Health Benefits of Owning a Dog: Beyond the Bark and Wag

Dog owners tend to have better health and quality of life. At least, that’s what plenty of scientific research tells us, but if you have a dog, you probably know that already. The care costs for a dog can be expensive (obviously depending on the dog’s size, among other factors), but dogs can give us so much more than we’re giving them.

The Healthful Dog Impact

Walking the dog in the rain

More time spent outdoors

Many people enjoy outdoor activities, but only when the weather is good. Wind, snow, rain, extreme heat, or cold make us return to the house without looking back. When you have a dog it’s an entirely different story. You and your family must fulfill his daily walking or playing needs, regardless of the weather.

This ensures you’re getting the fresh air you need every single day.

More physical activity

Most of us don’t get active enough for so many reasons, from desk jobs to self-perpetuating lethargy. A dog will give you that extra push you require to get moving because he NEEDS his walk or playtime. If you have an active dog, it can also be a great jogging companion. Man’s best friend will never say no to a good run or an energetic fetch game.

Moreover, it will also make your children more active. A British study published in the Journal of Behavioral Nutrition and Physical Activity followed the physical activities of more than 2,000 children, and those having a pet were significantly more active than the others.

Reduced stress

This might not be one of the most obvious benefits, but it’s backed up by a 2002 study by researchers from State University of New York. When performing a stressful task, the subjects experienced less stress when they had their pets by their side, than when a close person such as a family member or good friend was accompanying them.

Better  mood

No matter what problems you’re going through or how hard your day was, the unconditional love your dog offers you every time you return home, will lift your spirit. It’s a natural way to increase your serotonin and dopamine levels, chemicals associated with the feeling of well-being.

Healthier heart and lower blood pressure

Diet, exercise, and habits matter regarding the health of our hearts and the entire circulatory system. But having a dog can also help regulate your triglycerides and blood pressure levels, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

A study that followed 240 married couples found that pet owners had lower blood pressure and resting heart rates than those without pets.

Children and dogs

Numerous benefits for children

Having a dog or another pet during early life can teach children about compassion and caring. Moreover, they can learn how to interact with animals while respecting their boundaries properly. Also, as mentioned above, a dog can keep your children active since they all have at least one thing they love to do in common: playing.

However, be careful when introducing your children to a dog. Never let them unsupervised until both parties know how to behave around each other. Children can sometimes provoke even the friendliest non-violent dog through rough play and other inappropriate actions.

It’s also a great way to get your kids to like dogs. Many small children who never or rarely had contact with dogs are afraid of them even when they’re friendly because they have no clue about the dog’s language. This can also cause inappropriate behaviors that can scare a dog and even make him bite when he had no intention of doing that in the first place.

Helps you socialize

While there are studies on the topic, you don’t really need a study to tell you that. When you go out walking the dog, you’ll inevitably engage in conversations with strangers and meet new people. I’m the proud owner of an overly friendly GSP mix. Because of my dog, I now greet and occasionally engage in conversations with dozens of people in my neighborhood.

Even if your dog is not that friendly with strangers, somehow you’ll always end up talking to other people, at least other dog owners.

Reduced risk of allergies

Dog and cat dander are common allergenic factors. There is scientific evidence that repeated exposure to pet dander reduces the risk of developing allergies for children. Dogs also carry some dirt in the house and babies exposed to that dirt develop stronger immune systems.

However, adults don’t get the same benefits. That’s because the immune system develops during childhood and teens. Once it’s past that point, its ability to “learn” decreases.

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