We are told that dogs are man’s best friend. These cuddly companions with their adorable faces and happy go lucky attitudes certainly fill our lives with such joy.
Nothing beats a long walk with your four-legged friend or seeing the joy on their faces when you pick up a ball and they know it’s playtime. The greeting that meets you when you arrive home is priceless and even just relaxing at home feels better in each other’s company.
Dogs provide us with a sense of emotional wellbeing thanks to the unconditional love they give, making them great company and comfort for so many people.
Countless research shows that dogs bring real health benefits to their owners.
For instance, owning a dog can help people to recover from personal trauma, such as bereavement.
I know this is true first hand.
We recently welcomed our little Moodle puppy, Angie (a Maltese/Toy Poodle cross shown below), into our home a month ago and in that time-frame, my mother passed also. Coping with grief has been a rollercoaster of emotions but the distraction and unconditional love that Angie has provided is truly a blessing.
I was never allowed to have a pet when I was young and only ever dreamed of having a dog. Having Angie has definitely ignited the child in me. She reminds me to see life more joyfully and take things spontaneously.
So needed for my type-A personality!
Now before you rush out and get a dog, it’s important to think it through very thoroughly. I myself spent over a year researching (which is a little extreme I know..) since I just wasn’t sure what type of dog I wanted.
Caring for a dog can be hard work – in fact, it’s like having a newborn in the house. It’s also a lifetime commitment, as your dog will be relying on you for many years to come. Just like a child.
Once you’re sure you have the time and lifestyle to include a dog in your life, and you’ve done your research about different dog breeds and personalities, it’s time to look at all the benefits of owning a dog.
If you can make room for a dog in your world, you will experience many perks for sure. Life is sure better with a dog.
Let’s find out more about the health benefits of having a dog shall we?
1. Help you stay active
One of the key benefits of having a dog is that they significantly increase the amount of exercise you do on a regular basis – and you might not even notice it. While it can be difficult to motivate ourselves to go for a walk alone, when we know our puppy needs exercise, we often don’t think twice. All those strolls down the street, through the park, along the beach and adventures in the forest all add up.
Even playing games with your dog counts as exercise. You’ve probably noticed how tired you feel after a long game of ‘fetch’, even though your dog is the one who’s been running around.
One of the biggest benefits of dogs is the way they encourage you to be more active, which supports your health as well as theirs – helping both owner and dog maintain a healthy weight also.
2.Great way to meet new people
One of the unexpected benefits of dogs is the way they add to your social life. Going to obedience classes, saying ‘hello’ to other dog walkers when you go to the park with your canine companion – there are dozens of ways in which your dog makes you more sociable.
Your new puppy will get you out and about, trying things you never considered before and introducing you to new experiences. Whether you’re going to a new pet shop (keep me away..I’m hopeless!) or exploring a new area to make your dog’s daily walk more interesting, you’re bound to see new people all the time.
You’re unlikely to stop for a chat with a stranger when you’re walking by yourself, but we all know how easy it is to talk when our dogs want to make friends. And, no matter how different we are, we have something in common – our highly sociable, friendly dogs!
3. Great for your blood pressure
One of the most fascinating benefits of dogs is their amazing ability to make us feel calm – and that has a brilliant effect on our health. Studies have shown that dog owners have lower blood pressure which is both due to the increase in exercise and that blood pressure goes down when you merely pat your pooch.
It may surprise you to learn that our blood pressure actually has a big effect on our wellbeing too, so next time you feel stressed, or just need some time to relax, give your dog some TLC – you’ll both feel the benefit!
I especially enjoy coming home after a hard day in my clinic and spending time with my family and ‘fur baby’ – the stress just drops off of me instantly.
One of the most noticeable benefits of owning a dog is that it’s almost impossible to feel lonely when your dog is by your side, and for good reason. Most dogs are highly sociable, and they love the company, whether it’s canine or human. When your puppy enthusiastically greets you after a day at work or looks forward to being taken on their favourite walk, you know you always have a friend by your side.
As we grow older – especially after we retire – it can be difficult to find structure and meaning day in and day out. Dogs take care of that. They force people to continue to do things even if you’re not feeling well emotionally or physically. They still want you to feed them and take them for a walk.
Dogs help prevent loneliness and isolation, as well, which is key in staving off cognitive decline and disease. A dog helps people to not just focus on their needs, it gives a person a reason to get up in the morning – they need to get up and take care of their ‘friend’.
5. Keep you happy
It’s widely believed that dog owners are less prone to depression than the dog-less, largely because they seem to help in so many other areas of health and wellbeing.
Studies have shown that even small interactions with dogs cause the human brain to produce oxytocin, a hormone often referred to as the ‘cuddle chemical’. Oxytocin increases feelings of relaxation, trust, and empathy while reducing stress and anxiety.
6. Reduce stress
There is a reason therapy dogs are so effective: Spending just a few minutes with a pet can lower anxiety and blood pressure, and increase levels of serotonin and dopamine, two neurochemicals that play big roles in calm and wellbeing.
People performing stressful tasks do better when there’s a dog around and studies show dogs ease tension both at the office and between married couples.
7. They teach us valuable skills
Dog owners know that training requires time, effort and patience – all things that are useful in other aspects of our lives. But that isn’t the only thing having a dog teaches us. From enjoying the great outdoors to appreciating the smaller things in life, our dogs really know how to lead by example when it comes to happiness. Dogs and children are also an excellent match as they can teach them a lot about responsibility. Making your child responsible for a certain aspect of your dog’s day – such as feeding them in the evening or brushing them at night (oversee everything yourself, though!) – and you’ll be encouraging valuable life skills that can’t be learned anywhere else.
8. Improved overall health
It’s believed that owning a dog can help detect, treat, and manage a variety of illnesses and debilitations. A few examples:
– Some dogs have been trained to sniff out skin, kidney, bladder, and prostate cancer, among others.
– Service dogs are known to benefit people with everything from traumatic brain injury to autism to rheumatoid arthritis, increasing mobility and promoting independence.
– Alzheimer’s patients are soothed by dogs, whose companionship also seems to mitigate emotional flare-ups and aggression.
– Dog owners generally have a stronger immune system, helping them to stay well and spend less time getting over sickness and bugs. In fact, dog owners visit the doctor less often than non-dog owners and are less likely to be on medication.
– People recover faster from illnesses and even have higher survival rates after a heart attack if they have a dog.
– Children who have a furry friend have fewer days off school due to sickness and less chance of developing pet allergies.
– Children with chronic illnesses often cope better with treatment when they have a canine companion.
– Dog ownership can help those with mental health problems to recover and feel better.
On top of all these serious benefits of dogs, they are also fantastic fun. They always make you laugh, they’re there at the end of a hard day, and they’ll almost always be on hand for a reassuring hug when you need it!