Research is beginning to establish insight into how animals can support human health:
The American Psychological Association (APA) suggests that caring for pets is a way children learn to nurture, especially important for male children in our society who have few, if any, games that mold caring and nurturing. Animals play important roles in motivating children and shaping how they view the world. (Beck, Melson, da Costa, & Liu, 2001; Katcher & Wilkins, 2000; Rud & Beck, 1999, 2000).
The presence of a dog during a child’s physical examination can decrease the child’s stress (Baun, Oetting, & Bergstrom, 1991).
Children who have pets and report a close attachment to their pets rate their family climate significantly better than children who do not have pets (Vidovic, Stetic, & Bratko, 1999).
Autistic children who have pets show more pro-social behaviors and fewer autistic behaviors such as self-absorption (Redefer & Goodman, 1989).
Seniors who own dogs go to the doctor less than those who do not (Siegel, 1993).
Another review of the literature suggests that visits of animals to long-term care facilities can increase social interactions, decrease apathy, agitation, and aggression, and decrease blood pressure (Williams & Jenkins, 2008).
A study showing that women with dogs and the dogs themselves showed signs of pleasure and relaxation in ways that the women without dogs did not (Handlin, L., Hydbring-Sanberg, E., Ejdeback, M., Jansson, A., and Uvnas-Moberg, K. , 2011).