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The Significance of Pet Dogs

It is clear a lot of people love dogs as pets. But did you know how many pet dogs there are in Australia? 4.8 million. 62% of all households have a pet, that is 5.7 million homes, and 40% of those households, or 3.6 million homes, have a dog. Pet ownership in Australia is one of the highest in the world.

Throughout history dogs have been loved as pets. Domestic animals date back to 12,000-10,000 B.C and dogs were the first to be domesticated. They were used to assist in hunting/fishing, herding, guarding and simply for companionship and affection. In ancient times people were buried with their dogs. Ancient Romans kept toy dogs and European royalty had clothes made with special pockets for their small dogs.

Mary Queen of Scots so loved her dog she spent her prison time in the Tower of London with only her pet dog. In 1587 after she was beheaded her little dog was found hidden in the clothes she wore in that final walk. Even as she walked to the guillotine, she was unable to be separated from her little spaniel. Ironically, Queen Elizabeth 1, who had ordered Mary’s execution, was to spend her last night too consoled by her dog.

In fact, throughout history political and military leaders have often kept pet dogs by their side through thick and thin. During World War 2, General Dwight Eisenhower, who was later to become President of the United States, and was supreme commander of allied military operations in North Africa, wrote to his wife: ‘The friendship of a dog is precious. It becomes even more so when one is far removed from home as we are in Africa. I have a Scottie. In him I find consolation and diversion … he is the one person to whom I can talk without the conversation coming back to the war.’ It is interesting that Eisenhower should refer to his dog as a human.

And John F Kennedy was renowned for his love of dogs, and had 9 during his presidency. His favourite was a Welsh Terrier called Charlie, who always acted as a source of comfort to him in testing times. During the Cuban Missile Crisis of 1962, when he and his advisors were discussing how to deal with the situation, and prevent the possible outbreak of nuclear war, at one point, Kennedy stopped the discussion and had Charlie brought to him. Kennedy sat there in silence patting and caressing his dog for some time. Those present later reported as Kennedy sat with his dog he seemed to relax. Finally, he put Charlie down beside him, looked up at them, and in a calm, controlled voice, said: ‘I suppose its time to make some decisions.’

So, it can be seen, dogs have long provided companionship, comfort, affection and solace to humans, and here in Australia they continue to do so in large numbers.

At Calm Paws too, dogs have always played an instrumental role in Lynda’s life. From her childhood onwards Lynda has turned to dogs in times of distress and need. They have provided companionship, comfort and diversion, given her hope and a reason to live. It is rare not to see a dog by Lynda’s side to this day. 

Besides these emotional, psychological benefits of owning a dog, dogs also have a positive effect on our physical well-being. It has been well documented that when dogs and humans interact, both species experience increased levels of oxytocin, a chemical associated with maternal bonding. In fact, owning a pet can:

  • Decrease blood pressure

  • Decrease cholesterol levels

  • Decrease triglyceride levels

  • Decrease feelings of loneliness

  • Increase opportunities for exercise and outdoor activities

  • Increase opportunities for socialisation

The RSPCA notes that the top 4 benefits of pet ownership generally as described by pet owners are:

  1. Relational benefits (love, affection and companionship)

  2. Life being better in general

  3. Happiness, joy, pleasure and fun

  4. Improves mental health and well-being

The RSPCA also noted the main reasons for Australians getting a pet is:

  1. Companionship

  2. Rescuing animals

  3. Being given an animal

  4. Teaching children responsibility

  5. For relaxation

So, it can be easily seen Australians, and humans generally, love their pets, and for many different reasons. Here at Calm Paws the value of pets, and pet dogs in particular, is firmly believed in. And it is our mission to do our best to assist those people who do choose to get a dog - whether it be a pet dog, or a facility, therapy/companion or assistance dog - and to ensure that they and their dog have a mutually rewarding relationship and experience. Always remembering too, it is not just the wants and needs of the owner that have to be respected but also the needs and the rights of the dog. 

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