Petting dogs is one of the great joys of life! The benefits of this simple yet beautiful action are well-known. For people, it can lower blood pressure and the levels of stress hormones (such as cortisol) and raise the levels of various neurotransmitters that elevate our mood. It’s not a magic pill, but it sure feels like one sometimes.

Recently, research into the ways it benefits dogs has expanded our knowledge of its awesome power. A study by Jacklyn Ellis, PhD—“Human animal interaction and the well-being of shelter dogs: The importance of type and duration”—found that the value of petting shelter dogs surpasses the value of walking them. Pretty incredible, since the consensus has long been that the best way for people to help dogs thrive in a shelter environment is to walk them regularly. Ellis, the manager of the Toronto Humane Society’s Feline Behavioural, Enrichment…

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