Petting a Dog is Good For Both of You

Studies have shown that regularly petting a dog brings a person the following benefits:

  • Lower blood pressure
  • Lower cholesterol
  • Lower risk of heart disease
  • Improvement in chronic illnesses (such as Alzheimer's or AIDS)
  • Improvement in emotional condition -- easing of stress, sadness, and pain.
A lot of that is common knowledge. Pick up any book on pet ownership and it will tell you these things. But what about the dogs themselves?

Well, a recent study at the University of Missouri showed that after a round of petting, both the human and the dog had a 10% decrease in blood pressure.

For the dog, it didn't end there. Levels of cortisol, the hormone released by the body when it's under stress, decreased.

In another study (cited in the Vet Med Today journal), researchers explored this question directly. They found that when a dog gets frightened, their fear (as measured by their heart rate and blood pressure) would drop dramatically when a person petted them.

So pet your dog as much as possible... everyday... but especially when he or she is under stress (such as during 4th of July fireworks).

Watch out though. There are times when petting can be detrimental to your dog. This can be the case when it becomes unpleasant for them, like when you pet them too much.

Look for the following warning signs that the petting has become unpleasant for your dog (and when you see them, stop):
  • Growling.
  • Staring at you.
  • Wiggling away from you.
  • Starting to pant.
  • Yawning.
  • Rolling over.

As long as you don't see any of those warning signs, you and your dog will be okay.

On a daily basis, one of the best things you can do for your dog's health. So to sum up, make daily petting an action plan for you and your dog. Make time to pet your dog multiple times a day. Not only will it deepen the love between the two of you, but it also will ease your (and your dog's) stress and help your circulation.

John Bash maintains a new blog, Dog Health Care Information, updated often with information on natural dog health care from a well-researched, practical point of view.

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