Dogs, other pets assist in seven dynamics of wellness

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Samantha Schwanke/Winonan

Dr. Lynda Brzezinski, a counselor in the Integrated Wellness Complex at Winona State University, and her dog, Winston, presented Canine Companions on Monday, Feb. 25.

Winston is a therapy dog Brzezinski trained because of his good temperament and love for human interaction. Winston had to go through five different obedient classes and two tests to be approved and Brzezinski is looking forward to using him in therapy sessions in the future.

Canine Companions was all about the health benefits that come with having a human-pet relationship.

“The oldest human-animal relationship is that between dogs and humans,” said Brzezinski. “Wild dogs would clean up after humans’ meals and the dogs that slowly became more domesticated provided safety and protection in return.”

Brzezinski walked through the seven dynamics of wellness, starting with emotional.

“Pets, especially dogs, live very in the moment,” she said. “As humans we’re constantly looking back or into the future, but our pets help us focus on the now.”

Pets help with depression and anxiety. “When you pet a dog oxytocin is released, which increases serotonin,” said Brzezinski. This helps fight anxiety and is very calming to a person, and the dog.

For spiritual, dogs also help people feel importance in their life because they give their humans something to take care of and be responsible for. They’re also less judgmental than humans, helping all people feel accepted and loved by something.

People don’t usually think of dogs being involved with occupations, but dogs help police and the FBI by being drug and bomb sniffing dogs.

They are also used in search and rescue, and therapy, such as what Brzezinski is doing with Winston.

Dogs also help people with ADHD, test anxiety, fetch things for people with mobility problems and overall help with stress management.

Brzezinski also had an interesting take on the intellectual aspect of wellness.

“Dogs help with speech therapy because children love to read to them and pet them; it encourages them,” Brzezinski said.

Physical was definitely one of the dynamics that pets could be the most helpful in. Dogs need exercise and help inspire their owners to work out too. Exercising helps lower blood pressure and heart rate.

Some cats and dogs can detect when something’s going to happen to their owner, such as seizures, cancer and even death.

“Pets motivate the elderly and sick to get better,” said Brzezinski. “They’re something to live for and they love you unconditionally.”

Pets also have an environmental affect on the world.

“Animals are being used to detect storms and earthquakes because they can sense the change in the pressure outside,” explained Brzezinski. “Dogs can even smell the Emerald Ash Borer. This will help slow the invasive species, and hopefully others in the future, and help save many native species.”

Brzezinski tied up the presentation with talking about the social benefits of pets.

The audience agreed that when walking with a pet, other people who like animals come and talk, which helps build a community of animal lovers.

“It’s been proven that when a person is walking a dog, other people perceive that person as more trusting,” said Brzezinski.

Attendee Jenni Knapmiller found the presentation to be interesting.

“People don’t really connect dogs to health,” said Knapmiller, “I learned the benefits to all the areas of wellness and how useful a pet can be. Now I want a dog!”

Contact Samantha at [email protected]