Science Explains Why Dog Really Is Man’s (and Woman’s) Best Friend

Clear the Shelters

It’s no secret that the bond between a human and their pet can be a powerful one. Scientists say dogs have likely been “man’s best friend” for thousands of years. But beyond an endless supply of slobbery kisses and games of fetch, what about spending time with our dogs makes us so happy and calm? 

“One of the main mental health benefits of having a pet is companionship,” Lois Krahn, Professor of Psychiatry at Mayo Clinic in Arizona, told NBCLX.

Krahn said something as simple as petting your dog releases a chemical in your brain that makes you feel safe.

“When a human pets an animal, a dog or a cat, the brain releases Oxytocin, which is a chemical that is kind of a nesting, care taking chemical that can enhance our sense of well-being,” Krahn explained. “There’s been research shown that people who spend time caring for their companion animals can be more relaxed. And that is evidenced because they may have better control of blood pressure with fewer blood pressure spikes.”

Krahn, who is a specialist in sleep medicine, also said pet owners may have slower heart rate and a degree of muscle relaxation that non-pet owners may not.

At the end of a long day, some pets can even help their humans sleep better.

“Sleep issues could potentially improve due to the presence of a companion animal,” said Dr. Krahn, “This is based on several assumptions; that the animal is mature and happy, the animal is a reasonable size, not overly large, but having a companion animal nearby at night can help combat the feeling of being alone or being lonely because the animals there and the person is not truly alone,” Dr. Krahn said.

Even though our dogs can’t track time, they can also help create healthy routines in their humans’ lives.

“They know when it’s time to eat, they know when it’s time to go out, and they can be fairly structured and then help create more structure for their owner. People who are dog owners who take their dogs for walks tend to be in better physical shape.”

In a time of social distancing, and with more and more of our personal and professional interactions moving online, having a furry friend could go a long way.

I believe that a pandemic is a major challenge to mental health because there are so many changes. We are social beings, so keeping distance from other people for the sake of preventing illness is very hard. Some people who live alone have been by themselves for weeks and weeks. At this point, also there’s so much uncertainty about jobs, the economy, and financial security. That’s a huge source of worry for many of us.”

Pets are a big responsibility, and they certainly can’t solve all of your problems. Keeping a healthy mind and body takes work. But going through it with a pet who loves you unconditionally can really help along the way. 

Correction: Due to an editing error the chemical Oxytocin was originally misidentified. We apologize for this error.

Copyright 2020 Nexstar Inc. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

Clear The Shelters

Shelters near you


TAMPA, Fla. (WFLA) - Thousands of pets are looking for their forever homes and News Channel 8 is On Your Side helping to make that happen in the Tampa Bay area.

We are teaming up with hundreds of shelters across the country to host Clear the Shelters, a nationwide pet adoption drive from Aug. 1 through Aug. 31, featuring virtual pet adoptions to make it easy for people to donate online to participating shelters and rescues.

More than 150,000 pets found their forever homes since 2015 and we want to add to the number.

Find a shelter near you:

  • Pasco County Animal Services, 19640 Dogpatch Lane, Land O'Lakes
  • Paw Warriors, Inc., 355 Spring Time Street, Spring Hill
  • Pinellas County Animal Services, 12450 Ulmerton Road, Largo
  • Cat Haven Rescue, Inc, 1231 Bruce B. Downs Blvd, Wesley Chapel
  • Cat Haven Rescue, Inc - Pasco, 8529 Little Road, New Port Richey
  • SPCA Tampa Bay, 9099 130th Ave N, Largo
  • Bishop Animal Shelter SPCA of Manatee County, 5718 21st Ave West, Bradenton
  • Hernando County Animal Services, 19450 Oliver Street, Brooksville
  • SPCA Florida, 5850 Brannen Rd S, Lakeland
  • Barking Out Loud Rescues, Inc, 300 N Lake Drive, Lorida
  • Precious Paws Rescue, Inc., Citrus County Florida, 5164 S. Florida Avenue, Inverness
  • Humane Society of Pinellas, 3040 State Road 590, Clearwater
  • Hernando County SPCA, 9075 Grant St, Brooksville
  • St Francis Society, PO Box 261614, Tampa
  • Humane Society of Tampa Bay, 3607 N Armenia Avenue, Tampa
  • Rebels Rescue, Petco 136 S. West shore Blvd, Tampa
  • SPCA Suncoast, 7734 Congress Street, New Port Richey
  • Friends of Strays Animal Shelter, 2911 47th Avenue North, St. Petersburg
  • Florida English Bulldog Rescue, P.O. Box 754, Odessa
  • The Humane Society of Polk County, Inc, 3195 Dundee Rd, Winter Haven
  • The Humane Society of Sarasota County, 2331 15th Street, Sarasota
  • Hands Helping Paws Rescue Inc., 53 W Bay Blvd S, Lake Wales
  • Humane Society of Manatee County, 2515 14th Avenue W, Bradenton
  • Highlands County Sheriffs Animal Services, 7300 Haywood Taylor Blvd, Sebring
  • Manatee County Animal Services, 305 25th St W, Palmetto
  • SPCA Suncoast, 7734 Congress Street, New Port Richey
  • Citrus County Animal Services, 4030 S. Airport Rd, Inverness
  • St Francis Society, PO Box 261614, Tampa
  • FLUFF Animal Rescue, 9400 SEMINOLE BOULEVARD, SEMINOLE
  • SPCA Tampa Bay, 9099 130th Ave N, Largo
  • Polk County Sheriff's Office Animal Control, 7115 De Castro Rd, Winter Haven
  • The Greener Side Haven, Inc., 3892 N Lecanto Hwy, Beverly Hills
  • Humane Society at Lakewood Ranch, 26920 Gopher Hill Road, Myakka City

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