Research has suggested that having a dog by your side -- especially for senior adults -- is good for the health. Not only do they provide companionship, but our furry friends help us boost our physical health.
Now, a new study has revealed that the presence of our dogs not only affects us, but that it's a mutual, symbiotic relationship.
Believe it or not, your canine pal's heart rate mirrors and becomes in sync with your heart rate, researchers said.
The report, which was funded by American company Pedigree, has found that our heart rates become lower in the company of our dogs and that theirs become lower, too.
Experts had first separated three Australian dog owners and their pets and then reunited them to see the effect.
Canine scientist Mia Cobb says they found a strong coherence in the heart rate pattern of owners and dogs. In fact, when dogs and owners were reunited, the dog's heart rhythm became almost directly aligned with their owners. Cobb says they saw a reduction in heart rate straightaway.
"I wasn't expecting how much they were synced up," says Cobb. "It surprised and impressed me."
A lower heart rate for the owner was expected, Cobb says, but their results were quite surprising, especially the way in which both the owner and the dog experience reduced stress levels when near each other.
Cobb says the findings of the small research illustrates what most owners experience every night after coming home from work and being reunited with their dogs.
Is the response only limited to dogs? Cobb says that no, it isn't.
"We could certainly see the same effect with a cat, lizard or bird," says Cobb. "It comes back to the kind of personal connection we have with our animals."
Cobb says people would likely experience the same response with other dogs or animals, but that it is more pronounced when the pet is already familiar to you.
Why is the team's small-scale research important? Cobb says the kind of effect we experience - the lowered heart rate makes a strong difference for our overall wellbeing, especially for people who suffer from anxiety. This condition has been tied in past studies to depression and dementia.
If we can decrease our heart rate when we are with our dogs, which is a sign that we are starting to feel calm, then it can benefit everyone, adds Cobb.
Watch the Pedigree's #HeartsAligned video below.
Photo: Don DeBold | Flickr