Why do dogs make us happy?

It is no secret that dogs make us happy. Ask anyone who spends time with a pup on a regular basis and they will let you know just how much joy their tail-wagging companion delivers.

In fact, according to a Dog Parent Study conducted by BarkBox, 71 percent of dog parents believe that their dogs have made them happier people. Almost 80 percent find it easier to awake in the morning because their dogs greet them. And a whopping 93 percent of participants stated that they are better people overall because of their dogs.

But why exactly is this? Just how and why do dogs make us happy?

Love rules

Dogs have served as man’s best friend and worked alongside us for thousands and thousands of years. The loyal companionship and unconditional love of dogs has been written about throughout human history.

Our canine buddies are always there for us, in good times and in bad. They are our friends when we are lonely and a reason to laugh when we are down. They are faithful, judgment-free sounding boards who we can play with, snuggle with, and – most importantly – be ourselves with.

Of the dog parents surveyed in BarkBox’s study, 85 percent revealed that their dogs have “helped them get through a difficult time in their life.”

Our four-legged friends teach us patience, compassion, generosity, and kindness. These are all qualities that carry over into our personal and professional lives, and make us better equipped to work and socialize with others.

A study published in the Journal of Personality and Social Psychology revealed that “pet owners exhibited greater self-esteem, were more physically fit, were less lonely, were more conscientious, were more socially outgoing, and had healthier relationship styles (i.e., they were less fearful and less preoccupied) than non-owners.” 

Dogs inspire us to get outside and be more active, which can lead to increased mental well-being over time. One way to look at it is that dogs make us happy because they are the catalyst for other healthy behaviors in our lives.

Dogs, depression and vitamin D

Physical exercise causes the human body to release endorphins – chemicals that make us feel happy. Research has also found a possible link between a lack of vitamin D – obtained through sun exposure – and depression.

By walking our dogs or just spending time with them outside on a sunny day we are likely to become more content.

More than four in five of the Dog Parent Study participants indicated that having a dog has made them more active. 72 percent said that their exercise habits are influenced by their dog.

Dogs make us happy because of oxy-what?

We know that unconditional love and increased physical activity can make people feel better. But what if we could prove scientifically that dogs make us happier?

As it turns out, we can.

Studies have shown that even small interactions with dogs cause the human brain to produce oxytocin, a hormone often referred to as the “cuddle chemical.” Oxytocin increases feelings of relaxation, trust, and empathy while reducing stress and anxiety.

That warm and fuzzy feeling you get when you cuddle with your pooch? Oxytocin!

Research published in the journal Science in 2015 reported that simply gazing into each other’s eyes causes a tremendous spike in oxytocin levels in both dogs and dog guardians.

“Of the duos that had spent the greatest amount of time looking into each other’s eyes, both male and female dogs experienced a 130 percent rise in oxytocin levels, and both male and female owners a 300 percent increase.”

Pets for Patriots: hope and a home

At Pets for Patriots, our vision is to end animal homelessness. At the same we seek to give our military veterans the greatest “thank you” of all: the extraordinary love of a companion pet. 

Our veterans are no strangers to adversity. From coping with the transition back into civilian life to battling depression and Post Traumatic Stress, life can be incredibly difficult for those who serve.

It can be equally trying for those coping with wounds that have never healed.

A newly released Veterans Administration study found that 20 veterans commit suicide each day. This is far above the national average for civilians and it reflects a significant rise in suicide among female veterans.

For a veteran struggling with mental or physical health issues, a companion animal can serve as a beacon of hope to give purpose and meaning in the darkest of times. Many veterans in our program tell us that their pets give them a reason to live.

A rescued dog or cat is often a “confidant” to a veteran who feels isolated from others, a safe and friendly listener, an ‘always there’ friend.

By encouraging veteran-pet adoptions, we hope to bring much deserved happiness and joy to these extraordinary men and women. At the same time we give visibility to the most overlooked shelter pets: those who are adult, special needs, or long-term homeless, and large breed dogs.

Read any adoption story in our blog to see our mission in action for proof that indeed, dogs do make us happy…And cats, too!


  1. Sandy Case

    Especially On busy days, I try to make it a point to gaze into my dogs eyes and smile at him at least a couple times. I know it makes him feel better and it makes me smile too <3

  2. Rosa Strino

    I LOVE dogs so much that I have one named Gus and he is a beagle! I also LOVE beagles

  3. Keegan


  4. Mary Eaton

    John, As always, your positivity shines thru.
    George, I’m sorry for your loss. Heart-felt words you’ve shared.

  5. George Ferrier

    Joy and Love of dogs
    Joy when you know that he knows he’s home like my Bobby-Eagle was home five weeks when on day out nephew’s left the door open and he got out everyone was running around looking for him when he comes running from the park up the ramp into the house drank water and jumped into bed with my wife.

    Watching him running to and in the park and he loses site of you and comes running looking for you

    Watching him sleep in three levels

    Snuggling to you at sleep he would lay between me and my wife Trish a Double Amputee he would test his team on her stump and his butt or leg touching me

    When I have flashbacks(PTSD) he’ll lick my hand my wife had sleep apnea when she stopped breathing he’d lick her leg till we started breathing

    After Trish passed in February he always sleeps on he hospital gown the nurses have him even if he has to move it

  6. John A. Smaldone

    This was a very heart warming and helpful article. I hope more people read this, there are many very important tips that can not only help us humans live longer lives bur surly make our Dogs happier and save many of their lives as well!

    John Smaldone

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