Can Hanging Out With Dogs Really Reduce Anxiety?

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They're not called man's best friend for nothing. As it turns out, hanging out with a dog for just 12 minutes can help with lowering anxiety, blood pressure and heart rate, according to ABC 15

But that's just the start of the health benefits that come from hanging out with a furry friend. Scientific research has led dogs to become a growing part of therapeutic service, according to CNN. "In a way, we could all use a psychiatric service or therapy dog because of the incredible amount of stress that we're all under," Dr. Carole Lieberman told CNN. 

Officially, these dogs are called Emotional Support Animals, or ESAs, and they're meant to be a constant companion to help people cope with anxious situations by picking up moods that humans usually miss. For more serious mental health issues, there are Psychiatric Support Animals, who are trained to perform more tasks than ESAs are.

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The fundamental act of caring for a pet helps people become more secure and self-sufficient, as they realize they have the ability to care for an animal. "Where my focus and energy used to constantly gravitate towards my medical issues and what was wrong with me, it now centers on my dog and her needs," Courtney Perry wrote for the Huffington Post on how her labradoodle helped her cope with anxiety issues.

Companion dogs have been found to help those affected by depression by boosting serotonin and dopamine levels. Often, the companion dog can replace the social support of another human relationship, according to CNN. 

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Military veterans with PTSD especially have found companion dogs useful in helping them remain calm during stressful thoughts or nightmares, according to CNN.

Companion dogs aren't just for adults either. In 2015, a study found that having pet dogs resulted in less anxious children. The pets helped the kids with their self-esteem, while also offering them comfort. "Because dogs follow human communicative cues, they may be particularly effective agents for children's emotional development," Anne Gadomski, one of the study's authors said, according to NBC News.

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