TIME psychology

The Science Behind Why Dogs Might Just Be Man’s Best Friend

dog
Getty Images

Eric Barker writes Barking Up the Wrong Tree.

Dog owners experience a wide range of health benefits.

Via Richard Wiseman’s excellent book 59 Seconds: Change Your Life in Under a Minute:

After carefully following the recovery rates of patients who had suffered a heart attack, Friedmann discovered that those who were dog owners, compared to those without a canine pal, were almost nine times more likely to be alive twelve months later. This remarkable result encouraged scientists to explore other possible benefits of canine companionship, resulting in studies showing that dog owners coped well with everyday stress, were relaxed about life, had high self-esteem, and were less likely to be diagnosed with depression.

In fact, they’re more health promoting than a spouse is.

Via 59 Seconds: Change Your Life in Under a Minute:

The participants had lower heart rates and blood pressure and made far fewer errors on the counting task in the presence of dog than they did if their partner was present—scientific evidence, if any is needed, that your dog is better for your health than your husband or wife is.

And this isn’t true for cat owners.

Via 59 Seconds: Change Your Life in Under a Minute:

Interestingly, the same cannot be said for cats. Some studies show that living with a cat may help alleviate negative moods but is unlikely to make you feel especially good, and others suggest that cat owners may actually be more likely than others to die in the twelve months following a heart attack.

And it’s causal, not correlative.

Via 59 Seconds: Change Your Life in Under a Minute:

She assembled a group of city stockbrokers who suffered from hypertension, randomly divided them into two groups, and gave each person in one group a dog to look after. Both groups had their blood pressure monitored over a six-month period. The results revealed that the stockbrokers with dogs were significantly more relaxed than those in the control group. In fact, when it came to alleviating the effects of mental stress, the dogs proved more effective than one of the most commonly used drugs to treat hypertension. More important, as the people were randomly assigned to the “dog” and “no dog” condition, there was no difference in personality between the groups, and so that factor could not account for the findings. In addition to feeling less stressed, the hard-nosed city types had become emotionally attached to their animals, and none of them accepted the opportunity of returning their newfound friends at the end of the study.

This piece originally appeared on Barking Up the Wrong Tree.

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TIME Ideas hosts the world's leading voices, providing commentary and expertise on the most compelling events in news, society, and culture. We welcome outside contributions. To submit a piece, email ideas@time.com.

TIME animals

Super Chill Dog Takes the Bus to Meet Her Owner at the Dog Park

Owners: who needs 'em?

Sometimes a dog just really wants to go to the dog park — and if that means taking the bus alone, so be it.

Eclipse, a self-sufficient 2-year-old black lab, has taken to riding public transit to the dog park alone when her owner misses the bus. “We get separated. She gets on the bus without me, and I catch up with her at the dog park,” said Eclipse’s owner Jeff Young, speaking to Seattle’s KOMO News. “It’s not hard to get on. She gets on in front of her house and she gets off at the dog park, three or four stops later.” No word on how she pays the fare with her cute little paws.

Since Lassie, Benji and Milo and Otis have helped pave the way for such precocious canine behavior, neither the dog, the owner, the bus driver, nor the other commuters seem to view the pup’s behavior as anything but adorable. “All the bus drivers know her. She sits here just like a person does,” commuter Tiona Rainwater, told KOMO. “She makes everybody happy. How could you not love this thing?” A spokesman for Seattle’s Metro Transit said the agency loves that a dog appreciates public transit.

While Eclipse is apparently capable of riding the streets of Seattle alone, helpful Seattleites frequently stop the dog on her travels. Young told KOMO that he gets a phone call once a week or so from good Samaritans anxious to help reunite a lost dog with its owner: “I have to tell them, ‘no. She’s fine.’ She knows what she’s doing.” Lassie probably never had to put up with that.
[H/T KOMO News]

TIME health

These 8 Household Items Have Tons of Germs

kitchen-sink
Getty Images

Turns out, bacteria tends to linger on some of the most frequently used household items

Turns out, bacteria tends to linger on some of the most frequently used household items. Here, a list of germ-laden places—and how to tackle those trouble spots.

TIME Pets

Petco Won’t Sell Chinese Dog and Cat Treats Any More

FDA is investigating whether treats led to canine deaths

Petco has announced it will remove dog and cat treats made in China from its stores, amid a U.S. investigation of the safety of animal snacks created in the country.

The Food and Drug Administration has received 4,800 complaints about pet illnesses related to jerky treats, including 1,000 complaints involving canine deaths, since 2007. Most of the complaints involve snacks made in China. The investigation is ongoing.

Petco becomes the first pet speciality retailer in the U.S. to pull the Chinese treats from its shelves. Its competitor PetSmart has said it will remove such treats from its stores by March, according to the Associated Press.

In lieu of China-made treats, Petco will continue to source treats from the U.S. and begin including new items from New Zealand, Australia and South America.

TIME psychology

8 Things Your Pet Says About Your Personality

dog and cat
Getty Images

Eric Barker writes Barking Up the Wrong Tree.

1) Researchers have established some general conclusions about pets and their owners personalities:

  • Fish owners are happiest.
  • Dog owners are the most fun to be with.
  • Cat owners are the most dependable and emotionally sensitive.
  • Reptile owners are the most independent.

2) Yes, there are differences between cat people and dog people:

  • Dog people were generally about 15 percent more extraverted, 13 percent more agreeable and 11 percent more conscientious than cat people.
  • Cat people were generally about 12 percent more neurotic and 11 percent more open than dog people.

3) According to research by Richard Wiseman, people often see their pets’ personality as a reflection of their own.

So, more often than not, a quick way to find out what someone is like it to ask them to describe their animal friend’s temperament.

4) You can tell a liberal from a conservative by the breed of dog they own.

Via The Righteous Mind: Why Good People Are Divided by Politics and Religion:

We found that people want dogs that fit their own moral matrices. Liberals want dogs that are gentle (i.e., that fit with the values of the Care foundation) and relate to their owners as equals (Fairness as equality). Conservatives, on the other hand, want dogs that are loyal (Loyalty) and obedient (Authority).

5) That guy with the pit bull might be just as scary as his dog:

A study carried out at the University of Leicester’s School of Psychology has found that younger people who are disagreeable are more likely to prefer aggressive dogs, confirming the conventional wisdom that dogs match the personality of their owners.

6) Dog owners are healthier.

Via 59 Seconds: Change Your Life in Under a Minute:

dog owners coped well with everyday stress, were relaxed about life, had high self-esteem, and were less likely to be diagnosed with depression.

Dogs provided more health benefits than a cat — or a spouse for that matter. Further research showed that at least some of these effects were causal, not correlative.

You don’t even need to own a dog to get some of the stress-relieving benefits: watching a video of a cute animal can reduce heart rate and blood pressure in under a minute. Stuffed animals can improve your immune system.

7) Researchers know the type of person who doesn’t clean up after their dog:

Fewer males (35.3%), those with a lower income (18.2%), and owners who allowed their dogs off the leash (26.2%) cleaned up their dogs’ feces than females (58.2%), those with higher earnings (68.7%), and those who kept their pets on a leash (72.6%).

8) A few other fun facts about pets:

This piece originally appeared on Barking Up the Wrong Tree.

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TIME Ideas hosts the world's leading voices, providing commentary and expertise on the most compelling events in news, society, and culture. We welcome outside contributions. To submit a piece, email ideas@time.com.

TIME health

Why Dogs Are Good for More Than Just Snuggling

petting dog
Sergio Buss—Getty Images/Flickr RF

New research shows that having animals on college campuses might ease students’ stress

This article originally appeared on RealSimple.com.

College students are under intense pressure at least twice a semester—during midterms and finals. And on top of academics, they can experience emotional stress from relationship troubles or as they adjust to being away from home. To help students cope, colleges have employed none other than man’s best friend—Harvard has Cooper the Library Dog, and Yale’s Medical School has a rescue mutt named Finn. Anyone who has spent time with a pup knows they can make you feel warm and fuzzy, and now scientists say that animal therapy might legitimately reduce anxiety and loneliness symptoms.

(MORE: New Poll Shows Parents Are Really Stressed… And Really Happy)

Researchers, led by Dr. Leslie Stewart of Idaho State, tested their hypothesis on a group of 55 undergraduates at a small arts college. They brought Sophie, a German Shepherd and trained therapy dog, to campus for students to pet, hug, feed, brush, draw, and play with. After spending time with Sophie, the researchers found a 60 percent decrease in self-reported anxiety and loneliness symptoms in the students. The findings have been published in the Journal of Creativity in Mental Health.

This study piggybacks on previous research suggesting that pets are hugely helpful in relieving stress. Earlier this year, a Harvard School of Public Health survey on The Burden of Stress in America found that 87 percent of adults who regularly spent time with a pet reported it was an effective method of stress relief. A 2012 study at Virginia Commonwealth University looked at how the presence of dogs in a workplace reduced employee stress, and found that dogs not only reduced stress, but also improved job satisfaction and coworker communication.

(MORE: 30 Secrets Your Body Language Gives Away)

For college students, especially, the presence of therapy dogs can help counselors meet growing demand in a creative way.

“College counseling centers aren’t seeing students struggling with academics, which major to pick or how to study,” researcher Dr. Franco Dispenza said in a statement. “They’re coming in with post-traumatic stress disorder, anxiety disorders, pervasive mood disorders and considerable contextual strains that are happening out in the world.”

(MORE: Fix It Yourself and Save)

TIME Accident

Dog Accidentally Shoots Man in Wyoming

He remains hospitalized but his injury is not life-threatening

This is a case of shooting the arm that feeds you: A Wyoming man was hospitalized on Monday after he was apparently shot by his dog.

Richard L. Fipps had gotten out of his truck to remove snow chains and ordered his dog to go into the back, where the gun was lying, according to Big Horn Mountain Radio. He was accidentally shot in the left arm after the dog stepped on a loaded rifle that had its safety off, or caused movement that triggered it to fire, a sheriff told the Huffington Post.

Fipps remains in the hospital but his condition is not life-threatening. Calls to the sheriff’s officer were not immediately returned.

[The Huffington Post]

TIME Morning Must Reads

Morning Must Reads: December 16

Capitol
The early morning sun rises behind the US Capitol Building in Washington, DC. Mark Wilson—Getty Images

Scores Killed in Taliban Attack

A Pakistani official says that more than 126 people have been killed, mostly schoolchildren, in a Taliban attack on a military-run school in the northwestern city of Peshawar. Witnesses said gunmen stormed the school and started shooting at random

Who Was Man Haron Monis?

The Sydney hostage taker who died in a shootout has been identified as Man Haron Monis. The 50-year-old was being investigated for murder and sexual assault

Camille Cosby Defends Bill

The actor’s wife fiercely defended her husband in a statement Monday as outrage mounts over allegations he drugged and raped multiple women

29 Instagram Photos That Defined the World in 2014

TIME, in association with the photo-sharing app, takes a look back at the key moments of 2014: From the toll of war in Gaza to the unrest in Ferguson, Mo., and from the border between Mexico and the U.S. all the way to Mongolia, Afghanistan and Sierra Leone

U.S. Surgeon General Confirmed Despite Gun-Control Support

The Senate confirmed Vivek Murthy as U.S. Surgeon General on Monday despite concerns he was underqualified and too outspoken on gun control to be the top spokesman on public-health matters. Illinois Senator Mark Kirk is the only Republican to confirm Murthy

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The comedian and actor, who died in August, led the list of the people, places and things that got the biggest boost in search traffic this year compared to 2013. Williams topped a list that also included the World Cup, Ebola, ISIS and Flappy Bird

Tattooing Your Pet Is Now Illegal in N.Y.

Body art like tattoos and piercings on pet animals will soon be a crime across the state following a law passed on Monday. The law does make exceptions for markings made for identification or medical reasons, but those only include preapproved letters and numbers

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Samaria Rice, the mother of Tamir Rice, the 12-year-old boy fatally shot by police who believed he was carrying a gun, said Monday that he was never given a chance to follow officers’ orders when they pulled up next to him on a Cleveland playground

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London Crawling: Scientists Name Snail After Clash Singer

A new genus of snail has been named after Joe Strummer, leader of iconic British rock band The Clash, “because they look like punk rockers in the 70s and 80s and they have purple blood and live in such an extreme environment,” said researcher Shannon Johnson

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At least 66 journalists were killed across the globe this year while another 178 media workers were imprisoned, according to monitoring outlet Reporters Without Borders. The watchdog organization noted that attacks on journalists are becoming increasingly barbaric

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MONEY deals

6 Black Friday Deals So Crazy You Won’t Believe They’re Real

dogs with "adopt me" signs
Jim McKinley—Alamy

Black Friday deals on TVs, tablets, toys, clothing, and jewelry come as no surprise. But how about Black Friday promotions featuring guns, giveaways of cats and dogs, and the requirement to strip down to your underwear?

Here are a half-dozen downright bizarre Black Friday deals:

Free Cats & Dogs
At least one Humane Society (in Oregon) is waiving the usual $50 adoption fee on cats now through December 1. In addition to free cat adoptions, the shelter is knocking $50 off normal dog adoption fees, which generally run $100 to $350. Other humane societies around the country are hosting Black Friday pet deals such as free dogs if they’re black and at least six months old (Kansas) and a promotion of $5 to adopt a cat 5+ years old and 50% off the adoption of rabbits, guinea pigs, and other small animals (in Massachusetts).

Buy a Car, Get It Free If It Snows on Christmas
A car dealership in Chicago has a sales pitch that’s tempting for those who like to gamble—and that could wind up being extremely costly for its promoters. The deal is that all customers who buy a new Buick or GMC automobile at the dealership on Friday or Saturday will get full refunds on their purchases if it snows six or more inches on Christmas. The dealership is calling the promo its “White Friday” sale.

Guns & Ammo
It may not be what your family expects to find under the tree or stuffed in stockings on Christmas morning, but guns have come to be hot sellers on Black Friday and throughout the holiday shopping season. Last year, the number of FBI background checks conducted for each firearm purchase on Black Friday was nearly triple that of a typical sales day. Why are guns hot sellers during this period? Largely for the same reasons that so many other items are hot sellers right about now—because stores have big promotions to attract customers. Walmart is discounting all firearms by 20% for its Black Friday sale, while gun enthusiast websites are filled with firearm and accessory deals—weapons, targets, ammunition, and more—from a wide range of retailers around the country.

Wait Outside in Your Underwear, Get Free Clothes
Among the many early Black Friday sales that have popped up this week, probably the strangest took place on Tuesday at Desigual in San Francisco: As the Consumerist pointed out, the first 100 shoppers waiting outside the store wearing nothing but their underwear received free tops and bottoms from the Barcelona-based fashion retailer.

Buy a Car, Get a TV
The first ten customers to buy new cars at a Toyota dealership in Missouri received free flat-screen TVs thrown into the deal on Black Friday. What’s more, the first ten people in the door at the dealership on Friday were handed $25 gift cards for ham—no car purchase required.

Loans and Online Bank Accounts
Everyone else feels comfortable glomming onto Black Friday for sales and marketing purposes, so why not financial institutions as well? The Utah Community Credit Union, for instance, is advertising “BLACK FRIDAY DOORBUSTERS!” in the form of auto, home equity, and personal loans with supposedly great terms. Capital One 360, meanwhile, is hosting a Black Friday Sale, with bonuses like $100 for new savings and checking accounts and, depending on how much you invest, $150 to $1,250 bonuses for those opening a new online trading account or IRA.

Bear in the mind that even if these offers are truly good deals, taking out a loan or opening a new bank account is certainly not something you decide impulsively because of some flashy promotion. For that matter, no one should go adopting a pet or buying a gun on an impulse either.

TIME celebrities

Chris Hemsworth and His Wife Just Adopted a Puppy

Chris Hemsworth and Elsa Pataky attend the 3rd annual Sean Penn and Friends HELP HAITI HOME Gala benefiting presented by Giorgio Armani at Montage Beverly Hills on Jan. 11, 2014 in Beverly Hills.
Chris Hemsworth and Elsa Pataky attend the 3rd annual Sean Penn and Friends HELP HAITI HOME Gala benefiting presented by Giorgio Armani at Montage Beverly Hills on Jan. 11, 2014 in Beverly Hills. Kevin Mazur—Getty Images

The couple are parents to daughter India Rose, 2½, and twin boys Tristan and Sasha, 8 months

As if Chris Hemsworth could get any sexier.

PEOPLE’s reigning Sexiest Man Alive is now the dad to a puppy, supporting the, ahem, scientific theory that there is nothing more attractive than a hot guy and an adorable dog.

Wife Elsa Pataky announced the news on Instagram Monday, writing, “Our new family member.”

In addition to attempting to upstage Hemsworth’s cuteness, the canine addition can also count on plenty of playtime: The couple are parents to daughter India Rose, 2½, and twin boys Tristan and Sasha, 8 months.

When PEOPLE crowned Hemsworth, 31, Sexiest Man Alive, he said, “I think you’ve bought me a couple of weeks of bragging rights around the house. I can just say to [Pataky], ‘Now remember, this is what the people think, so I don’t need to do the dishes anymore, I don’t need to change nappies. I’m above that. I’ve made it now.’ ”

However, we’d like to clarify: That title does not exempt him from taking the dog out.

This article originally appeared on People.com

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