Social and health benefits of pet interaction

Scientific evidence is increasingly showing that pets are good for people. UK and international research demonstrates that interaction with pet can reduce visits to doctor, enhance social interactions, enrich quality of life for elderly people, perform vital role in child development and so on. Let’s see how does it happen.

Pets also improve chances of survival after life-threatening illness, reduce blood pressure and perceived levels of stress, provide companionship and enhance social interactions, modify human behaviour promoting responses from those who are withdrawn, aggressive or mentally ill, prevent re-offending in juvenile prisoners and positively affect school attendance rates.
Kids with pets take fewer sick days
A study examining 256 children (aged five to eleven years) in three schools in England and Scotland revealed that children from families with pets have significantly better school attendance due to lower levels of absenteeism through illness than those from families without pets. Absenteeism through illness was significantly less among children with pets. Children with pets attended school for an additional three weeks of school compared to children without pets (aged five to seven years).
Keeps the doctor away
A large-scale survey of more than 11,000 Australians, Chinese and Germans proved that pet parents enjoy better health than non-pet parents. Over a five year period, pet parents made 15 – 20 percent fewer annual visits to the doctor than non pet-parents.Pets can help reduce the risk of asthma and allergic rhinitis A number of studies have shown that exposure to cats and/ or dogs in the first year of life can reduce subsequent risks of allergic sensitisation to multiple allergens during childhood, including non-pet allergens. Research also shows that exposure to pets is associated with a significantly reduced risk of asthma and allergic rhinitis. Pets benefit cancer patients Pets can play a role for people who are undergoing stress. In a study which looked at women between 50-60 years of age recovering from breast cancer, 87 percent of these subjects reported that their pets filled at least one important role in their social support and 43 percent said that their pets fulfill over 10 important support functions – being cared for, tactile comfort, being able to express their feelings and still feeling included socially – e.g. when taking the dog for a walk.
Preventing/recovering from illness
Research from the University of New York found that men who had pets had lower resting heart rates and blood pressure – indicating that pet parenting can bring improvements to all aspects of the pet parent’s life.
Helping widowers cope with stress
In this study, pet parents at three months after bereavement showed fewer physical symptoms, such as crying, than non-pet owners. Pet parents often confided in their pets to help release painful feelings, at times when sharing these feelings with other people were felt to be socially uncomfortable.
Child development
Pets perform a vital role in child development. A study has explored children’s perceptions of the social support gained from relationships with their pets and with people – looking at who they would turn to first in certain situations. Pets featured prominently in children’s selections, providing comfort, companionship and a confidante in a similar manner to humans.
A huge 90 percent of children regard their dog as an unconditional friend and listener. Pet dogs have a stabilising and therapeutic effect – both from a child’s perspective and a mother’s point of view.
It is well-known fact that children are fascinated by animals. This interest can help facilitate learning and have a positive effect on child development. Many school communities have introduced pets in a number of imaginative and practical ways. Pet clubs, pet assemblies or pet days can help nurture a sense of reverence for life, give children a sense of responsibility and provide a fun route into many curriculum areas.
Positive influence of dogs on children in divorce crises
In the first year after a parental divorce, children with a dog were more socially integrated and less aggressive. The reasons are clear – dogs represent a constant positive emotional feeling.
Animal assisted rehabilitation
Results captured from three diverse Californian juvenile institutions have proven ‘at-risk’ teens gain more psycho-social skills (anger management, emotional self-control, parenting skills, etc) through guided human-animal interaction than from years in a classroom.
Pets prevent prisoners reoffending
The therapeutic power of dog interaction was highlighted by the results of Project Pooch (Positive Opportunities, Obvious Change, With Hounds), showing that 100 percent of teenage offenders following a dog therapy programme did not return to the correctional system. Such results provide promising outcomes for the ability of dogs to teach troubled youth responsibility, patience, compassion and a positive work ethic.

Wanna understand human social behaviour?

Wanna understand human social behaviour?

…Turn to pooches 

Over the years, we always thought that chimpanzees are the most suitable species for understanding human behaviour. But a new research has proved that even though chimps may share many of our genes, dogs form better model for understanding human social behaviour. And the reason is simple…dogs have been our best friends and have lived with us since time immemorial.

And guess what, we share behaviours like socialisation, cooperation, attachment to people and understanding human verbal and non-verbal communications.

Now pooch cancer can be treated with transplants

Cody, a Golden Retriever, was suffering from lymphoma. But his family did not give up and went for a bone marrow transplant. Today, Cody is hopefully cancer-free for rest of his life. Yes, this treatment has given a new hope to many pet parents whose canines are suffering from cancer as they can be saved by transplant…just like us humans!

Angelina–A true angel!

A female Labrador called Angelina saved her owner Maria Tripodi by knocking her out of the way when roof of their house fell down upon them in Rivoli, Italy. The incident took place when the pet and her parent returned home after a walk. Sensing some trouble, Angelina jumped up and knocked Maria to the ground. When the pet parent picked herself, she watched in horror the roof of their house came crashing down. Angelina felt the tiny tremor too small for Maria or other humans to pick up, according to experts. Angelina knew something was wrong and wouldn’t let Maria set foot over the doorway, a neighbour said.

Life-saviour pooch: Rock-O

We all have heard many incidents where dogs have saved people from potential dangers. Here’s an amazing pooch named Rock-O, a Portuguese water dog, who saves his companion from a deadly product–peanuts. Well, eight-year-old Riley Mers is allergic to peanuts so much so that an accidental slip of a peanut shell on her skin burnt her skin like acid and its mere smell makes her go into hives.

Even a trip to a friend’s house proves hazardous for Riley. She is continuing her education online and attends only a few classes at school. But now Riley is always accompanied with Rock-O who can detect the presence of peanuts much before she can and stops her from entering that area. It thus saves Riley from further peanut-danger. Three cheers to Rock-O!

And the winner is… Charmin!

Sweet and charming Sealyham Terrier named Charmin from Pennsylvania has won the ‘Best in Show’ trophy at the recent Cruft’s Dog Show held in Birmingham, Alabama. Charmin fought his long way from the Terrier category to the victory in the grand show. He beat off six magnificent opponents including a Hungarian Vizsla, a Papillion and a Pharaoh Hound to bag the trophy.

Charmin’s delighted owner Marjery Good said that she was so excited and pleased of being a pet parent of her victorious Sealyham Terrier. Commenting on Charmin, she mentioned that he is such a special dog, a best buddy and by winning Cruft’s trophy he again proved himself.

Being social!

Being social!

More often, pooches are abandoned for behavioural issues, but it can be avoided…right at the puppy stage. Early socialisation is a key to social behaviour of an adult dog. Here’s how you can help your pooch to acquire a persona you can be proud of.
Being social!

Being social!

Your new pup is home…you want him to grow up as a mature well-mannered pooch. Early socialisation is what reflects on the social behaviour of an adult. The development of a pup can be divided into four stages. Let’s see how each stage is important.

  1. Neonatal period (the first and second weeks): This is a period where pups are helpless and dependent on their mother; they are sensitive to certain tastes and smells, their eyes and ears are neither open nor functional.
  2. Transitional period (the third week): This is a period of rapid transformation and transition. Pups now show abilities to crawl back and front, try to stand and walk. They start to hear and see, by the end of the period, they also tend to play fight their littermates showing social signals like growling and tail wagging.
  3. Socialisation period (the fourth to tenth weeks): This is the most critical period. Studies say dogs must be introduced to other dogs from ages 4 to 6 weeks. Also, they must be introduced to lots of people from ages 6 to 12 weeks. If pups are separated from the litter before 12 weeks, then the pup becomes shy and fearful, which can later lead to aggressive behaviour. Socialising your puppies doesn’t mean just casually introducing them to your family and friends. You need to get these dogs out and about and in as many public settings as you can. However, don’t do this all in one day. You should be introducing your new puppies to five new people every week, and then five more, and so on as he goes through the socialisation period. Getting a supervision of a behaviourist is always beneficial. Eight to ten weeks is a very crucial period for physical and psychological damages made then can very seldom be repaired. Behaviour experts never suggest training in these two weeks as we have observed pups punished by pet parents for things like toilet habits at this period lose trust on their pet parents permanently. In this period, pups need to see and smell trees, other domestic animals, trains, children’s play area, and loud noises. Get pups to walk on different textures, like cemented, marble, vinyl flooring, grass and sand. Most of the nibbling/play biting problems arise in pups as they are separated from the mother before 12 weeks, here the pups want to learn by biting pet patent’s hands and legs which is annoying. These pups never get to learn how much to bite what. Behavioural activities and further socialisation of the young dog depend largely on his environment.
  4. Juvenile period (the tenth week to puberty): During the juvenile period, the young dog is looking for the leader. This is the time for the pup to understand the pack and hierarchy. The young puppy who is placed in a home becomes a part of the social organisation of the family, and establishing human-dog communication is important to being the dog’s leader. New pet parents need to understand their role in preventing or encouraging problem behaviours at this phase of the puppy’s development. The puppy who is indulged with free attention will develop to exhibit aggressive, destructive or unruly behaviours. When this occurs, carpets are chewed or wet, chairs destroyed, drapes ruined, doors broken, and many other obnoxious and preventable behaviours occur. Time to school the pup or consult a behaviourist! Happy pup rearing!

(Amrut Sridhar Hiranya is a canine behaviourist educated and trained in New Zealand. To know more about him, log on to: