When I was in high school, I experienced my first real heartbreak. I was in the lowest of moods and moped around the house like a modern-day Eeyore. Everyone left me alone to “grieve” in peace ― everyone, that is, except for my dog.
Sapp followed me around like a shadow as I sulked and quietly hid in my room to cry. He even resorted to sleeping on my pillow ― right next to my face ― that night. The next morning I was in better spirits (and so was he).
My story isn’t uncommon. Pups really are our best friends ― and there’s research that backs this up. One study found that dogs can not only read our emotions, but they act accordingly based on how we’re feeling. How’s that for intuitive?
Below are nine other ways our furry friends understand and adapt to our complex personalities, effectively making us happier and healthier humans.
They can help reduce anxiety.
Stress is no match for cuddles with our pets. Research shows that we’re just automatically happier when Fido’s around. One study out of Georgia State University found that dogs can reduce feelings of stress and loneliness in college students, and research published in the Journal of Personality and Social Psychology suggests that owning a pet can make us happier overall. We can’t think of a cuter anxiety-reliever.
They get jealous.
We aren’t the only ones who fall victim to the green-eyed monster. Dogs get jealous too, according to one study conducted by the University of California, San Diego. Researchers found that dogs displayed signs of the emotion when they saw their owners interacting with a stuffed, animatronic dog. Sound like a familiar social scene you’ve experienced? In other words, we even share our flaws with our fluffy pals.
We naturally bond with them.
Our connection with canines may all come down to a hormone in our brains ― something we biologically produce on our own. When we cuddle with our pet, oxytocin (AKA the love hormone) is released and it may cause dogs to pay better attention to their humans. As a result, the relationship between the two becomes stronger.
They can read our facial expressions.
Dogs can tell if we’re happy or angry by reading the emotions on our face, according to a 2015 study published in the journal Current Biology. Thus proving our pups really are sensitive to our feelings and behaviors (and perhaps explains why they just know when you’re going through that rough breakup).
They help us heal.
Dogs don’t just bring up comfort in our own homes, they relieve the stress of others who may be suffering traumatic setbacks. Therapy dogs, used for catastrophic events like mass shootings and even for veterans who’ve returned from their tours, bring a big light to situations otherwise laced with darkness. Studies show these specially-trained dogs can help ease PTSD.
They’re intuitive when it comes to our health.
Dog ownership isn’t just great for us on an emotional level. Research shows our pups may also help protect our physical well-being. Dogs have an incredible sense of smell, so much so that they may be able to sniff out something you’re allergic to if it’s lurking in the room (peanut allergies, anyone?). Not only that, dogs may also be able to detect certain types of cancer in humans. Some dogs are also trained to help assist when you’re having a seizure.
Their germs may actually be good for us.
Studies have found that owning a dog may help keep us healthier through the swapping of their (harmless!) bacteria. Research shows that a greater exposure to these microbes may help build a stronger immune system. Bring on the puppy kisses.
They consider us family.
We know they’re apart of our family ― right down to a photo on the Christmas card ― but it turns out they also consider us part of their’s as well. Researchers examined brain scans of canines and found that they not only love us, they see us as part of their tribe and rely on us more than their own breed for affection and protection.
They love us for exactly who we are.
It doesn’t matter what your hobbies are, what kind of money you make or if your hair color is purple, dogs accept you for who you are, no matter the circumstances. And boy, do they know how to show it. Take this guy who was abroad for two years and returned home to the happiest reaction from his pup. Or this patient canine who allows his toddler to give him a thorough checkup. Dogs love us unconditionally ― and we love them for that reason.