There are many ways that pets can improve our emotional and psychological health. Animals such as dogs are working in many settings and helping people in a variety of ways.

Did you know that just by having a household pet, you could receive psychological and physical benefits? Research has shown that petting a dog or cat over a period of a few minutes can lower blood pressure significantly. Having a pet also allows people the opportunity to engage in healthy coping strategies. For example, a pet guardian may relieve stress at the end of the day by going home to hold, pet, and play with their pets, rather than watching television or drinking alcohol. Research also shows that people with dogs tend to walk more than those without dogs. This lifestyle change can have a major effect on someone’s mental and physical health.

Animals are also integrated into counseling programs, including inpatient and outpatient psychotherapy treatment centers. Remuda Ranch, an inpatient psychological treatment center, incorporates experiential therapy exercises with horses in addition to traditional counseling.

Pets can also help children with learning disabilities. Many public libraries and schools have begun inviting service dogs to help with children’s reading. Children with reading difficulties are often more relaxed when reading to a dog than reading to a human. This allows them to practice their reading in a fun, low pressure environment. This approach has shown positive outcomes for children’s developing reading skills.

Many people form strong bonds with their pets and feel unconditional love and acceptance from a pet. Thus, the relationship with the pet can be a major source of support, especially for people who do not experience such strong connections and love from other people. While having a pet can boost one’s mood and help decrease stress levels, a pet cannot cure symptoms of depression and is not a substitute for psychological treatment.