5 Health Benefits Of Having a Dog
Dog owners know it already: life with a four-legged friend is just better. Whether they’re making us laugh with their silly antics or cuddling up with us for a snooze on the couch, we can’t imagine life without our canine companions.
But, can our dogs actually improve our health? The science says yes! And, it goes far beyond that little boost in exercise that we get from taking Fido around the block. According to the experts, our puppers are helping us in all kinds of unexpected ways.
In this BreezeGuard blog installment, we’re going to cover the 5 most interesting health benefits of dog ownership, plus a few quick tips to make sure you and your pup keep up the healthy lifestyle.
Health Benefit #1: You’ll have a stronger immune system
All dog owners are familiar with how dirty their doggos can get. We love them despite their tendency to jump into the back of the car or on the bed before we’ve had a chance to wipe them down. In reality, we might want to be thanking our pups for their downright dirty habits.
Studies show that dogs expose their loving owners to a rich landscape of germs and allergens, and that’s actually a good thing. When we’re able to interact with a more diverse community of microbes, our immune system—and the immune systems of our kids—can be better prepared against diseases.
Just ask the scientific journal, Microbiome, which published a study showing the benefits of early exposure to pets in babies. They found that the kiddos born into a pet-friendly home were less likely to develop certain kinds of allergies, like asthma and eczema.
And don’t worry. You don’t have to allow your pooch to go unbathed to enjoy this health benefit. Your pup will bring along their family of germs and bacteria no matter how often they go to the groomers.
Health Benefit #2: You can lower your risk of depression and anxiety
If you’ve ever cuddled up with your pup after a bad day, you know just how effective your furry friend is at cheering you up. But according to the research, dogs can not only boost our moods, but they might also lower the risk for some mental illnesses, such as depression and anxiety.
As explained by the Anxiety and Depression Association of America and the National Alliance on Mental Illness, dog ownership has been linked with a decrease in stress emotions, such as fear and anxiety, and a boost in oxytocin and dopamine in humans. It’s why many such organizations are pushing for more widespread use of therapy animals for folks struggling with clinical mental illnesses.
While dog ownership by itself isn’t an appropriate replacement for professional treatment, having a dog around to improve your mood and lower stress is a huge health benefit!
Health Benefit #3: Improved heart health
As it turns out, the calming effect that a dog has on your mental wellness is pretty great for your heart, too. Harvard Medical School suggests that dog ownership is associated with lower blood pressure and lower levels of cholesterol and triglycerides.
Of course, it’s not just the calming qualities of dog ownership that can improve heart health. The increased exercise helps too. Walking—in this case, dog walking— has been shown to improve circulation which can lower the risk for heart disease.
Health Benefit #4: You’ll be more socially connected
Is your dog your best friend? We won’t judge! Human friends are great, but our dogs are something special.
Even so, your pupper might be playing match-maker without you even noticing. That’s because every time you step outside with your lovable pup, you’re more likely to enjoy some positive human interactions than you would flying solo. From people on the street wanting to pet your dog to all the lovely dog owners at the dog park, Fido is widening your social pool.
And, as strange as it may seem, research supports the hypothesis that dog owners are generally more popular, or as one 2017 study described it, richer in social capital. Which is great, because having more interpersonal connections can offer a range of health benefits, including longer life expectancy.
Health Benefit #5: You’ll reap the benefits of being in nature
Finally— and this one might be our favorite—dogs give us the gift of being in nature. And the great outdoors has been shown to improve our health, substantially.
From the boost in Vitamin D to an increase in serotonin to an improved sleep cycle, there’s a laundry list of health benefits that we can enjoy when we step outside. A study published just this year showed that the more exposure humans have to trees, the healthier their circulatory and respiratory systems and the better their overall physical and mental health. Research has also found improvements in cognitive functioning, especially when it comes to short-term memory, for those getting regular exposure to nature.
Tips for dog owners to maximize their doggo’s health benefits
Whether we’re talking about mental or physical health, dogs are helping us out more than we realize.
And while we wouldn’t want to turn to our dogs for medical advice or forego our normal healthcare routine, there are a few things that we can do to maximize the health benefits we enjoy from dog ownership:
- Seek out green spaces. While any outdoor time is beneficial, you’ll feel even better by fully immersing yourself in nature. Maybe you can go to the dog park that has more trees or plan a nature trip for you and your pup.
- Be open to your dog’s fan club. As we mentioned, your doggo is an excellent friend-maker, and you can decide how much you want to benefit from the social aspects of dog ownership. If there’s a group of chatty dog owners at the dog park, why not introduce yourself?
- Make sure your dog is safe and healthy, too! Dog ownership is a two way street. Your pup is offering a range of health benefits for you to enjoy, and you should be equally proactive about your dog’s health and wellness. This can include regular trips to the vet, a healthy, balanced diet, and practices that can keep your pup safe, like installing BreezeGuard Screens in the car to prevent any driving-related mishaps.
- Troubleshoot any doggie dilemmas. Remember when we said that having a dog can keep you calm? Well, that might not be true if your pup’s behavioral issues are keeping you up at night. If you’re struggling with common problems like aggression, chewing or digging, it might be time to call in a dog trainer to help you improve your pup’s mood and manners.
Take a moment to thank your dog for all those health benefits!
As a dog owner, you probably already had a hunch that your pup was adding to your health and wellness. But with all the research proving the health benefits, you might want to give your pup an extra pat or treat to say thanks!
And for more information on responsible dog ownership and care tips, make sure to check in regularly with the BreezeGuard Blog!
Special thanks to Manuel Meza for his photo.