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Can your dog give you an Oxytocin boost?
It is no secret that having a dog makes life better. Dogs are there for us no matter which mood we are in. They are ready to play if we feel playful, they are by our side if we need to take a walk and they are there when we feel sad, ready for cuddling or giving us kisses to take our tears away. Dogs are man’s best friend!
But how can we measure that happiness and make a scientific prove that dog’s really do make life better?
The scientific community have over the later years given different prove of the physiological benefits a dog can have for humans. Research has shown that dog owners in general are healthier, have lower blood pressure and a decreased risk of blood clots and heart disease. Taking daily walks with your dog also decrease stress and provides daily physical exercise to keep the body healthy.
But what exactly is it that makes dog owners have a better physiological and mental health?
Newer studies have now looked into the physiological process that happens when humans interact with their dog with the focus being on Oxytocin. Oxytocin is known as the happiness hormone and when released into the body it helps to relieve stress, anxiety and sadness. By relieving stress and anxiety in your body you automatically get a lower heart rate and blood pressure, which as mentioned above decrease the risk of possible heart diseases and blood clots but also makes you healthier and possibly improve your lifespan.
The studies found that when petting your dog you get an Oxytocin boost, similar to the one a new mother gets when breastfeeding her child. Petting your dog can therefor help relieve stress and anxiety in your body and thereby make you healthier. Oxytocin also makes you feel a stronger bond so by petting your dog you create a stronger bond with your dog (Read more about the dog-human relation here).
However, these studies also found that you are not the only one getting an Oxytocin boost – your dog gets one too! By taking blood samples after a petting session between the owner and the dog, the studies saw an increase in the Oxytocin level in both the owner and the dog. Oxytocin not only helps your health, it also helps your dog being less stressed and at a lower risk of developing heart diseases. Other studies have shown that you actually just have to look your dog in the eyes for getting both you and your dog an Oxytocin boost.
Being a dog owner improves both your physiological and mental health and your dog’s too all with the help of Oxytocin.
Below you can see a short video of the benefits of Oxytocin in both dog owners and their dogs.
Nagasawa, M. et al. 2015. Oxytocin-gaze positive loop and the coevolution of human-dog bonds. Science 348, 333-334
Kis, A. et al. 2017. The effect of Oxytocin on human-directed social behaviour in dogs (Canis familiaris). Hormones and Behaviour 94: 40-52