Speaking for much of the U.S.’s population, dogs are an important aspect of human happiness and families. Dogs and humans have been together for about 15,000 years, and it is safe to say that we are significant parts of each other’s lives.
Several studies have shown that domesticated dogs, given the option between other dogs, even their siblings, and humans, will pick the human almost every time (Heid, pg. 52). Of course, it is not uncommon to hear humans prefer the company of their furry friends over other people. We rely on each other for support and love. Most dogs would be lost if their humans suddenly disappeared, and it is proven that spending time with dogs can improve mental health in humans. We have Emotional Support Animals for a reason, but even without having an ESA, having a dog can immensely improve human life.
Oxytocin, often called the “love hormone”, is released in the brain when humans experience emotional bonding, and it is extremely important in the overall happiness in our species. Oxytocin is released when we see babies, laugh with friends, and when we spend time with our precious puppers. Dogs also experience this surge of oxytocin in their brain after only a couple of minutes playing or interacting with their owners.
Moreover, dogs can help us lower anxieties, and we can reciprocate for our beloved pets. Interactions with dogs can reduce stress levels and can influence a healthier and more positive lifestyle. If you have ever owned a dog, you distinctly know the heartbreaking feeling of having to leave them alone and the desolate look in their eyes accuses you of betrayal. Of course, the minute you get home, they dance and jump around, so excited to see you. It’s important to remember that we are their whole world.
A human’s best friend, indeed.
As I think back on all the beautiful, heartfelt moments I have had with my dog (who is currently snoring, laying in my lap), I remember how much meaning her life has given me. I became a dog mom when I was thirteen, and I remember how I instantly connected with her, holding her tiny body in my arms. I watched her play, run, and grow, but of course, not very much; she is still extremely small at the whopping age of six. I am still so grateful my parents let me have my little Izzy. I am also thankful to live on campus at a university that allows dogs in some dorm rooms, giving me and my roommate the opportunity to love Izzy and my roommate’s dog, Phoebe, even through our freshmen year of college.
Of course, the two most important lessons I have learned as a dog owner have been 1) taking responsibility for a life that depends on you, providing maturity, and 2) that humans should strive to live like dogs.
I don’t mean bark, run after balls, and cry every time your mom leaves the room, something Izzy and Phoebe are prone to. When I say, “live like a dog”, I implore you to appreciate and love as a dog does.
Drink lots of water, exercise regularly, and naturally, gets lots of sleep and cuddle-time, but of utmost importance, take care of yourself emotionally. While dogs rely heavily on humans for happiness, they also require their own alone time to make themselves happy. In an experiment from 2010 and 2015, “dogs that had been required to perform a 10-minute sit-and-stay exercise were less likely to complete a puzzle task given to them next than dogs that had spent the same 10 minutes doing what they pleased” (Kluger, pg. 15). This is important to consider in one’s own life. How often do you get to sit down and enjoy something you want to do? I know for me personally, I must set aside time, otherwise I find myself too busy. However, studies show that doing things that you enjoy can increase your attentiveness and success on something that requires more focus. It is important to enjoy our time, make the best of it, so that we can truly accomplish other things to a better capacity.
Above anything else, though, we need to learn how to be happy from our doggos. Canines depend on humans for a lot of emotional stability, and while we lean on dogs as well, humans as a species depend on social interactions from each other to maintain a happiness that is vital and enables a stronger and healthier life. We support each other, encourage each other, and make each other laugh. Humanity is our biggest resource for happiness, and we all take it for granted as hate and disappointment take the foreground in society seemingly more and more every day. We must give each other more happiness for our species to thrive. Dogs are the epitome of unconditional love, and every person is better and happier when there is love between us. Hate is destructive, but love can mend and heal, and just as our pups can, give the world more to be happy about.
Furthermore, living each day with that happiness will be more beneficial to every person out there. Think back to the times your dog gets excited; that is the best day of your dog’s life. Every day is the best day of your dog’s life. Dogs live each day to its fullest, and that mentality can support tons of mental growth and keep your happiness healthy. Each day is filled with potential, and even on days that are not as good as the others, for example, your human goes to get milk but will not take you with, there is still a silver lining that makes that day better and easier.
Of course, just a treat does not make every day amazing. As a human, we know that not every day is the best day ever, but that substantial mentality could change your life. There is always a silver lining; waking up every morning, having people who love you, having a dog who makes your life a million times better.
There’s so much to learn from dogs, and this is just scraping the surface.
Love your doggos and love your humans.
(Feat. Izzy and Phoebe)
Heid, Markham. “Human to Dog: You Complete Me.” Time Special Edition: How Dogs Think: Inside the Canine Mind. 2018: 52-59.
Kluger, Jeffrey. “What the World Looks Like to a Dog.” Time Special Edition: How Dogs Think: Inside the Canine Mind. 2018: 10-15.