The adage goes that dogs are “man’s best friend”. This is true on a number of levels. Not only are everyone’s best friend in the best and worst of times, but they are always there. If there is nobody else around to talk to, confer with, or bounce ideas off of, dogs (and pets in general) will always be there.
With so many people cautious to leave their homes these days, even being in proximity to another person can be difficult. The basic instinct of being human needs to be with or around other humans. While the exposure time varies greatly, we need to have time with people or even know that it is an option.
In the middle of this global time where travel is discouraged and even restricted, this feeling of isolation and separation isn’t unique. Dogs have been used in many situations to comfort and relax humans. For example, dogs who stay with people (especially children) during court proceedings, children reading to dogs in libraries, dogs visiting patients in hospital, and dogs visiting colleges to calm student’s nerves during exam preparation. The outcome is the same; dogs have a calming effect in stressful situations.
Research shows that when dogs and humans interact, oxytocin is released into the body. This hormone is known to have a calming effect and was shown to be present in people who interacted with dogs. Dogs can also provide a sense of emotional security by physical touch (laying next to you on the couch), or may also increase physical security depending on the breed, size, and situation.
In a national survey by the Human Animal Bond Research Institute (HABRI) and Mars Petcare, 85 percent of respondents agreed that interaction with pets can help reduce loneliness, and 76 percent agreed that human-pet interactions can help address social isolation.
That statistic reinforces what pet owners already know, that through thick and thin, dogs really do make man’s best friend.