Being a dog parent is a big responsibility but many people during this Coronavirus pandemic are inspired to sign up for this job, as the global crisis forced them to be at home most of the time. But this is not it, they surprisingly found that their personalities have undergone change entirely since getting a dog.
A 33-year-old woman explained herself as an "anti-dog" person because she used to think that they were dirty and destructive. But after she rescued her Australian Shepard mix, she said now she is much more "sensitive and tender than I have ever been." She now believes that dogs are highly communicative and far less destructive than humans. The woman now also avoids eating animal products.
In another case a 32-year-old woman, who was not a dog person, adopted a terrier and named Miles after the Coronavirus pandemic hit the world. Now after spending months with her fur-friends she said, "I can't imagine life without him now, but if there wasn't a pandemic, I would not have bought this dog." She also noticed specific changes in her personality. As per her, Miles has brought unexpected moments of joy "to my day that didn't exist before...[and] I feel more whole now, and like I've become a more loving person."
As per The Washing Post, ever since the COVID-19 pandemic, dog adoption and sale have increased manifold. Those who always wanted a canine companion, have found time, thanks to the work from home set-up that helped them to take care of a fur-friend.
Moreover, many people who never wanted to be a dog parent before the pandemic have started showing interest in taking care of a pet and noticed behavioral changes after living with their dogs.
Neuropsychologists Explain the Mental Changes
Neuropsychologist Marian Rissenberg explained that the Coronavirus pandemic has disrupted our social connections, causing boredom and loneliness. But according to her, a dog can provide entertainment, companionship, and affection—which are very much needed at this crucial time.
"We are hardwired to bond with other beings who are dependent on us and appreciative of our care, and dogs have the added benefit to us of supporting our mindfulness," she added. While explaining Rissenberg also said that the dogs have very small frontal lobes and thus live in the moment, which means that unlike humans, they don't think about a big picture or hold grudges. "They are happy if their basic needs are met, and when they're happy they make us happy too," she said.
While explaining about the changes felt by new dog parents, Rissenberg said that the hormone called oxytocin—known as the "cuddle hormone" as it is released when people snuggle up or bond socially—is responsible for some of these changes.
During the interaction with a dog, the brain sends the oxytocin from the hypothalamus to the rest of the body and that causes a loving feeling. She said that an experience that shows people a different side of themselves or gives them a different perspective on life, will change people.
While researchers from the University of East Anglia (UEA) and the Center for Diet and Activity Research at the University of Cambridge found that dogs make people happier and healthier, neuropsychologist, Dr. Sanam Hafeez, said that petting an animal "will have a positive effect in your cingulate cortex, where the Anterior Cingulate Cortex processes emotions, empathy, and impulse control."
Hormones like serotonin, which is responsible for mood, social skills, sleep, memory, and dopamine, which regulates pleasure and emotions, get released from the brain when someone pet a dog for a long time. These two hormones along with the oxytocin make people feel deeply connected to their pets. As per Dr. Hafeez, dogs have a positive effect when combating stress as they help to stabilize heart rates and reduce cortisol levels, which make people irritable or anxious.