Whoever coined the phrase “man’s best friend” was on to something. Dogs—and cats and birds and other critters—have well-documented properties for boosting our well-being.
When psychologists from Miami University in Ohio and Saint Louis University in Missouri compared pet owners to people who did not own a pet in three different studies, people with pets scored higher on self-esteem, were more physically fit, and tended to be less lonely, less fearful and less preoccupied.
One of the experiments showed that thinking about a beloved pet is as effective as thinking about a human friend in helping someone feel better after experiencing rejection. In fact, research shows that the bond people have with their dog can be as strong as the bond with their closest relative.
“A third were closer to the pet dog than to any human family member,” says Sandra Baker, PhD, who co-authored that study. “Wherever I speak around the world, dog owners aren’t surprised by that.”