Referencing a dog as the “man’s best friend” has been ubiquitous in Western culture since 1789, when Prussia’s King Frederick allegedly uttered the moniker. Now, it’s almost impossible to come across an individual who has never had at least 1—or more—wonderful interactions with a cat, a dog, a hedgehog, or any other animal. For ages, pets have been precious companions to human beings, offering loyalty, love, and friendship. People are known to believe in the healing power of pets.
As per estimates, 70% of the homes in the USA have a pet. That is almost 77 million dogs and 58 million+ cats—not to mention birds, fish, and hamsters. Have you ever wondered why pets and humans are such a great match? In that case, pets make good company, and humans are inherently social. However, research claims that only 17% of owners view their pets as companions. In contrast, 80% define pets as family.
Beyond being cute and adorable, pet ownership also demonstrated many benefits for human well-being, mental health, and overall health. The question is how things move ahead and how an innate bond between humans and their pets can guide individuals to live healthier lives. Adequately affecting the healthy functioning of the mind and subjective well-being, animal therapy in a short period has earned quite a respect among mental health clinicians.
The Healing Power Of Pets Through Ages
Present-day research on AAT – animal-assisted therapy, traces back to the origin of the healing power of pets – to the 1960s. While completing his PhD, Boris Levinson, a child psychologist, stumbled upon the advantages of using his pet dog for a therapy session. In his article, The Dog as a “co-therapist, Boris is seen narrating the story of a child with whom he was unsuccessful in building a rapport. However, he later noticed that interaction with the child became easier when his dog, Jingles, was around.
Also, Sigmund Freud made his dog, Jofi, appear in sessions, calming down patients and helping identify their moods. She (the pet dog) would stay near calm patients and maintain a distance from the ones who appeared anxious. Freud said, “Dogs love their friends and bite their enemies. While people are incapable of pure love and mix love and hate in their object relations every time.”
How Do Pets Help Amplify One’s Mood – A Comparative Overview
It is established that dogs can enhance a person’s mood and mental well-being! A study in 2019 shed light on the benefits of interaction with a dog on the anxiety levels and moods of university students. The research concluded that direct interaction with a real dog eradicated anxiety. For those who only watched dog videos, the percentage of recovery from anxiety was comparatively less.
Another research of 2020 examined how the presence of a dog positively affects the stress levels among university students before their exams. The results showcased that 10 minutes of interaction with a therapy dog can greatly affect a student’s mood! Decreasing their stress levels. Several other studies clarified how dogs provide safety, comfort, participation, and social inclusion to older adults – helping them follow a meaningful daily routine and giving a literal meaning to their lives. The participants disclosed that the pets are their constant and tend to care for them even more than the humans tend to offer.
Pet Therapy – Benefits And Types
Moving on further into the healing power of pets – Pet therapy is known to help multiple patients. Those with PTSD, patients receiving therapy for cancer, who have Dementia, heart diseases, and anxiety! Therapy sessions can be held within the hospital premises or special clinics. According to professionals, – patients who interact with pets tend to feel less lonely or depressed. Their anxiety improves, and stress levels are reported to decrease with time.
Moving on, here is a list of various pet therapy types:
Animal-Assisted Psychotherapy (AAP)
This type of animal therapy is widely practiced in Israel! The ultimate belief is that introducing a dog to therapy sessions will help build rapport and decrease symptoms. This therapy type is particularly beneficial when one aims to treat trauma patients. Therapy animals help patients gather their courage and connect with the clinician. Also, there are instances where the animals have made it easy for the patients to share secrets that they are not yet ready to discuss with the clinician.
According to the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), service animals get the training to perform or work for an individual with disabilities. The most common ones are the service dogs helping the visually impaired. These animals are designated to guide the disabled, saving them from dangerous objects – doorways and stairs or helping them walk around in crowds. Also, service animals are sometimes used to protect people with epilepsy from the dangers of seizures.
Summing up, that is all about the healing power of pets. However, one must remember that pets also need special care, love, and sympathy. It is one’s responsibility to treat the furry friends with similar zeal that they tend to offer in one’s life.