For thousands of years, we have had dogs as our number one companion, and they have been with us through everything. From hunting aides and watchdogs, to fighting with us on ancient battlefields, there is nothing they would not do for us. Why did dogs choose us as their favoured companion, and why did we accept them? It’s not just because they are cute and cuddly; there are plenty of evolutionary reasons why. Plus, as time has gone on, we have found that they can actually boost your mental health too.
Dogs and Mental Health
There are plenty of ways in which dogs can alleviate the symptoms of mental illness, and a whole range of conditions that they are able to calm. A good example is that stroking your dog releases oxytocin throughout the body, the hormone that is responsible for reducing stress and anxiety, blood pressure, and heart rate to create a calmer environment.
Some studies have even suggested that they can help balance the serotonin levels in the brain, boosting your mood and working as an excellent aid to things like antidepressants. They also give you structure and routine, giving you a more focused day and a purpose in your life. Similarly, they are a non-judgemental friend that will never abandon you and listen to all of your fears.
Why Do We Get on with Dogs?
So, why did dogs choose us and why do we get on with them as well as we do? While the genetically separated from wolves 100,000 years ago, they still hold the same values – and these are ones that are shared with human families as well:
- Hunt together and use teamwork
- Emotionally bonded
- Care for the sick and elderly
These core principles are part of why we are so drawn to each other, and while experts argue over who domesticated who, it could also be that we domesticated each other, working in symbiosis for a better future. We offered dogs food, protection, shelter, and affection. In turn, they helped us hunt, guarded our children, watched the camps, and tracked.
It is a relationship that works in perfect harmony, and one that has had a significant impact on the development of both species. Human brains have shrunk by a tenth over time as we no longer needed improved hearing or a sense of smell because we have dogs. The brain of a dog has shrunk by 20% because of the protection and safety that we are able to offer them. In many ways, we are birds of a feather.
If you want to read more about dogs and mental health, as well as why we make such great companions, you can find heaps more information here. Dogs are exceptional creatures, and ones that have evolved to rely on us more and more as time progresses. Similarly, there are many things that we have come to depend on them for, creating a symbiosis that has become stronger over the past few thousand years. Truly, it is a fascinating and commendable cross-species relationship that is unlike any other.
About the Author
Will is a freelance writer, his blog can be seen here. If you are interested in more information on the benefits of dog ownership including health tips, buyers guide’s and gear reviews, then check out his guides over at Dogowner.co.uk