Most dog owners already know that life is better with a dog; after all, what’s not to like about devoted companionship and unconditional love? But did you also know that owning a dog is good for you emotionally and physically?
Harvard Medical School (HMS) and the Angell Animal Medical Center compiled hundreds of research studies from around the world documenting the psychological and physical benefits of being a pet parent for their report Get Healthy, Get a Dog. Are you ready to discover ten ways your pup enriches your life?
1. Help You Stay Active
One of the primary health benefits of being a dog owner is increased physical activity. Being a dog parent means going for walks, rain, shine or snow. A daily walk with your dog can improve your physical health, increase your energy levels, and even boost your mood.
By combining your daily walks with healthy food for you and nutrient-dense kibble like fish dog food for your pet, you reduce the risk of obesity, heart disease, and other chronic health conditions for both you and your pup!
2. Weight Loss Partner
Regular exercise is essential for healthy weight management, and your pooch can play a pivotal role in helping you stick to your regimen. Your four-legged fitness partner provides everything from obnoxious pestering to enthusiastic encouragement. Best of all, they won’t let you skip a day and sabotage your weight loss efforts.
Dogs require walks multiple times a day and most dog breeds want to actively play during the day, which requires more exercise. With all this activity, you and your dog must eat properly to have enough energy. To ensure they get the best quality nutrition, look for dry and wet dog food that offers the right balance of protein, fats and carbohydrates, as well as B vitamins to support metabolic function.
3. Lower Stress levels
Dog ownership may positively impact mental health, reducing stress and anxiety. Petting a dog has been shown to lower cortisol levels, a hormone associated with stress. High cortisol levels can impact sleep patterns, mood and energy, and prolonged exposure to cortisol can increase your risk for several diseases, including cardiovascular disease.
Physical contact with a dog can also release oxytocin, the hormone responsible for feelings of love and affection. A 2009 study on Japanese dog owners found that looking into your dog’s eyes can increase oxytocin levels and indicate a strong attachment between you and your dog.
Companionship is an essential aspect of human life, and it is vital to have social connections and support to thrive. Dogs are known for their companionship and loyalty, and owning one can be a great way to combat loneliness. They are always happy to see their pet parents and are quick to offer affection, whether through tail wags or cuddling up on the sofa, helping reduce feelings of isolation.
Companionship can also have a significant impact on your self-esteem. The American Psychological Association (APA) suggests that self-esteem and relationships are directly correlated, with positive self-esteem leading to more satisfying relationships and vice versa. A 2020 meta-analysis also found that dog owners tend to have higher self-esteem. This may be attributed to the social support they provide.
5. Keep You Safe
Dogs have a strong instinct to protect their owners and can be trained to alert you to danger. This can give you peace of mind and make you feel more secure in your home. Some dog breeds, such as German Shepherds and Staffordshire Bull Terriers, can also be trained to protect you in dangerous situations, such as a home intrusion.
6. Meet New People
Owning a dog can provide many opportunities to meet new people, especially if you participate in dog-related activities. Whether visiting dog parks, participating in obedience classes, or walking your dog around the neighborhood, you’ll have plenty of opportunities to interact with other dog owners and make new friends.
Research suggests that owning a dog can facilitate social connections and help people form new friendships. According to a 2015 study, individuals with close bonds with their pets tend to feel more connected within their communities and human relationships.
7. Lower Your Blood Pressure
According to the CDC, approximately 47 percent of adults have high blood pressure (hypertension.) Physical contact with a dog can help lower your heart rate and reduce stress, contributing to lower blood pressure levels. Owning a dog may also modulate your sympathetic nervous system, improving cardiovascular health.
8. Teaching Responsibility
Owning a dog can be an excellent way for children to learn responsibility. Dogs require daily care and attention, and caring for a pet can teach important life skills.
As a dog owner, one of your biggest responsibilities is providing for its basic needs. This includes providing high-quality chicken, fish or beef dog food, water, regular exercise and appropriate veterinary care. By taking care of these needs, children can learn to prioritize the needs of others and develop empathy for animals.
9. Illness or Injury Recovery
Dogs are often used in animal-assisted therapy programs, which can help promote healing and recovery for people with a wide range of illnesses and injuries. In these programs, dogs are trained to provide comfort and support to patients, helping them feel more relaxed.
In a 2021 study, researchers found that people with neurological disorders participating in pet therapy programs and those who owned dogs saw an improvement in disease symptoms and quality of life.
10. Improved Cognition and Memory
Spending time with dogs can not only be emotionally rewarding, but it can also have cognitive benefits, including improved memory, attention and problem-solving skills.
A 2022 study found that people who owned pets demonstrated better episodic memory, attentional orienting, and mental processing speeds than those who did not. The difference in cognitive performance was greatest between dog owners and non-pet owners. The same study also suggests that owning a dog can reduce your brain’s age by approximately 15 years.
Keep Both You and Your Dog Healthy
Whether you’re a long-time dog lover or considering adopting a canine for the first time, there are many good reasons to bring a pup into your life. With their loyal and affectionate personalities, dogs brighten your days and make you feel loved and supported.