Most dog owners would agree that their furry friend is much more than just a pet. Many dog parents consider them to be family members. The human-animal bond is very real, and the benefits of owning a dog impact many aspects of our lives.
While it’s not always easy caring for a dog, most dog owners find that having a dog is worthwhile and extremely rewarding. In fact, there are proven health benefits that come with having a dog.
Although it’s understood that dog parents should provide the best possible care for their fur babies, you might not be familiar with the many ways having dogs can support your own well-being. Keep reading to check them out!
Benefits of Canine Companions: 7 Ways Owning a Dog Improves Wellness
The benefits of having a dog are second to none. Not only does research show that having a dog makes people happier, but it also improves overall mental wellness.
Dog companionship has also been linked with some serious physical benefits, including improved immunity, lower blood pressure, and decreased risk of stroke and heart attack.
Below are seven benefits of owning a dog that show just how beneficial your furry friends can be.
1. Dogs Improve Your Mood
Have you ever noticed that just being near your dog can make you feel better? You come home after a long day and forget about everything else when you see how happy they are to see you. Whether we’re sad, angry or just plain exhausted, our dogs have a way of making us feel better.
Research shows that simply petting our dogs can make us feel better. Petting a dog, for example, releases a combination of “feel-good chemicals,” including serotonin, oxytocin and prolactin. Taking a long look into your dog’s eyes for five minutes increases oxytocin levels in both you and your canine companion, something researchers suggest offers a strong reason as to why humans and dogs share such a special bond.
2. Dogs Reduce Stress
Along with boosting your mood, having a dog can also help decrease stress. Research demonstrates that interacting with dogs decreases levels of cortisol, a stress-related hormone connected to the body’s physiological stress responses.
Research also tells us that merely thinking about your dog can alleviate feelings of stress. This is all the more reason to keep a framed picture of your dog on your desk at the office!
Owning a dog is just one of the ways to overcome everyday stress.
3. Dogs Encourage Exercise
Need to get out and get more exercise? Having a canine companion can help. Research shows that people with dogs are more active and get more exercise. They also tend to enjoy all the health benefits that coincide with a more active lifestyle. What’s more, dog owners are more likely to walk at a faster pace or with more intensity than people who don’t own pets.
According to research from Purdue University, dogs motivate us to exercise. While most dog owners report exercise is for their pet’s benefit instead of focusing on the health benefits they also receive from this activity, dogs can be just the motivation one needs to get out and get moving. Researchers from the Purdue study note that dogs are a “great strategy used to promote physical activity.”
4. Dogs Decrease Feelings of Loneliness
You’re never really alone when you have a dog. One of the biggest benefits of having a dog is that they’re your best friend who loves you no matter what.
Research suggests that for those who live alone, having a dog can decrease feelings of loneliness and compensate for the absence of human companionship. The human-animal bond we share with our dog offers an unconditional love that can combat loneliness.
Dogs can also help decrease feeling lonely after the loss of a spouse. One study found that individuals who had the love and support of a dog after the loss of a spouse were not any lonelier than those who had not lost a spouse.
“Oftentimes, the relationship we have with our spouse is our most intimate…so losing that sense of purpose and meaning in our lives that comes from that relationship can be really devastating,” says study lead author Dawn Carr. “A dog might help offset some of those feelings. It makes sense to think, ‘Well at least this dog still needs me. I can take care of it. I can love it and it appreciates me.’”
5. Dogs Increase Opportunities to Socialize
Dogs do more than provide loyal companionship. Having a dog can make it easier to socialize with other people if you’re on the introverted side or find it difficult to interact with others. One of the benefits of dogs is that they can also help people increase their social support and form new friendships.
In fact, one study found that dog owners were 60% more likely than non–dog owners to get to know people in their neighborhood. Dogs make it much easier to socialize with other people. Having dogs to talk about makes it that much easier to strike up a conversation with someone.
6. Dogs Boost Self-Esteem
People who have a high sense of self-esteem tend to view themselves in a more positive manner and have a higher sense of self-worth. If you suffer from low self-esteem, having a dog could help. Research shows that dog owners are more likely to report having higher self-esteem than people who don’t own dogs.
The human-animal bond between children and dogs is huge when it comes to increasing self-esteem. For example, research suggests that both primary- and middle-school-aged children who have dogs show higher scores of self-esteem than children that don’t have this bond.
Another study that investigated the long-term effects of having a pet found that dog owners showed a significant improvement in self-esteem 10 months after acquiring their pet. It appears that the closer your bond with your pet, the more likely you are to feel this confidence boost. All the more reason to spend even more quality time with your pets.
7. Dogs Give You a Sense of Purpose
It’s said that living with purpose makes it impossible to just exist. Having a sense of purpose is the driving force behind a fulfilled life. A dog can help give you this sense of purpose and fulfillment.
Taking care of another living being is a huge responsibility and long-term commitment that requires a lot of your time and attention, but a dog offers a sense of purpose unlike anything else. Our dogs rely on us for literally everything, from providing them with food and water to taking them out to go potty. Even the small act of giving your dog one of their favorite treats can instill a sense of purpose and be an affirming and positive experience.
The human-animal bond is one that offers more than basic companionship. It’s a bond that can infuse our lives with purpose, making them rich with fulfillment and increasing our capacity for contentment.
It’s clear that there are unprecedented benefits to be found within the human-animal bond. While it might not always be easy to care for our animals, the benefits of having a dog are rewarding and extremely worthwhile. Having a dog increases your happiness and it makes you healthier both mentally and physically.
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