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The Benefits of Having a Dog

The Benefits of Having a Dog

By Patty Dobson

The human animal bond is one of the oldest and invaluable, with evidence pointing towards domestication and companionship between human and pup for at least 15,000 years. As a fellow companion, protector, and hunter, our ancestors recognized the relevance of the human/dog relationship, and today, we’re learning just how owning a pup improves our lives.

There is a bounty of benefits to owning a pup, so let’s explore some of them!

  • Promotes physical health – Owning a dog offers opportunities to be active and exercise. Our pups encourage us to up our physical activity game through daily walks. For the adventure seeker hooman and pup, road trips, hikes, beach adventures, and exploration might also be on the agenda. Increasing physical activity helps to increase circulation, promote digestion, increase mobility, and decrease obesity.
  • Lowers the stress hormone cortisol – This contributes to reduced blood pressure, stress, and anxiety.
  • Increases opportunities to socialize – Having a dog can often lead to more social interaction. At dog parks, cafes, online, classes, walks, or a short jaunt to the shops, pups are like instant ice breakers and encourage conversation between dog owners and dog lovers. Studies have shown that those who have social relationships tend to live longer and live with less of a likelihood of physical and mental decline as they age.
  • Improves mood, decreases depression and loneliness – Companionship alone can boost our mood. The added bonus of increased physical activity, lowered stress and curbed cortisol levels, socializing and a sense of purpose further facilitates that feel good feeling. Caring for another can be rewarding and offers one a sense of purpose. Having a pup positively promotes our psychological health and for some, having a pup around supports feeling safe and secure.
  • Boosts immune system – The mind/body connection is undeniable, and when we feel positively peachy, inflammation levels, the pesky promotor of illness and disease drop. For children, being around a pup exposes them to different germs and allergens, which can help abate allergies and increase immunity.
  • Contributes to a healthy heart – We know that physical exercise with our pup contributes to a strong, healthy heart. The calming quality of having a dog can also lower our heart rate. The National Institute of Health conducted heart-related studies on people with pets and observed that pet owners display decreased blood pressure, cholesterol, and triglyceride levels, all of which minimizes heart attack risks. One NIH-funded study looked at 421 adults who'd suffered heart attacks. A year later, scientists found that dog owners were significantly more likely to still be alive than those who didn’t own dogs, regardless of the severity of the heart attack. Researchers also found that dog and cat owners who suffered a heart attack had better recovery rates. Researchers consider these benefits to be connected to a pet’s ability to help reduce or control their owner’s overall stress levels.
  • Encourages curiosity – Pups help to promote our sense of wonder and whimsy, helping us rediscover our inner child, whether it’s through wanderlust, a propensity towards playfulness, or a dose of light-heartedness and laughter.
  • Helps with a child’s emotional development – Having a furry sibling teaches children to relate, empathize, communicate, and express themselves. Often furry siblings become their best friends, and through this deep friendship, they learn to observe and consider another and share their thoughts and feelings.
  • Increases our capacity to love – Our pups make our hearts bigger, fuller, and brimming with love. And, what’s more, our furry family members always eagerly give us the best gift of all: unconditional love and support.

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