Studies show that relationships with animals can reduce cortisol (the stress hormone). One study found that interaction with a dog provided better support than a friend during a stressful situation.
I’ve personally benefited from my own canine companion (pictured here). It’s hard to be stressed when she’s doing silly things like carrying a (dead) horseshoe crab during a beach walk.
Although pet ownership may not be practical for everyone, there are ways to get the stress reducing benefits. Volunteer at a shelter, offer to walk or sit for a friend or neighbor’s pet or simply take a few minutes to enjoy an encounter with an animal. My dog never seems to grow tired of affection (in the form of belly rubs) from strangers. Perhaps the benefits go both ways.