Loving A Dog Can Strengthen
Healthy Relationships
By Genie Joseph

Dogs can help us learn a lot about love.  Loving a dog helps us learn to love in all relationships, including the human kind. Dogs give and receive affection freely, without judgment.  They don’t care what you look like, or how many mistakes you have made in life.  They just want to be connected to love.  They live only in the present moment, and can easily let go of something that happened yesterday. 

Here is a video I made about animals loving each other:

Dogs can be great teachers for humans by showing us how we should care for each other. Loving a dog can  teach us how to have better, happier, healthier relationships with each other.  Just like dogs, we humans should treat each moment as if it were new.  We should be excited to greet each day, and each other, with curious joy.  Can you imagine what it would be like if we treated each other as well as a loving dog treats us?

It is important for a couple to get on the same page about how to raise and care for a dog, and this requires good communication.   You want to give the dog a single message about what is expected of him or her. Mixed message can confuse a dog and lead to behavior problems.  Dogs respond to energy, whether that be love, anxiety, fear, aggression, and will often act out the behavior that the humans are feeling, even if the humans don’t realize it.  Understanding this can help partners realize that they need to communicate with each other about what they need and how they feel.

Interacting with a loving dog can help calm us, and make us feel warm and fuzzy all over!  It's easy to fall in love with a dog. Even if you are not ready to own and care for one, you can still have close encounters of the four legged kind. 

Studies have shown that engaging with friendly dogs can lower blood pressure, and increase morale.  Patients who interact with dogs in animal-assisted therapy programs have shorter hospital stays.  Loving a dog can help heal us!

One such program is the American Red Cross facilitated Human-Animal Bond Program at Tripler Army Medical Center in Honolulu, Hawaii.  There are about 40 volunteer handlers whose dogs have passed a variety of tests, such as the Canine Good Citizenship test, to make sure they are well-suited for visiting a busy hospital. 

A wide variety of breeds of dogs visit patients and staff at the Army hospital and bring smiles to everyone.  It is great to see a busy, stressed doctor take a moment from paperwork to bend down and pet a visiting dog.  Sometimes patients who barely interact with staff will speak freely to a visiting dog. 

Busy waiting rooms become much calmer places when a dog stops in to receive affection and gives wet kisses.  Dogs are great to build healthy interactions and relations between people of all ages. Loving a dog teaches us to have healthier human relationships.

Many inventive programs using dogs for healing are emerging, such as the one in some libraries where young children can read aloud to dogs.  When children are insecure about reading aloud in a classroom, or at home, where they are getting constantly corrected, or ridiculed, it can be a confidence-booster to read to a sweet dog who looks up at them with total concentration and adoration.  Some children even turn the book so the dogs can see the pictures.

There are a couple of programs in prisons where inmates work with puppies and train them to become service dogs.  The benefits for the prisoners are enormous, and they have a higher rate of success than those dogs who are raised in foster homes.  Dogs who visit assisted living homes do a lot to raise spirits and bring cheer to residents.

Dogs are not people, but they can help people heal as we learn to love with the same non-nonjudgmental, enthusiastic open-heartedness.  Loving a dog can help us mend a broken heart, or keep one beating. 

If you are not able to adopt one from a shelter yourself, consider fostering a dog, helping him or her to become ready to be adoptable by someone else.  Dogs can really help couples to build strong, healthy relationships because it is easy to love a dog, and that love is shared between all three of you.

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Go to Animal-Consciousness.org

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