By: Dr. Jack Stephens
Previously I have reported how I have personally witnessed people eliminate antidepressants by the simple act of obtaining a dog, especially a “lap” or household dog or cat. I have also shared how it is being scientifically documented and measured that pets can reduce and even eliminate mild depression.
Now, the National Women’s Health Resource Center and Support Partners has a national education campaign dedicated to people with depression, touting the benefits of a dog in overcoming depression. They suggest that petting your dog will help relieve stress and anxiety, taking your dog for a walk gives you exercise and relieves stress, and teaching your dog a new trick will give you a sense of accomplishment.
More and more social and healthcare professions are seeing the value of pets in helping to keep us healthy and improving our health when we are ill, stressed or depressed. Why is this important? Because the acknowledgment by national organizations and health care professionals will expand the access and awareness of the valuable role that pets play in our health. What more natural way to stay healthy and happy than by having the joy of owning a pet?
If you review some of my previous blogs you will see where I discuss the exact biochemical feedback mechanisms we experience when we are with our pets. How pets improve our health and well being by altering our biochemistry is still under investigation, and I will share the findings as they continue to develop. In summary a few benefits of pets are as follows:
The quiet interaction of petting a pet will lower your blood pressure, decrease your stress hormone and increase the levels of good hormones and neurotransmitters which will all help you feel better.
The simple act of watching fish in a fish tank will lower your blood pressure and decrease feelings of anxiety.
Interacting with your pet will increase your serotonin levels, which are instrumental to decreasing the feelings of depression.
Walking your pet will help you lose weight better than other traditional weight loss methods and improve your sense of well being.
According to a leading clinical psychologist, “While a doctor, family and friends should form the basis of a support network for clinically depressed individuals, dogs can play an important role by being a constant companion. Depression is often associated with strong social stigma, causing people to withdraw from their lives and intensifying the emotional symptoms of the illness.”
You and I know walking your dog will bring on more social contacts, make you feel better and help you lose weight, which are all beneficial to your emotional health and physical well being. Having a constant companion in your home will decrease the feeling of loneliness, provide you with activity that makes you feel needed and improve your biochemistry. So, take care of your buddies, and they will take care of you.
“Prescribe Pets Not Pills”
By: Arden Moore
Far too often, people equate barking with bad behavior in a dog. Just like people, dogs vocalize in many ways to convey various messages.
In my neighborhood, we all know (and hear) a mini-Schnauzer named Buddy who lives with a fun and feisty senior named Flo. Buddy unleashes a series of high-pitched yap-yap-yaps whenever anyone approaches the front door or whenever he spots trespassing cats in his backyard.
In this case, barking serves a benefit. Flo wears a hearing aid, and her dog seems to tune in when he is needed by running up to her and sounding a noisy alert. Buddy’s breed was born to bark. Schnauzers rank among the chattiest of canine breeds.
Having a noisy dog comes in handy for Flo during those times when solicitors come to her front door uninvited. Buddy barks so loud and so long that Flo can’t hear what the people are trying to pitch. They leave in frustration and Flo rewards Buddy for a bark well timed. Buddy also barks to awaken Flo if he hears a strange sound in the backyard at night. Most dogs seek jobs, and in Buddy’s case, he feels he earns his daily kibble by serving as Flo’s keen sense of ears. He detects everything that goes past Flo’s house.
But Buddy doesn’t bark just to bark. Whenever I bring over my two dogs, Chipper and Cleo, Buddy doesn’t bark – he cries out in pure joy as the sight of seeing his two doggy play pals coming up his walk. He also turns off his barking machine once welcomed guests are inside Flo’s home.
Flo has been a lifelong dog lover and she does her best to keep Buddy at his best. She signed him up for Pets Best insurance when he was a pup, has his coat professionally groomed and feeds him only high-quality food.
In the beginning, Flo would apologize for Buddy’s noise-making ways. Now, she embraces his vocalizations and proudly nicknamed him, Buddy Barky. Between a home alarm system and Buddy, Flo feels justifiably safe and secure.
Arden Moore, author of 17 books on cats and dogs, including her latest, The Dog Behavior Answer Book and The Cat Behavior Answer Book.
By: Arden Moore
It’s not everyday one receives a personalized letter from Martha Stewart. Never in my wildest dreams would I imagine I would garner praise from the queen of daytime TV regarding a six-year-old dog cookbook.
It just goes to show that some nutritional advice is timeless. In this case, I wrote a book called Real Food for Dogs: 50 Vet-Approved Recipes for a Healthier Dog (Storey Books). The recent commercial pet food scare sent sales of my cookbook soaring all the way up to #6 on Amazon. The book has sold more than 40,000 copies this spring, and my life has been forever changed. When I wrote the book, the meals and treats were intended to compliment quality commercial dog food as ways to hone in good doggy manners. The pet food recall, though, found more people turning to my book for safe ways to prepare food for their dogs.
I’ve been on dozens of television and radio shows coast-to-coast plus Canada to tout tips on how to prepare healthy meals and treats for dogs. One stop included an appearance on the “Martha Stewart Living Radio” show with co-hosts Dean and Betsy. Just before airtime, the producer whispered in my ear, “You know, Martha listens to this show. She listens very carefully.”
During the hour, we prepared a recipe from my book called “Bow Wow Brownies” (made with carob – a safe substitute for chocolate, which is lethal for dogs) and made it in honor of Martha’s Chow Chow named Paw Paw. I also gave the producer an autographed copy of my book to deliver to Martha. Within a week back from New York City, I received a letter from Martha, who practiced – as always – good etiquette. She wrote:
“Dear Arden: Thank you so much for sending me a copy of your book, Real Food for Dogs. It was kind of you to think of me and very much appreciated. I have started preparing more home-cooked meals for my dogs since the recent dog food scare and they seem to be happier and healthier because of it. Kind regards, Martha Stewart”
Today, the letter is inside a frame and displayed in my home office in Oceanside, California. True, the letter comes from a celebrity, but the words come from a person who loves her dogs and who wants to do what she can to keep them healthy. That’s the real message all of us who are fortunate to have a dog share our lives should heed.
By: Arden Moore
My dog, Chipper, goes ga-ga if I mention the phrase “woof park.” That’s my nickname for dog parks. If I say that phrase – even in a whisper – Chipper, my Golden Retriever/Husky mix, will start to whine and wiggle with delight.
For nearly three years, we’ve gone to a local dog park in the early morning. There’s a regular crowd there featuring well-mannered dogs just looking to play a friendly game of chase (or chase me, please) and tennis ball fetching. The owners pay attention to the canine antics and share training tips and goofy dog stories with one another.
Recently, however, we arrived an hour later than usual. The usual gang was not there. Chipper and my small dog, Cleo, bolted into the fenced-in dog park and began what they normally do – the perimeter prowl. They stopped and sniffed. Their noses were filled with the scents of dogs and other delights – pure canine bliss, I guess.
At dog parks, I pay close heed to the body languages unleashed from my dogs and other dogs. This time, an Australian Shepherd mix made a direct beeline to Chipper. In the world of dog etiquette, that’s a rude – and threatening – gesture. Most dogs come up to one another from the side. This dog then growled and leaped on Chipper. I produced my deepest, I-mean-business tone and yelled at both to stop and sit. Surprisingly, they did. If they hadn’t, I was prepared to use Chipper’s leash to safely separate them without getting my hands bit.
I managed to put the leash on a shaken Chipper and noticed that she had a cut below her left eye. It was starting to bleed. Meanwhile, the owner of the Aussie just looked, shrugged and said, “Oh well. Dogs will be dogs.” Unbelievable.
Fortunately, I keep a dog first-aid kit in my car, and I cleaned Chipper’s wounds and stopped the bleeding. Then I noticed another man coming back into the parking lot with a dog limping. It turns out that the Aussie attacked his dog, too.
Dog parks are designed to be places where well-mannered dogs can romp and socialize. They are not places for aggressive dogs to try to “work out” their bully tendencies. And, they are certainly not places for owners to abandon their responsibilities to keep their dogs from harming others.
My parting advice: Please pay close attention to the interactions of dogs – and the watchfulness of their owners – before you decide to bring your dog inside the park. If you see aggression, leave and treat your dog to a long walk elsewhere. Even though your dog will have to be on a leash, it will be a far safer way to get in some exercise.