There has been a great deal of research demonstrating a variety of health benefits of dog ownership. It may seem like common sense that dog owners get a little more movement because of the exercise needs of their dogs. However, that is just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to how our canine companions have a positive impact on our health.
In fact, time spent with dogs can contribute to the physical, mental, emotional and social well-being of people. This article will take a brief look at each one by one.
Heart disease is the leading cause of death for men and women. A great deal of research has demonstrated that dogs can lower blood pressure, heart rates, stress levels and obesity rates, all of which are risk factors for heart disease.
While it is true that more physical exercise as a result of meeting the exercise needs of our furry friends is contributing to these positive impacts, that is not the whole story.
It turns out that dogs have a calming effect just by their very presence, demonstrated in clinical studies that have explored the relationship between the stress hormone cortisol and human-dog interactions. (Fun fact: Turns out that dogs have lower stress levels when they interact with humans too!)
We all know that stress management is strongly correlated with human health. It seems that dogs can be one avenue for stress reduction worth considering.
Mental and Emotional Wellbeing
The benefits of dog ownership extend beyond the physical. Research has demonstrated that they can have positive impacts on rates of depression, anxiety and feelings of loneliness and social isolation.
The reasons for these positive effects are not entirely understood by scientists. However, dog lovers don’t really need it to be explained. We already just know.
Reaching outside of ourselves to connect with another living being is often easier with an animal that offers unconditional love. With no fear of judgment or rejection, we can open our hearts and be vulnerable. This nonverbal connection we make with dogs can be deeply powerful and satisfying.
Moreover, dog ownership requires that we take care of our companions even when we can barely take care of ourselves. This sense of purpose that many dog owners feel can be a powerful motivator that can contribute to better self-care in times when anxiety or depression have taken hold.
Perhaps the most surprising findings in modern research on the relationship between people and their dogs are the broader social impacts that dogs can have on our neighborhoods and sense of community.
When communities offer more dog friendly spaces, there are measurable increases in social interactions and positive perceptions of community. This in turn raises a sense of investment in the places we live, making them safer and more beautiful as a result.
Some studies have gone so far as to demonstrate large scale health cost savings to be had from scaling up policies that make our public spaces more welcoming to dogs.
Dogs can have positive impacts on our health in many ways. If you already have a dog, try to remember that the next time they sneak a snack from the kitchen counter or chew up your favorite pair of slippers!
Don’t have a dog? Consider borrowing one from a friend or volunteering to spend some time with local shelter dogs. It is possible to reap the rewards of time spent with dogs without taking on the full responsibility of dog ownership.
We hope you are inspired to spend a little time with your dog today. That’s right, it totally counts as “me time!”
Mat has worked with dogs for almost a decade and is the founder of WileyPup, a doglover’s blog that provides great tips and knowledge for paw parents everywhere.
Article Submitted By Community Writer