Your relationship with your pet dog is probably one of the most rewarding relationships you'll have as a human being. And it goes both ways. We love dogs, and they love us. As Christmas approaches, we thought it'd be nice to look at how dogs make us happy and vice versa, a seasonal celebration of mankind's very best friend.
It's a love thing - As a dog owner you know how dogs respond to affection. In that way they're so like us - like humans, dogs flower and thrive when they're loved and cared for. Being loved makes them happy, and it's a two-way thing. The unconditional love of a loyal pooch is something incredibly special, and it's a privilege being loved by them.
A social thing - You're never lonely when you have a dog. It's a great way to meet people. When two dog walkers meet it's natural to strike up a conversation while your pets get to know each other. How many new friends and interesting people have you met while walking your dog? Let us know.
A lifestyle thing - When you're a dog owner, it's impossible to become a couch potato. Humans are naturally inclined to lounge around. We're programmed to conserve energy at times of plenty, when we're not under pressure to hunt for food or gather resources. The closest most of us get to hunter-gathering these days is a trip to the corner shop.
Thanks to our dogs, we are forced to get out and about in every kind of weather, from delightful to dreadful, in an effort to keep them properly exercised, fit and healthy. The benefits go two ways, with most dog walkers naturally getting their minimum 10,000 steps per day, seven days a week, all year round. Getting that level of exercise without a dog in tow is beyond most people. Thanks to your pooch, you're in better shape.
An entertainment thing - Dogs are clever and funny, witty and wise. They do the funniest things. They actually grin at you, and a dog smile is pretty hard to resist. They're extremely eloquent too, with highly expressive faces that make it easy to understand what they're feeling and thinking.
The whole doggie package is tremendously entertaining and fun, bringing light and life to the dullest day. Even quiet old dogs have a sense of humour. And because it's easy to communicate with a dog, the entertainment value goes both ways. There are very few things more enjoyable than playing with an enthusiastic, appreciative dog, and laughter is excellent medicine.
A health thing - Research proves having a dog helps build up a child's immune system. Children from pet owning families tend to be healthier, with fewer allergies and less asthma. The scientists say it's something to do with coming into close contact with a wide variety of microbes, bacteria and so on, which helps the immune system develop strongly. In effect your immune system gets plenty of practice, and practice seems to make perfect.
But there's more. Dogs play a vital part in old people's homes and hospices, where they soothe and calm the ill and injured to a remarkable degree. Some animals, dogs included, can be trained to 'smell' cancer, playing an important diagnostic role. People who engage with dogs feel calmer, happier, easier in their minds. It's magical, really - such a powerful and positive relationship.
A safety thing - Dogs keep us safe. They rescue children from lakes and drive intruders off. They defend us and our homes, rescue people in distress and find us when we're lost and injured. Dogs identify landmines and carry messages in wartime, carry us home, get help, support us in looking after farm animals and, in some societies, still help us find and catch food. And they adore us – it's in their DNA.
Definitely not just for Christmas - A dog is a lifetime friend, a partner and colleague, a companion and playmate, providing affection and support, exercise and amusement, security and safety, love and loyalty. As the Dogs Trust says, a dog is for life, not just for Christmas. And they enhance our lives every day, in their millions.
What does your dog give you and your family? - We'd love to know what role your dog plays in your family. Do you have an amazing doggy story to tell us for the festive season? You can hook up with us on facebook/poochandcompany
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