It’s often claimed by passionate pet owners how dogs help with our mental and physical health, but it’s understandable if you are puzzled by such statements. After all, how can a dog help you with your health, whether physical or mental? It’s clear how they may improve our mood, but after all, it’s a dog, not a doctor. Unless the dog is a Saint Bernard and it’s currently saving you from underneath an avalanche, how can it possibly help with improving general well-being of a person?
Turns out there are a lot of ways how owning a dog can be beneficial to you, and scientists have studied the benefits of dog ownership for decades. Let’s go over some of the major benefits and reasons why owning a dog will actually improve your physical and mental health as proven in studies.
1. Dogs improve our mood.
We’ve all heard the saying “Laughter is the best medicine”, but we’re used to viewing this as nothing more than just a phrase. After all, how important is it really for your health to be in a good mood?
Well, it’s very important. You can look at it this way – having a dog doesn’t just mean the occasional chuckle. Having a dog means 5, 10 or 15 years of incalculable and daily positive emotions and laughter. 365 days in the year for 15 years, this is a drastic lifestyle change.
2. Dogs help with depression.
Dogs can do more for your mood than just make you laugh. Studies done one the matter show that dogs are exceptionally helpful with anxiety, depression and a lot of other mental problems. Dogs are also very beneficial for patients with learning disabilities and other related disorders.
3. Dogs relieve stress.
You don’t need to have a clinical depression to benefit from a dog. Dogs are great even just at relieving our everyday stress, and this has been shown both in adults and children. Especially in today’s overly busy and hectic Western lifestyle where stress is pretty much a constant part of our workdays, a dog can be of immense help. Sure, they also add a little more responsibilities to our days, but the joy, fun and mental comfort of having a faithful and loving friend at home far outweigh having to walk your dog even when you’re short on time.
4. Dogs increase our levels of oxytocin.
It’s likely you’ve already heard plenty of claims how dogs do this or do that for our health. A lot of those may be myths and nothing more than that. However, the bond between humans and canines, and its effect on our hormones has been thoroughly researched and proven in more ways than one. The well-known “love hormone” oxytocin is responsible for the feelings of trust and reduction of fear, among other things. And dogs have a major impact on the release of it. Oxytocin helps both you and your dog to relax and have a much calmer and more positive everyday experience.
5. Dogs help people battle addiction.
Dogs aren’t used just to help with depression and anxiety, but they are also frequently used to help addicts get rid of their addictions. Getting a dog, more so than any other pet or other lifestyle change, is one of the best ways anyone can help themselves combat addiction, be it addiction to narcotics and alcohol, to something like gambling, or just a nasty, harmful and unpleasant habit. The right dog can provide you with the perfect amount of distraction, positive emotions and support to get you through a situation like this. While there are specially trained therapy dogs for this job, any untrained canine will still provide you with most of these benefits.
6. Dogs help us exercise.
Dogs don’t help us just with our psyche, however. Simply owning a dog has a drastic effect on our physical fitness as well. Dog owners are statistically shown to be more active in their day-to-day life than people without dogs. And it should go without saying that being more physically active has a huge positive effect on your overall physical health. And the exact difference is not difficult to calculate either – dog owners walk an average of 2,760 more steps per day than people that don’t have a dog.
7. Dogs reduce the risk of heart diseases.
Heart disease is one of the major health concerns in the modern world and dogs offer a great help in that regard as well. Dogs are proven to help their owners avoid significantly more heart problems than people that don’t own a dog. This is not just because of the extra exercise that having a dog comes with, although even just that alone is significant. The reduced risk of heart problems is also due to the overall improvement of our mood and psyche, the reduced alcohol and narcotics abuse, and other of the points we covered above.
8. Dogs can detect cancer.
Some dogs have also been shown to be able to detect the development and growth of cancerous tumors in people. Not all cancer, of course, but some breeds are able to sniff out skin, bladder, breast, colon, lung, and ovarian cancer and alert you of the problem, and they’re extremely effective at this, according to studies. Now more than ever dogs are being specially trained to do this, and some breeds can also detect and bite off skin moles.
9. Dogs improve the health of growing children.
Probably even more important is the effect that dogs have on children’s health. While some parents still believe the myth that pets are responsible for the development of allergies in kids, the opposite is actually true. Studies have proven how dogs actually help reduce the risk of kids developing allergies. In fact, the younger the child is when you get a dog, the higher the health benefits. And allergies are not the only thing that dogs can help your child with – the reduced risk of eczema is also an important factor, as is increasing the amount of exercise your child gets from the earliest age.