Dogs have not always held a special place in the hearts of their human companions. Their role among humans was mostly utilitarian until the 18th century, when the term "man's best friend" came into the lexicon. Their working roles are reduced today, but their importance at home has only increased. From pets to sporting companions to service dogs, canines add a measurable degree of quality to the worlds of the humans they share their lives with.
Dogs provide companionship and company. They can be a comfort to people who crave unconditional interaction with another living being. According to Vanderbilt University, dogs can decrease levels of human loneliness and give humans a sense of purpose as they care for their animal companions. This can be especially beneficial for people who live alone, don't socialize much, are empty-nesters or recently experienced a major change of life, such as the loss of a close human companion to death or divorce.
Stress Reduction and Health Benefits
Dogs can help reduce stress levels in human beings and are often used for therapeutic purposes in hospitals, nursing homes and hospices. Playing with a dog, exercising, walking or running can help human beings reduce stress levels and increase their health and well-being. Studies by Harvard University and Kansas State show dog interaction with humans can help combat challenges associated with some form of heart disease and autism.
Dogs raised as service, assistance or therapy animals can open up the world for disabled individuals. According to the Animal Welfare Information Center of the USDA, specially trained animal companions help with daily activities and assist people with challenges to make their way in the world. Service animals can make it possible for physically disadvantaged individuals to work, travel and live independently. Search-and-rescue dogs can track human scent in even the most challenging environments.
Dogs provide a sense of security for human companions. Trained watchdogs can provide a high degree of security, while even small house dogs can offer a sense of protection by alerting their owners to approaching strangers or unusual circumstances in the home. Dogs employed by government agencies and police organizations sniff out contraband in places likes airports and large public venues to ensure public security. According to a Texas A&M; website, dogs utilized specifically for security purposes require a specialized degree of training to be safe and effective for their handlers.
Many families use the family dog to help teach responsibility to children. According to Karen Stephens of Eastern Florida University's Parenting Exchange, kids can be taught valuable traits and life skills through positive interaction with the family pet and by taking responsibility for feeding, walking, training and grooming. Children can learn the value of treating all living things with respect and dignity when they have the opportunity care for and love a family dog.