Training Time!

The Love Affair with Our Pets

Recent studies suggest owning an animal can actually help reduce your blood pressure, alter the course of heart disease and more!

(All photos: Pixabay)

By Sandy Modell

Alexandria, VA – American wildlife photographer, writer, wildlife preservationist and television personality Roger Andrew Caras once said, “Dogs are not our whole life, but they make our lives whole.” A pet’s companionship, comfort and non-judgmental nature can be powerful therapeutic tools. There’s really nothing better than to come home after a hard day’s work to find your dog overjoyed at your return, or your cat who wants nothing more than to curl up in your lap, purring to beat the band. You may even feel more relaxed by watching your fish swimming peacefully in their tank. Although there are contradictory studies on the various health benefits of pet ownership, recent studies suggest owning an animal can actually help reduce your blood pressure, alter the course of heart disease and decrease your stress level.

What is undisputed is that pets provide us with unconditional love and that loving an animal will have a positive effect on our lives. Whether a service animal, therapy animal, working animal or just a pet – our love for them and their love for us feels amazing.

Pets Help You Live Longer

A number of studies suggest that people who own pets are generally in better health than those who do not. These positive effects seem to hold for every kind of pet studied so far, including—but not limited to—dogs, cats, gerbils, parakeets, chickens, fish, mice, rabbits, and iguanas.

Pets Are Family Members

University of Maryland researcher Dr. Ann Cain found that 87 percent of pet owners thought of their pets as members of the family; 81 percent felt that pets tuned in to their feelings; and 38 percent celebrated their pet’s birthday.

Pet Therapists

Animals can often help those who can no longer be helped by other people; in particular, pets can help people who feel withdrawn, depressed or hopeless. Animal assisted therapy can help both children and teens who have difficulty relating to an adult therapist but find comfort in playing with a dog.

Pets Teach Children About Responsibility

The care and feeding of the family pet can be a child’s first serious responsibility. Further, teaching children how to train their dog gives them a sense of empowerment and builds their confidence, along with their relationship with their pet.

Pets Encourage Physical Activity

Pets can take us out of a sedentary lifestyle and encourage us to move a little or a lot more depending upon the breed. Dogs need to go outside for walks. Cats also need robust exercise and interactive playtime as well.

Pets Reduce Stress

We experience a surge of “feel better” hormones, lower blood pressure and a reduction of stress simply by touching our pets. Having a pet can elevate serotonin and dopamine level and help lift depression. Our animals pick up on our moods as well. Pets tend to draw near to provide emotional support when we’re feeling blue. And pets get the same benefits from being petted. Dr. Marty Becker, “America’s Veterinarian”, calls this the “love loop.” In other words, it’s mutual. We effect the same physiological changes in our pets as they do in us. In general, animals are fun and can make us laugh and feel relaxed.

Pets Encourage Social Interaction

Pets are social magnets. Walking down The Avenue in Del Ray or along King Street with a puppy at the end of the leash is guaranteed to get people to stop and talk about your cute puppy. Getting your puppy or dog out to a training class provides comradery with other people who have a common goal – training their dogs.

Love Your Dog, Train Your Dog

Puppies and dogs come to us with a number of very normal, but inappropriate dog behaviors. Learning how to communicate with them and teach them alternate behaviors to the ones we don’t want, will set you and your pup up for success. Training should be fun and motivating for your dog. Reinforcement drives behavior, but good and bad. So, reinforcing your dog for the behaviors that you want is the key to teaching new and good behaviors. If you have a new puppy, get started training right away, as they are learning new behaviors from the minute they step through your dog. Teaching your dog to observe the environment instead of reacting to it is very important, especially in our dense, urban environment, with lots of dogs, kids, and people around. Training involves mental stimulation and will help your dog to be calmer by using their brain power. Remember, a tired dog is a good dog!

Sandy Modell, CPDT-KA, is the Founder and CEO of Wholistic Hound Academy, Alexandria’s award winning, premier canine training and learning center — offering classes and private lessons in puppy training and socialization, adult dog manners, behavior modification, agility, dog sports, canine fitness and conditioning, kids and dogs, pre-pet planning and pet selection. Classes starting soon! Visit www.wholistichound.com to enroll in our programs, and like us on Facebook.com/wholistichound and follow us on Instagram at Instagram.com/wholistichound.

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