Through the mouth of a baby: scientific findings matched children’s intuitive preferences
The delight of the dog on our return home, the purring cat rubbing against its leg, the funny games of the child and the pet – these touching, but hardly noticeable scenes in everyday life turned out to be not just pleasant episodes.
Scientists argue that such fleeting pleasures protect our psyche from the destructive effects of stress caused by life’s hardships, drive away melancholy and are quite capable of preventing the development of depression.
Close contact with pets – dogs, cats, birds and even guinea pigs – gives us a sense of calm and well-being.
It would seem, what’s new? We already know how much we love our pets and how comfortable we are with them. But now our everyday experience is getting more and more confirmation in the conclusions based on experimental research.
During most of them, questions were asked:
- Is there a scientifically proven relationship between pet ownership and human mental health?
- What is the physiological basis for this addiction?
Scientific evidence suggests that close communication with four-legged pets affects not only mood, but also physiology: petting and playing with pets helps to normalize blood pressure and heart rate.
In 2019, scientists at the University of Washington at Pullman conducted an experiment that confirmed that tactile contact with animals normalizes the level of hormones that are responsible for our responses to stress – cortisol and dopamine, and also stimulates the production of oxytocin.
Cortisol is responsible for normal blood sugar levels and helps in the treatment of inflammation. Dopamine causes a sense of pleasure, joy of life, motivates us to physical activity, and to communication, and to creativity. Oxytocin, sometimes called the “love hormone”, enhances the need not only for love and sexual intimacy, but simply for positive communication.
Emotional connection with furry friends stimulates the production of this hormone, which harmonizes our relationships with our own kind and thus reduces anxiety and stress.
Furry therapists: how and who can they help
So far, research on pet therapy is scattered, but the number of therapy programs with the participation of our smaller brothers is gradually increasing. These programs are built into medical methods for the rehabilitation of patients with a variety of ailments.
Much of the scientific research has focused on dogs. One of the first canis therapy programs was created in the USA in 1960 by the child psychotherapist Boris Levinson.
The Solnechny Dog group, founded by Tatyana Lyubimova, has been working in Moscow for many years. According to the program developed by Tatiana, children with ASD, Down’s syndrome, and cerebral palsy are trained. Parents and specialists note that as a result of classes, children’s concentration of attention, memory, spatial orientation improves, anxiety and fear are reduced.
However, the beneficial effect of animals on the psyche and human health is not limited to dogs only.
The American scientific journal Developmental Psychobiology has published reports on good results in children with ASD after participating in programs using guinea pigs, as well as on successful correction of problem behavior in adolescents using hippotherapy – psychotherapeutic work in contact with horses.
Dogs and cats, horses and guinea pigs, as well as our other pets, become real doctors’ assistants. It is quite possible that in the very near future the useful role of the same dog will be primarily associated not with hunting and not even with guarding borders, but with healing people from bad moods and from real diseases.