The power of pets: therapeutic benefits of dogs

24 Jun 2022

Today is quite possibly the best day of the year - International Take your Dog to Work Day (Friday 24 June).

Dogs have been a part of human lives for centuries. They have helped us in a variety of work situations – familiar examples are herding dogs or guide dogs. But the scientific evidence for the benefits of interaction with dogs – indeed a wide range of companion animals – has been growing over the past decades.

The human-animal bond is often cited as underpinning these benefits. This is a bond which has shown health benefits at all stages in the lifespan. For example, in childhood or adolescence, pets have been shown to promote enhanced cognitive development, help bolster emotional coping, and increased participation in social and sporting activities. In adulthood, animals have been shown to positively impact levels of stress, and serve as a focus for relaxation or social activities. In later life, a companion animal can assist with coping with loss, life transitions, and maintaining a sense of purpose and social connection.

So when we turn to looking at why we own pets, there are lots of positives. But why take your dog to work? Research has shown that businesses who take a positive attitude to their employees bringing an animal to work, whether a service or companion animal, are viewed more positively in many instances by customers, and indeed can increase employee productivity.

But I would say that part of the purpose of the day is to reflect on dogs, and perhaps animals more broadly speaking, in our communal lives.

Such a day lets us think about how we all might help make such communal interactions as frictionless as possible. Respecting the access rights of service animals, making sure companion animals are well trained and socialized, and having clear guidance about how and when companion or service animals can be in work spaces are all important for enhancing the peaceful co-existence (and improving the health and wellbeing) of both canines and humans.

Professor Nancy Pachana AUTHOR: Professor Nancy Pachana, Director, Healthy Ageing Initiative Faculty of Health and Behavioural Sciences.