• Laura Rosher

Who's a Good Boy!

Updated: Feb 26

Meet Griffin. THE definition of a "Good Boy".

He LOVES hoomans and this emotion power-melts out of his deep eyes with such strong affection it is impossible not to feel instantly warm inside when he leans in for a big Griffy hug. When he looks at me I am often reminded of one of my favourite quotes:

"Be the person your dog thinks you are" ― J.W. Stephens

Griffin’s accepting, adoring eyes remind me that I am worthy and encourage me to keep showing up as my best self!

Throughout history, humans have established meaningful relationships with animals. Research shows that positive animal interactions are beneficial for general health and wellbeing and can support people experiencing mental health challenges.

When China lifted a ban on pet ownership in urban areas in 1992, researchers were presented with a unique opportunity to study changes in wellbeing amongst those who became pet parents for the first time in their lives. The study found dog owners increased their exercise, felt fitter and stronger, slept better, had fewer days off work and visited their doctor less often. The findings led the researchers to suggest pet ownership may even have economic benefits.

Recently I coached my mum to put together her own "Funk Buster" list of things that calm her and lift her spirits when she's feeling down. The first thing she identified was "cuddle Pip" her ridiculously adorable Cavoodle. As soon as mum does this, she accesses positive emotions such as love, gratitude and peace.

Lil Pip and I

It's likely if you're a pet owner you may instantly empathise with these feelings. It’s not surprising that pet therapy is increasingly utilised and has shown positive results in many studies. Pet therapy encourages people experiencing mental health challenges such as loneliness, depression and anxiety, to pat, talk to, play with and groom trained therapy animals. This 2017 meta-analysis of studies found a statistically significant reduction in heart-rate and self-reported anxiety and stress amongst pet therapy participants.

Outside formal research there are many stories of the healing power of animals, for example, the ABC recently published an article about an animal husbandry program helping young people with their emotional regulation in outback WA.

If you have been pining for a puppy but need to convince the significant other in your life, this article by the American Kennel Club quickly discusses 10 researched physical and psychological benefits of owning a dog, which include: feeling less alone, healthier heart, reduced stress, better crisis coping, increased exercise, increased caregiving instincts, increased happiness via increased oxytocin, improved cognitive function, socialisation and even increased attractiveness to others!

(Pets have a lot of wellbeing needs of their own and there is A LOT to consider when welcoming a pet into your life. It's certainly possible stress could actually increase in the first few weeks while everyone adjusts.)

Of course, not everyone is in the position to welcome a dog into their home. If that's you and you think you would benefit from access to some doggy goodness, perhaps you could offer to walk a friend or neighbour's dog once a week. Good chance both dog and owner would really appreciate it!!

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