We all know that caring for a pet has many benefits - from helping to relieve depression and anxiety, easing loneliness and encouraging exercise and play, to lowering stress levels and improving your heart health. Not to mention, the pure unconditional love and joy a pet can bring.
The human-animal bond is extremely strong and there is no doubt that pets are attuned to our behavior and emotions. Dogs are able to understand many of the words we use, but they also pick up on our tone of voice, body language, and gestures. A dog will look into your eyes to gauge your emotional state and try to understand what you’re thinking and feeling.
Studies on dog behaviour over the years have reinforced that dogs acknowledge and react to human emotions. For instance one study tested dogs’ reactions to human crying which was found elicited an increase in cortisol levels both in dogs and humans. A study in the Journal of Veterinary Behaviour discovered that dogs will actively avoid someone who appears angry.
A study of 12 cats and their owners found that, when their owners were smiling, the cats would actively perform positive behaviors, such as purring or sitting on their owners’ laps. Conversely, the cats chose to spend less time around their owners when they were frowning. Cats’ brains release oxytocin, the ‘love hormone’, when they interact with favored humans and other cats.
Not that we need studies to tell us these things. Any dog, cat, bunny, llama, horse guardian will agree there is a very special bond between human and animal - so much more than the spoken word or caress. So when things are not going right for you, it is important to remember that your thoughts and feelings may well be affecting your pet.
Often I treat dogs for anxiety and associated behaviours (inappropriate toileting, aggression, barking, frenetic behaviour etc) and while these conditions can be helped with homeopathy, it is sometimes not until the owner’s or family’s issues are addressed, that the real change takes place.