“Lassie,” a collie who starred in a television show of the same name, usually helped her family members -- particularly the boy, Timmy -- when they got into trouble. Although Lassie saving the day and being a hero was fictional, real dogs help humans in many ways and are heroes in their own right.
Mental Health Benefits
Just petting your dog can be therapeutic; it satisfies the need humans have to touch. Stroking a dog can have a calming effect on people and can lower a person’s blood pressure. Dogs can also ease loneliness. Perhaps the most convincing example of the therapeutic benefits of petting and being with a dog can be seen with prison inmate puppy-raiser programs. Inmates who participate in puppy-raiser programs typically get dogs at 8 weeks old to socialize them. The dogs stay with the inmates for 12 to 18 months. Inmates learn unconditional love, patience, being responsible for a living being and how to work as a team.
You might not go outside to take a walk if you didn’t have a pooch sitting by his leash and looking up at you. Most dogs need at least 30 minutes of exercise a day, which is likely about what you need, too. Getting outside and walking, jogging or playing with your dog fits with a healthy lifestyle. Exercise, besides helping keep you in shape, helps ease depression, stress and anxiety.
Dogs probably became domesticated because they helped humans in some way. Researchers speculate that dogs helped early man hunt and transport carcasses. Dogs still hunt with people, and other working dogs are used to herd livestock and as guard dogs. Police dogs help search for missing persons and narcotics. Some dogs help soldiers by detecting explosives.
Service and Therapy Dogs
Service dogs help people with disabilities. Guide dogs assist visually impaired people by helping them be more mobile. Dogs also help deaf people by alerting them when the doorbell rings or an alarm goes off. Other service dogs help people in wheelchairs by retrieving items, turning lights off and on, opening and closing doors, carrying items and helping a fallen person get up. Therapy dogs visit nursing homes, hospitals and other institutions to help with physical rehabilitation or for providing companionship.
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