How Can Owning A Dog Improve Your Health?
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Let’s face it. We all have times when we get down or depressed. Maybe we can’t get ourselves off the sofa to take a walk, have a weakened immune system, anxiety, or just don’t feel sociable. Whether it’s end of a long day, you’re physically ill, or life is just getting you down, somehow, this is when owning a dog can improve your health!
Your Canine Mood Booster
When we’re down, our dogs know it. Their canine senses tell them something is up, and they will reach out in a way that only dogs can.
Your pup may come to you looking for a pat, maybe lay his or her head in your lap and give you the old moony eyes. They may lay down next to you and just wait for you to give them the signal that all is well. They might nudge you with their nose hoping to make you feel better (or get you to play) – or jumpstart your mood!
Studies have shown that human-animal interaction (HAI) with your pet can actually help to lower your blood pressure, reduce your anxiety and even decrease depression. According to an article The National Center for Biotechnology Information (NCBI):
“Among the well-documented effects of HAI in humans of different ages, with and without special medical, or mental health conditions are benefits for: social attention, social behavior, interpersonal interactions, and mood; stress-related parameters such as cortisol, heart rate, and blood pressure; self-reported fear and anxiety; and mental and physical health, especially cardiovascular diseases.”
Fitness – Four Legged Style
Exercise is also a great mood booster! Exercising with your dog? Doubly so! Dogs can be a great motivation for exercising.
There are the obvious reasons of course. They need a daily walk for potty breaks or playing in the yard. Even better, walking your dog can be a serious cardio activity. Your dog loves to be outside, and you may find yourself walking longer, faster and more regularly with your canine exercise partner. (You may even want to consider a canine treadmill – right next to yours!)
Dog walking is also a great family activity, whether you have small children, teens, or older adults living in your home.
Is it true that kids growing up in households with dogs or pets have less allergies or sensitivities? In a word, yes!
Even though every home will introduce certain types of bacteria or microbes into our systems, including that of our kids, we cannot all provide the alphabet soup of immunity that provides the very best protection. ( Although I love this for the freedom it gives me to accept if not love my dust bunnies – another favorite pet in my house!) Frequent washing, cleaning, and disinfecting removes the ickies we need to build our immunity – particularly for our kids.
The fact is, dogs are dirty. All dogs. Even though they may not appear to be so, they pick up dirt, hair, feces, pollen, microbes, and lovely germs of all kinds On different parts of their bodies. Rather than being a problem or something to avoid, these microbes and substances they carry into your home can provide protection and immunity against certain autoimmune disorders and conditions like asthma. so, do keep your dog cleaned and groomed, but don’t go overboard.
Engage with others
No matter how much of an introvert you may be, we are all part of a pack. Our family is our pack, and our dogs are also part of our pack. Dogs are conversation starters in any situation. Whether you’re walking the dog, browsing the pet store, or heading to the vet or the groomer, your dog is a people magnet.
Not only do you draw human interest with your pup, what you also give off toward other dogs is inquisitiveness – whether you realize it or not. There’s something about our dogs that draw us together in a common place of “let me check out your dog”. (Sort of like how dogs sniff each other when they meet!)
Our dogs are natural social and emotional healers. Even the most frenetic pup has the power to make us look outside ourselves, laugh, and enjoy the physical and emotional connection that they provide.
There are plenty of scientific studies that show how a dog can assist its human in dealing with everything from PTSD to Obsessive compulsive disorder (OCD). Certain breeds of dogs are super trainable to provide support, assurance, and comfort to their owners.
There are lots of words for what they do. Call it comfort, companionship, connection, love. Whatever it is, our dogs can make us take ourselves less seriously. No matter how bad your day, how rude your boss has been or how painful the after effects of an argument with your spouse, at the end of the day Fido doesn’t give a hoot about any of that.
What he/she knows is that you need them to give you their full attention. Maybe they lick your face, chase their tail to make you laugh, encourage you to take them for a walk, or just stand by while you give the hug and bury your face in their coat. (Those helpful microbes again!)