Pets Improve People’s Quality of Life

This week stress will be at an all-time high for students as they prepare for finals week at Colorado State University. Chronic stress like many students experience can be helped by interaction with animals. We will be embarking on a new approach to stress relief on campus by providing students with dogs to pet. Having positive relationships in our lives is important, and this can be especially true with our pets.  We know that our pets are better off for being adopted by us. However, more and more evidence shows that pets enhance our lives too. We are healthier people because we have pets.

Pets help us whether we own them or simply touch them. The act of petting animals can benefit both our health and theirs. For both pets and people,  blood pressure and heart rate decrease helping to achieve a calmer state of mind. The presence of a pet and the opportunity to interact with animal in hospitals and nursing homes improves people’s demeanor. When people are relaxed, they heal better. The aspect of connecting with another creature non-verbally  can be very important in the healing process.

People who own pets are less likely to be depressed. Humans value social contact, and when we have a meaningful relationship with our pets, we are more likely to feel fulfilled. We are less likely to be sick and rate our lives as satisfying more than non-pet owners.

Here are some ways to de-stress with your pet:

  • Take them for a walk. This allows for fresh air and exercise for both of you both of which enhance a positive state of mind.
  • Pet and snuggle with your pet. Touch is a strong bond and has profound implications for both the giver and receiver of attention.
  • Play a game with your pet. One of the greatest gifts our pets give us is the ability to laugh at their merriment. They do silly things, we laugh and our stress level decreases.
  • Do a social activity with your pet. Take them to PetsMart, the dog park or the bank drive-through window. Connecting with other people with your pet gives you a social outlet and encourages communication with others.

When your relationship with your pet is not comfortable, your stress level goes up.  You may simply avoid activities that you know are problems. Instead of decreasing stress, your pet increases your stress level as you try to figure out how to manage the animal you love with the behavior you don’t love. Know that a happy, fulfilling relationship is achievable with the right kind of help.

Make a commitment to do something with your pet today. Reconnect and appreciate the bond you share with them. Slow your life down and just take a few minutes. You both will feel better for it. After all, that is why we have them-right?

Dr. Jennie Willis is an instructor of animal behavior at Colorado State University and owns a private consulting business, which provides counseling for problem pets and their people. For more information about consultation, seminars and classes please visit

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