Dogs are furry, cute and cuddly and they fill our lives with love and laughter. But did you know dogs have actual beneficial effects on our health? In this article I’ll talk about the top ways how dogs improve the health of their owners.
Reduced blood pressure
You might find your blood pressure going up when you discover your pooch has eaten your favorite pair of shoes. However, many studies have shown that owning a dog or being near a dog has blood pressure lowering effects.
A study published in Journal of Hypertension found that exposure to pets, such as dogs reduced the odds of hypertension in children. Interestingly, this positive effect was also found when babies were exposed to pets while still in the womb! Another study published in the same journal reported that in the hypertensive elderly population, owning a pet or having once owned a pet improved cardiovascular survival.
These studies are just a couple of examples of the positive effects that dogs have on our blood pressure. Thus, while your dog might temporarily increase your blood pressure and make you see red, the long term effects of owning a dog are amazingly beneficial on your health.
We all have days when we feel down, but when a person is depressed, the feelings of sadness and low mood last from day to day and week to week affecting both physical and mental health.
The good news is, several promising studies have found that dogs can reduce depressed emotions.
A study published in the Hormones and Behavior journal found that a dog gazing at its owner increases the levels of oxytocin in the owner. Oxytocin is a well-known feel-good or love hormone being responsible for mother-baby bonding and bonding between couples, suggesting similar bonding and loving emotions are elicited when your dog gazes at you.
No dog owner can deny the warm feeling you experience when your furry friend looks at you. This coupled with an increase in oxytocin levels should ensure a relief from feeling low.
In another study published in Psychogeriatrics journal, dog-assisted therapy was shown to decrease symptoms of depression in institutionalized elderly. The study hypothesized that the positive responses in emotional well-being were due to increased verbal communication resulting from the interaction with the dog handler and the dog, with the dog acting as an important facilitator of this interaction. These kinds of studies demonstrate the importance of including dog-assisted therapy as an additional means of promoting well-being.
There are many ways how dogs reduce depressed thoughts. Firstly, they give social support to their owners by just “being there”. In addition, dog owners feel they get unconditional love from their dog, which is not always a given in human relationships. Finally, when we’re around our beloved dog, we’re filled with feelings of meaningfulness, a key step to alleviating depression.
It’s good to remember dogs are a great distraction when you’re going through a difficult period in your life. Dogs are generally happy and always ready to play or go for a walk, activities that’ll take your mind off unwanted thoughts.
What goes hand in hand with all the above mentioned beneficial health effects of owning a dog is the increased fitness dog ownership provides. As a dog owner you tend to go for a walk at least once a day, but more often a couple of times a day, which is a great way to increase your fitness levels.
Walking is an excellent way to decrease the risk for cardiovascular disease, aid in weight loss and increase metabolism. In addition, walking in the outside air releases endorphins, which are natural chemicals that make us feel good. Thus, if you’re feeling low, take your dog for a walk to lift your mood.
Overall, the positive effects of increased fitness provided by dogs is a great way to improve your general health.
Dog hair and dirt inside the house are common features when owning a dog. However, the reduced hygiene caused by your dog also has beneficial effects. Many studies show that growing up in the same household with a dog reduces the prevalence of allergies.
A study performed in the University of Alberta found that babies from families with a pet, in most cases a dog, had higher levels of microbes that protect against allergies in their gut. In addition, it has been established that children who grow up with dogs exhibit lower rates of asthma.
The reason why living in the same household with a dog reduces your risk for allergies, is because you get exposed to extra bacteria and allergens that your body has to build defense against. This in turn boosts your immunity.
Interestingly, a study published in the Journal of Pediatrics showed that dog ownership significantly reduced the risk for eczema in children. Eczema is associated with a higher risk for developing food allergies, thus owning a dog may also help protect from food allergies.
This goes to show that the allergy reducing effects of owning a dog may be more wide spread than initially thought and may positively affect many aspects of our lives.
Based on personal experience, I believe that owning a dog helps reduce the risk of allergies. I grew up with dogs from the age of two and our dogs used to spend a lot of time in my room and often sleep in my bed. I’ve never suffered from major allergies and I rarely ever fall ill. I think I can thank my childhood furry friends for boosting my immunity!
Next time you get frustrated about floors covered in dog hair or dirty paw stains on your couch, remember it’s good for you!
Your dog may very likely be your best friend, but owning a dog can also strengthen your human relationships. Balanced human relationships are important for overall well-being as they promote happiness and give us a sense of purpose.
As humans, we tend to bond with like-minded people with dogs being important in bringing dog lovers together. Dog owners often find themselves talking about their dogs like they talk about their children. When you find a fellow dog lover, you can share stories of your beloved dogs for hours and hours and bond this way.
Owning a dog also strengthens family bonds and the bond between a couple. A dog, which is essentially a member of the family initiates feelings of shared responsibility and each and every member of the family will concern themselves over the smallest (and the cutest) member of the family. For example, if the family dog falls sick or gets injured, everyone in the family will feel great concern to get the dog better again. Shared feelings of happiness and relief is then felt when the dog is better again. These kinds of shared emotions and experiences bring the family members closer together.
In addition, couples who own a dog together find themselves bonding more due to increased time spent together. This includes looking after the new puppy, feeling excitement when the puppy reaches new milestones and going for walks together.
It is amazing how dogs influence even our human relationships!
A special place in the heart
I don’t think dog owners need any kind of convincing that owning a dog is beneficial, however, I hope this article made you even more aware of the great effects your dog has on you.
And remember, it is not just the dog that brings happiness to you, but similarly you bring happiness and well-being to your dog. So whenever you feel like you’re not good enough, remember that you are the best thing that exists to your dog.
To many happy barks & walks,