There are many reasons why most people get dogs, from devoted companionship and unconditional love to constant activeness. In fact, according to the APA (American Pet Association), over 70% of households have a pet, with 70 million of them being dogs. But apart from companionship and excitement, are there many other reasons you should get a dog? Yes, the benefits of getting a dog extend to your mental and physical well-being.
The claim that dog ownership can improve your health isn’t just hearsay; it’s backed by facts. One study done by ahajournals.org on more than three million participants found that owning a dog reduced heart disease risk by up to 25% compared to those who didn’t own dogs. The study also indicates that those with prior heart disease issues experienced more benefits. That said, let’s have an in-depth discussion on why getting a dog is good for your health.
A Dog Can Help Improve the Capability of Your Immune System
The first reason why getting a dog is good for your health is to improve your immune system. According to a study by time.com, owning a dog can help boost your microbiome. Being exposed to the different bacteria your canine companion naturally carries has a positive effect on your internal composition. It may sound counteractive, but owning a dog can help kids with allergic reactions such as asthma. However, if you or your kids are allergic to dog fur, you can find a hypoallergenic dog breed such as Afghan hounds, Maltese, poodles, etc.
A Dog Can Help Lower Cholesterol Levels
The second reason why getting a dog is good for your health is to lower cholesterol levels. Taking your dog for a walk in the park can help reduce your cholesterol levels. The same applies to playing with your dog; it can help you reach your wellness goals.
A Dog Can Help Lower Levels of Triglycerides
The third reason why getting a dog is good for your health is lowering triglyceride levels. One study by the Harvard University Medical School found that dog owners have lower triglyceride levels than people who don’t own dogs. What are triglycerides? Triglycerides are a type of fat present in the blood. Typically, your BMI (body mass index) as well as your diet contribute to high triglyceride levels but owning a dog can help normalize them.
A Dog Can Help Reduce Hypertension
Reducing hypertension is the fourth reason why getting a dog is good for your health. Apart from improving your immune system, there is another way dogs can positively affect your health; by reducing hypertension. Many doctors have found that people who own dogs have lower blood pressure levels than those who don’t. The belief is that dogs naturally have a calming presence which can help reduce anxiety, thereby reducing hypertension.
A Dog Can Help Reduce PTSD
The fifth reason why getting a dog is good for your health is to reduce PTSD. People with PTSD, such as ex-military, find it hard to attend mental health therapy sessions. To help them do so, they may get a dog first because they are viewed as loyal and non-judgemental; people feel it’s easier to open up to them because they don’t respond verbally.
One 2018 study by sciencedirect.com reveals that dogs can help people suffering from trauma to recover. Ex-military personnel with PTSD are better off when they have a service dog. A study by the veterinary medicine college at Purdue University found that ex-military personnel cope better mentally and physically when they have a dog. Therefore, if there are battling drug abuse, having a dog by their side can help with addiction recovery efforts.
A Dog Can Help Reduce the Risk of Heart-Related Problems
The sixth reason why getting a dog is good for your health is to reduce the risk of heart-related problems. A 2013 study by the AHA (American Heart Association) explored the relationship between owning a dog and heart-related problems. The study comprised over 180,000 cardiac event survivors and found that people who own dogs have a 33% better chance of surviving a heart attack at home, even after being hospitalized.
A Dog Can Help You Lose Weight
The seventh reason why getting a dog is good for your health is weight loss. Want to lose several pounds? Get a dog. Studies have shown that walking your dog can help you lose weight because canines force you to walk them for about half an hour or an hour per day. One study by the NCBI (National Center for Biotech Information) found that people who walk their dogs about five times a week are likely to lose over 14 pounds over the course of the year.
A Dog Can Help You Stay Active
The eighth reason why getting a dog is good for your health is staying active. Dogs are often active all the time; this means when you own a dog, you’ll be forced to engage in physical activity. Even if you don’t consider playing with your dog in the park or surfing on standup paddleboards as proper exercise, it is still beneficial to your health care routine.
One study by the NCBI (National Center for Biotech Information) found that people who took their dogs out of the house regularly walked over 250 minutes per week compared to non-dog owners. Therefore, playing fetch with your dog using a toy or tennis ball can help you burn calories and prevent the need to visit a chiropractors office.
Overall, many people who have dogs concur that it has helped them spend more time outside to the extent of losing weight. Therefore, staying active can improve your overall well-being even if you aren’t trying to change your physique. What’s more, even if you can’t own a dog may be due to the restrictions of your building, you can be a dog walker during your free time and even get paid. Also, you can volunteer in a dog shelter or veterinary office.
A Dog Can Make a Disabled Person Less Dependent
The ninth reason why getting a dog is good for your health is reduced dependency. A disabled dog owner can use their dog to reduce their dependence on others. According to ADI (assistance dogs international), 48% of service dogs can assist people with mobility issues. 19% can assist ex-military personnel with PTSD, 22% can assist autistic people, and 10% can help people suffering from diabetes by informing owners when their blood sugar is low and medical alert services. According to 4pawsforability.org, service dogs are now being trained to support patients with Alzheimer’s disease or dementia by offering companionship and supporting search and rescue efforts in the event the patient gets lost.
A Dog Can Make You Less Lonely
Reducing loneliness is the tenth reason why getting a dog is good for your health. Loneliness is a challenge for a lot of people in adulthood. Some people just don’t have the time to get out and interact with others, so a furry companion is a great alternative. For instance, when you come home late from work, your four-legged companion will be eagerly waiting to embrace you, which comes in handy, especially if you’ve had a bad day at work.
Also, you can talk to your dog; even though they can’t talk back, they understand some cues. A study by tandfonline.com found that adults who had dogs were 36% less likely to report being lonely compared to those who didn’t have pets at home. Therefore, even if you don’t go out a lot, your dog’s presence can be enough to make you feel less isolated.
A Dog Can Reduce Your Stress Levels
Life is stressful for a lot of people, from finances to your kid’s health. While most health professionals recommend stress reduction techniques like meditation, neurological rehabilitation, and yoga, you might find that all you need is a furry companion. According to healthgrades.com, pet ownership is one of the best ways to relax, making your four-legged companion a valuable asset for your psychological well-being.
For instance, sharing a couple of minutes with your furry companion can reduce your anxiety and reduce hypertension. It can also raise your dopamine and serotonin levels, two of the chemicals that play a vital role in our mental health and relaxation. Therefore, being around a dog lowers your stress hormones, and while it lifts a burden off your shoulders almost immediately, it also helps you lead a healthier and longer life.
One study by the NCBI (National Center for Biotech Information) shows that there is a direct relationship between stress and survival rate, so when you reduce stress, you live longer. If you notice that your mental well-being isn’t where it should be or is interfering with your social and work life, you can get your dog certified as an emotional companion (therapy dog).
A Dog Helps Add Meaning and Purpose to Life
As people grow older, especially when they retire, they can find it hard to find meaning and purpose in their life. But when you own a dog, it forces you to find purpose because even if you’re not well emotionally, your dog will push you to do things. For instance, you’ll have to get up, make its food, clean it, go for walks, take it to the dog clinic, etc. Therefore, if you don’t have a lot going on in your life, a pet will come in handy.
A Dog Helps Improve the Cognitive Function of Seniors
Numerous studies exploring the impact of dogs on seniors have yielded positive results. One study by a publishing firm, Wiley, found that seniors suffering from mental decline and having pets around them showed signs of improved cognitive function. Another survey by sagepub.com showed seniors suffering from dementia who had dogs were less agitated.
The reasoning behind the positive results from the case studies is that furry companions provide unconditional companionship, love and support, which comes in handy for people experiencing cognitive decline. Therefore, even though most people think taking care of their dogs is a hassle, dogs also help to take care of us.
A Dog Makes You More Social
A dog can also make you more social because people will be drawn to the dog and speak to you in the process. In addition, a dog is a good ice breaker for conversations. According to a 2015 study by journals.plos.org, roughly 40% of dog owners had an easier time conversing with others and making new friends thanks to their furry companions. The study showed that dog owners were more likely to know their neighbors than non-dog owners. Another survey by Tuft University’s School of Veterinary Medicine found that people with a strong attachment to pets were more connected to their neighbors and in their relationships.
A Dog Makes You Naturally Appealing
While this might not be a health benefit, it’s worth noting that owning a dog will make you naturally attractive to others. People find it easier to converse with dog owners because they deem them to be more friendly. In the process, you might land yourself a date even if you’re an introvert by nature.
One study by tandfonline.com found that men were more likely to get contacts from ladies when they had a dog. Another survey by webbox.co.uk found that people often swipe right in dating apps like Tinder if the person has a photo with a dog.
A Dog Will Make You Happier
Dogs can generally make you happier; they have that aura around them. A 2009 NCBI study found that looking into your dog’s eyes can raise oxytocin levels in your body. Another 2017 study found that people suffering from conditions like AIDS were less likely to feel anxious or stigmatized by people around them if they owned a dog.
If you’ve been on the fence about getting a four-legged companion, you can see why getting a dog is good for your health. But keep in mind that this is a long-term commitment, and for your dog to take care of you, you need to care for them as well by feeding them, giving them dog treats when they behave and loving them unconditionally.