Health benefits of talking to your dog

DOGS are pretty special creatures. For one thing, they are totally adorable. It’s pretty much impossible to look at a puppy and not feel your insides turn to shmoosh. If you can, you should probably get yourself to a doctor, like ASAP, because your heart isn’t working properly.

Puppies are also brilliant conversation starters. When meeting new people, there’s no greater way to form an instant bond than by exchanging animal photos. Awkward social function? Dog pics are sure to ease the tension. Token single person at a friend’s baby shower? Find a way to work your fur baby into every conversation. Angry boss? Kill them with puppy cuteness. If you are unable to bond with someone over mutual animal obsession, they are probably a robot. Abort mission. You don’t need that kind of negativity in your life.

How can this Labrador puppy sleeping on a toilet roll not melt your heart? Pic Nathan Edwards 

Puppies are also way better than partners when it comes to basically everything. They are always happy to see you, never critique your cooking skills, make great exercise buddies and don’t screen your calls. They are also great listeners. You can pour your heart out to them and know that when you’re done — instead of offering judgment or unsolicited life advice — all you’re going to get is a wagging tail and a lot lotta puppy love.

Fur babies; it’s like they understand us on a deep, spiritual level. And according to new research from the University of Queensland, turning to them for support, assurance or even just a listening ear is actually a healthy thing to do. Their study found that animals often were ranked as high as (if not higher than) siblings, significant others, family and friends as a source of social support.

If that’s not a reason to start hounding them for conversation, we don’t know what is.

With that in mind, we spoke to animal behaviourist Dr Kate Mornement, founder of, about the benefits of canine camaraderie.

These are her six top reasons why doggie dialogue might just be good for your health. Keep them in mind the next time you want to confide in Whoofles McBarkinton after a hard day at the office.


It wasn’t me. Picture: John Gass

1. They are emotionally intelligent

“Dogs are very good at picking up emotions and often react to the emotions we’re putting out there,” Dr Mornement explains. “A lot of people assume their pets feel guilty. When they’ve done something wrong — like eaten the remote control or ruined the living room rug — when we get angry with them, they often look a little skimpy and we therefore assume they feel bad for misbehaving.

“Research suggests dogs are actually reading our emotions and our body language and responding to that instead.”

These three French Bulldog musketeers have your back. Picture: Troy Snook

2. They can sense when we need them

“Anecdotally, lots of people report that when they’re feeling down their pet offers support,” Dr Mornement says. “Dogs have evolved over thousands of years to live and be with us so they’re very good at reading us — better than cats, even — and we’re very good at reading them.

I got you, babe.

3. They help us feel socially connected

“There is lots of research on health benefits associated with pet ownership,” Dr Mornement says.

“A couple of recent studies have looked at social capital and social connectedness. Dog owners reported higher levels of social connectedness as their pets help to provide that social support.

“With social media and the internet, we are more isolated than years ago and pets help to fill that social need.”

Look at that face. I’m already feeling more relaxed.

4. They help us relax and de-stress

“A recent study of dog owners and non-dog owners found that dog owners scored lower for stress and higher for general health, social functioning and mental functioning.”

These Golden Retriever sisters are all ears.

5. They don’t mind listening to our problems

“Dogs are great listeners when we want to get something off our chest. Sometimes just being able to talk about a problem helps us to work through it.”

I love you, always forever.

6. They never judge

“Lots of people might spill their hearts out to their dog and tell them their problems because they won’t get judged,” Dr Mornement says. “We’re happy to confide in them our deepest secrets because they love you back no matter what.”

Every dog has it’s day.


1. Be clear and consistent

Dogs learn just like we do and repetition is important so that they connect what we say with the events that occur when we say it.

2. Tone of voice is also important

Dogs’ sense of hearing is really acute — a lot better than ours. They are a lot more sensitive to loud sounds and can also hear quiet sounds. The key here is not to yell at them — make your voice a pleasant/positive experience for them.

3. Reward good behaviour

If you want to reinforce good behaviour, instead of getting angry at bad behaviour, the best approach is to reward good behaviour. Talk to them verbally when they are doing the right thing and then reward them for it.


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