—than those who do not have dogs.
The increased longevity is only one of the facts in Niven’s book. He has collected data from many of the best scientific studies on the relationship between people and their dog friends.
And in 100 very short chapters, he reminds us succinctly why dogs make us happy.
Dogs learn words, says Niven. Every dog lover knows that, of course. Our dogs’ favourite words are “treats,” “walk,” “out,” “run with Ruthie and Phoebe,” and, of course, “run with Paris.”
But we’re all puzzled about one word Amber and Nina both seem to know. Every time the word “tomorrow” comes up in conversation, they both stand at attention, with ears held high and tails wagging vigorously.
Unfortunately, we’ll probably never know exactly what “tomorrow” means to them!
Dog owners are 14 percent more likely to be optimistic about their day than people who don’t make dogs a part of their lives, reports Niven. And they are 35 percent less likely to say that they feel unneeded.
As for health, research shows dog owners go to doctors less frequently, have a better survival rate after a heart attack, and have lower blood pressure.
Dogs fit all ages, adds Niven. “Our lives are transitory: most everything we enjoyed when we were five is no longer of interest to us when we are eighty-five.”
As we age, sometimes we must live in places where we are not allowed to own pets. But there still are ways to connect with dogs. Visit with the resident therapy dog, or ask friends and their dogs to stop by while out walking.
It will do you good to make room in your life for dog friends.
Marie Snider is an award-winning health care writer and syndicated columnist. Write her at or visit

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