Research shows spending as little as 5min with a dog can make you happier
Research shows cuddling up to your pet dog or patting one on the street for just a short amount of time can release a love hormone in your body that makes you feel joy
READING LEVEL: GREEN
Spending just five minutes with a dog can make you feel happier and less stressed*.
Researchers have confirmed hanging out with man’s best friend is good for our health, even if it’s only in short bursts, because it gives us higher natural doses* of oxytocin – also known as the love hormone*.
Nancy Gee who is a professor of psychiatry* and director of the Centre for Human-Animal Interaction at Virginia Commonwealth University in the US, says there’s evidence that shows people who spend as little as five to 20 minutes with a dog experience a drop in the stress hormone cortisol at the same time as a rise in oxytocin.
“Dogs really can connect with another human being. And they do it in a very unassuming* way,” Prof Gee said.
And the best part? Prof Gee said it works both ways.
“We see the same thing in the dogs, so the dogs’ oxytocin also increases when they interact* with a human,” she said.
That explains why we see dogs wagging their tails when we pay them attention.
During a recent UK study on eight and nine-year-old children, Prof Gee and her team found the kids who had twice-weekly exchanges with pooches were less stressed and more focused, and their thinking and reasoning had improved.
“We actually saw (those effects) one month later. And there’s some evidence that (they) may exist six months later,” Prof Gee told the NPR news site in the US.
Megan Mueller, an associate professor at the Cummings School of Veterinary Medicine at Tufts University, says dogs prompt us to experience the world more like they do.
“Animals, and dogs in particular, live in the moment. They’re experiencing their environment with wonder and awe* all the time, and they’re not bringing up what happened to them earlier in the day or what they’re thinking about in the future. They’re there right now,” Assoc Prof Mueller said.
“They sort of pull you out of your phone and into whatever environment that you’re in.”
Assoc Prof Meuller said there was some evidence that touching a dog might be an important part of their calming effect.
One study done in Canada found that university students reported less stress and reduced feelings of homesickness after brief connections with dogs, and that effect was much bigger in those who actually got to touch the animals. She’s currently running a study that’s finding similar results.
- stressed: a feeling someone gets when they are under pressure
- doses: an amount of something
- hormone: natural chemicals that tell cells and body parts to do certain things
- psychiatry: a doctor who is an expert in mental health
- unassuming: modest, pleasant, and polite
- interact: to communicate and react with someone
- awe: the feeling we get in the presence of something that challenges our understanding of the world
1. What is the name of the love hormone that dogs help increase in the human body?
2. Canines also help lower our cortisol levels. What problem does this hormone cause?
3. Research shows how many minutes with a dog can improve your happiness?
4. How does experiencing the world like a dog improve our lives?
5. What benefits did Canadian students experience when able to touch dogs during one study?
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What do you think a cat would think about this story? Imagine that you are a reporter for CatsNews and write the story from their point of view.
Time: allow 25 minutes to complete this activity.
Curriculum Links: English, Critical and Creative Thinking
What evidence do you think scientists would need to know for sure that touching or being with dogs has a calming effect? Write a list. Use the information in the story to help you.
Time: allow 20 minutes to complete this activity.
Curriculum Links: English, Science.
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Make a list of all the openers in the article. Pick three that repeat and see if you can replace them with another word, or shuffle the order of the sentence to bring a new opener to the front.
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