Caring for a dog actually makes you happier and healthier

When I was at university, as apart of my psychology major, I studied a subject called positive psychology. For my major assessment, my group did a study looking into the correlation between happiness and dog ownership. At the time, there wasn’t much information on this. But I found the topic so interesting that I have recently been looking into it again.

Obviously from personal experience, I know that my life is much more complete with a dog. But recent studies have actually shown that there are physical and mental health benefits that actually come with playing with or snuggling up to our pooches.  

 

Here are a few of my favourite reasons why dogs make people happier, healthier and even thinner:

 

They provide the best companionship.

The unconditional love we get is just the best thing. They make us so happy and are always there to keep us company. When we come home, they are always happy to see us, even if we have just been out for five minutes. When we are sick or sad, they just know and will stay by our side. Studies have actually found that pet owners are less likely to suffer from depression than those without pets.  I work from home some days and having Cooper’s company is just the best. There are times when I think I would be a bit lonely and unhappy without him.

They take the focus off us and make us take care for them.

Dogs require a regular feeding and exercise schedule. No matter what mood we are in; depressed, anxious, or stressed, we still always have to get out of bed to feed, exercise, and care for our pets. Caring for a living animal can help make us feel needed and wanted, and take the focus away from our problems. Owning a dog can help teach your children about responsibility, spread the chores around and make them get involved. Plus, studies have found pet owners over the age of 65 make 30 percent fewer visits to their doctors than those without pets. I just love that fact!

 

They encourage us to exercise more.

People with dogs are forced to get out of the house and go for a walk more often than people without dogs. According to the “American Journal of Preventive Medicine” the average duration of walk per week for dog owners in the study was close to 300 minutes while those without dogs only walked for 168 minutes per week. That large difference is especially beneficial for those of us who walk to lose weight!  Cooper is a high-energy dog so we try to take him for two walks a day. There are some days where I know I wouldn’t have gotten up and exercised if it wasn’t for Cooper.

They help us meet new people.

Dog owners frequently stop and talk to each other on walks, in dog parks, in pet stores and in training classes. In fact, a study found that a person walking with a dog had three times as many social interactions than when they walked alone. Through Cooper I have made some amazing friends and now actually have some regular doggie play dates with some of them. We love it!

 

They can actually help to reduce anxiety. 

The companionship of a dog can offer comfort, help ease anxiety, and build self-confidence for people anxious about going out into the world.

Patting and walking your dog can provide sensory stress relief.

Touch and movement are two healthy ways to quickly manage stress. Studies have found that lying with a pet can elevate levels of serotonin and dopamine, which calm and relax. Even just patting your dog can lower your blood pressure, according to a study done at the Purdue University School of Veterinary Medicine, and dog owners have been shown to have lower triglycerides and cholesterol levels as well. But this could also be from all that walking since exercise is the best way to lower cholesterol.

 

They are great at cheering up the sick and the elderly.

Therapy dogs are used to visit old aged facilities, many hospitals and sick children. They help to calm them down, lower blood pressure and help to put a smile of their faces. We hope to one day get Cooper trained up to be a therapy dog. I am sure the smile on his face would help make others smile.

So all in all dogs really are just the best (can you tell I am slightly biased). They make us happier and healthier and just provide the best companionship.

 

In saying all of this, owning a dog is not for everyone. Please do your research. Do not rush the decision. They can be costly and take up a lot of your time. If you are thinking about getting a dog, please make sure you choose the right dog for you and your lifestyle.

 

Sources: 

http://www.helpguide.org/life/pets.htm 

http://voices.yahoo.com/how-owning-dog-happier-healthier-and-11460828.html?cat=53

 


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