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why do we love our pets Dr. Alan Beck gives us an inside look at the 5 key reasons behind the strong bond

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It’s a chemical reaction. When we pet our dogs and cats, our bodies release oxytocin, a powerful hormone that decreases blood pressure in humans, making us feel more relaxed. Dogs and other animals experience the relaxing effect of oxytocin through reduced heart rate as well. “It shows that both animals and humans get a physiological reward from being with each other,” says Dr. Beck.

They help us live in the moment. Focusing on our pets through training, play or interacting helps reduce stress. “Just looking at nature causes a relaxation response,” explains Dr. Beck. “Much of our stress comes from thinking about the past or worrying about the future. If you can use each other to help stay in the present, you’ll be less stressed. Socially evolved animals like dogs need this as much as humans.”

Dr. Alan Beck, ScD, is the director of the Center of the Human-Animal Bond at the Purdue University College of Veterinary Medicine, which is devoted to understanding the relationship between people and their companion animals. Dr. Beck is the author of several books on the subject.

We understand each other. Our non-verbal cues influence how our pets feel and think, and vice-versa. For example, “Dogs are the only animals that will follow the gaze of their owners,” says Dr. Beck. “They’ve evolved with us, watching everything we do. They will use all the knowledge they gain to integrate within the ‘pack.’ And they’re using those intuitive behaviors with you, because you’re part of the ‘pack.’”

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Pets help us make friends. Being seen with a pet makes us appear friendlier and more approachable. That, in turn, makes us more attractive to other people, especially other pet owners. “It has a kind of therapeutic outcome,” says Dr. Beck. “If someone talks to you as if you were nicer, smarter and kinder, you relate to them in a more positive way.”

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Our pets make us proud. “At least 40 percent of pet owners carry pictures of their pets with them,” according to Dr. Beck. “We keep things near us that we want to be reminded of. We keep pictures of our pets near us because they are important to us.”

7 simple tips for building a stronger bond. 1.

Get exercise together. Walk your dog and provide plenty of play opportunities for your dog or cat. It’s a great way to grow closer — and healthier — at the same time.

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Pet, cuddle and gush. Don’t resist the urge to give your pet lots of affection. And go ahead and talk to your pet. Encourage them with enthusiasm when they do something you’re happy with, such as obeying a training command or going to their “bed” or “place” to rest.

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Learn about pet socialization. Read up on how dogs and cats interact with humans and with each other. Don’t be surprised if your pet interacts with others differently than they interact with you. Learn what interactive behavior earns praise and what may be making your pet feel uncomfortable. Be an advocate for positive social interaction, both with other humans and with other animals.

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Be consistent. The more consistent your behavior toward your pet is, the more relaxed you’ll both feel. Establish a daily routine that works for you and your pet and stick to it as much as possible.

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Share your life, but don’t give it over. Every good relationship needs independence. “Don’t project so much onto your dog or cat that you feel like you can’t go out for dinner or take a vacation,” says Dr. Beck. To continue to be a happy owner, you need balance in your life, and so does your pet.

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Choose the appropriate pet for your lifestyle. If you’re considering getting a new pet, understand the level of care your pet will need and make sure you’ll be there to provide it. Cats, for example, are typically lower-maintenance than dogs, according to Dr. Beck. Being able to care for your pet properly results in happier, less-stressed pets and owners, and thus a stronger relationship. See the vet regularly. Monitor your pet’s care and keep up-to-date on vaccinations and other treatments. A happy pet is a healthy, comfortable pet, and that happiness and health extends to the owners.

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