Dogs. They are wonderful, pure souls. They enrich our lives in so many ways. Providing companionship, and unconditional love, they truly are ‘mans best friend’.
However, there are other reasons to become a dog owner. The health benefits of having a dog are numerous.
They are like furry little lifesavers. Ones that try to steal your food when you’re not looking.
Health Benefits for Dog Owners
Evidenced by ancient cave drawings, the bond between dogs and humans can be traced back to cave-dwelling times (and much further!).
Since then we have learned much more about the benefits of that bond.
Dogs, of course, provide unrivaled companionship but they also can aid in keeping us healthy.
Leading not only a better life but possibly a longer one too. Here are 37 ways that your dog will improve your health.
#1 Fewer Illnesses
According to a team of researchers at the University of Arizona, being a doggy parent can help prevent you from getting sick.
Some researchers believe that owners can share the same ‘good bacteria’ or microbiota, as their dogs.
These are a natural reaction to germs.
That, combined with overall happiness, stress relief, and added exercise that your dog provides, can contribute to the boost in a person’s immune system, which in turn can fight off sickness.
#2 Natural Allergy Resistance
Despite some dog breeds being touted as ‘hypoallergenic’, this is simply not true.
Pet allergies are usually triggered by pet dander, and all pets shed dander (skin cells).
Certain breeds can produce less dander, but there are no breeds that eliminate it completely.
Recent research has suggested that exposing children to allergens at a young age (or even neonatally!) can dramatically alter how their immune system develops, which can reduce the risk of developing allergies or becoming asthmatic.
In other words, having a dog around can possibly prevent you from having an allergy to the dander in the first place!
By golly, they are like furry little superheroes!
#3 Improve your Heart Health
The American Heart Association says that a bond between a dog and his human can improve your overall cardiac health.
That doesn’t mean you should go chow down on fast food!
As we will discuss in more detail later, dogs can help you keep your heart healthy in many ways: lowered blood pressure and cholesterol levels, providing social support which helps you enjoy regular exercise, plus many more.
Adding it all together can greatly reduce the risk of some heart-related issues.
#4 Encourages Exercise –
Dogs love to play. They love to run. They enjoy being active.
Most dogs require daily exercise.
This means that you will be getting extra exercise (try to say that 5 times fast).
Taking your dog for a walk can help you burn ruff-ly (I couldn’t help myself!) 204 calories!
That is just one walk, your pup will likely be making sure that is not the only exercise you get.
Playing with him will get you active as well.
This is not only healthy for you, but it will also keep your pup in great shape too!
#5 More Likely to Be Happy /
When you are doing something that you enjoy, your brain releases chemicals.
Dopamine and serotonin levels are increased just by having your fur ball around.
These, in turn, calm and relax you.
To paint a better picture, these chemicals are those feel-good receptors in your brain that get activated by love, drugs, pretty much anything and everything that make you want more of it.
So instead of drug addiction, just get hooked on your dog.
Much better for you!
#6 Improve your Social Life
Dogs bring out the best in us. They provide therapy that you never even knew you needed.
They literally have emotional support dogs for people with certain personality disorders!
Trust me when I say, dogs are a great conversation starter, and even people who are not very sociable tend to enjoy chatting about their favorite furry pal.
They help you feel more comfortable in social situations.
Pet owners are 60% more likely to get to know their neighbors as opposed to people without pets!
Not to mention who doesn’t love to hang out with dog lovers?
They are the greatest!
#7 They have been Known to Sniff Out Cancer
According to a study done by the Pine Street Foundation, 5 scent-trained dogs were able to detect or rule out breast and lung cancer.
They had a 90% accuracy. We all know that dogs have an extraordinary sense of smell.
They have 25 times more smell receptors than humans and those receptors are 100,000 times stronger!
There have been numerous studies proving that dogs noses can sniff out cancerous cells very early on in the sickness.
You see, having a dog will change your life, they also just might save it.
#8 Stress Relief (Even at Work)
As we will discuss, having a furry best friend can help lower blood pressure, which in turn, can alleviate stress.
Petting a dog can have a soothing calming effect because it increases the levels of oxytocin, which is a stress-relieving hormone while decreasing cortisol levels – this is the culprit for causing stress.
Even the anticipation of going home to your pooch can help alleviate stress while at work.
Knowing that you’ll soon be coming home to someone who will be unbelievably happy to see you, can trigger those hormones we keep talking about.
#9 You May Learn a Thing or Two About
your Own Personality
Animals can bring out the best in people, and, unfortunately, the worst in some cases.
Even if you believe that you are not an ‘animal person’ you may be surprised when you actually take the time to get to know a furry friend.
I am a firm believer that a dog can sense a person’s true personality.
Many say that their dog can determine character, if their dog doesn’t like you, there is a reason.
Being a dog owner can encourage some serious self-reflection.
#10 Teach your Children Empathy
Teaching your children empathy from a young age is imperative to raising them to be well-rounded, mentally healthy adults.
Growing up with dogs can inspire your children to empathize with them.
Teaching them to care for others needs before their own.
Emotional intelligence or EQ is something that can be nurtured, and grown, unlike IQ.
Some teachers believe that EQ is even more important than learning to read and write.
#11 Stay Active and Keep Fit –
The majority of dogs, especially the younger ones, have an endless supply of energy.
They need to expend that energy by walking, running, playing, basically staying active.
They cannot exercise themselves so that will fall on your shoulders.
By walking or playing with your dog, you are getting exercise as well.
Obviously, staying active will help keep you healthy and fit!
#12 Can Help with Weight Loss
Barring any medical conditions, many overweight and obese people tend to overeat to comfort themselves.
It truly can be a serious (and deadly!) addiction.
Food can release feel-good endorphins, and just like any other addiction, will cause you to seek more of whatever it is that makes you feel good (food, drugs, alcohol) hence the compulsion to keep eating.
It feels good. Do you know what else feels good?
Unconditional lovin from your favorite furball!
They can help replace the need to get your endorphins from food.
Throw in the added exercise and you will be toned and in shape in no time!
#13 Can Help you Fight Disease and Heal from Injuries
Here is another strange but true puppy fact for you.
When grandma used to tell you to let the dog lick your cut knee as it would heal quicker, she may have been on to something.
Dr. Nigel Benjamin, a clinical pharmacologist at St. Bartholomew’s Hospital believes that canine saliva can help heal wounds.
Saliva contains nitrite, which breaks down into nitric oxide.
Nitric oxide is a chemical compound that can protect cuts and wounds from bacterial infections.
So unless you are immunosuppressed then there is no harm when your pooch wants to lick your wound, it may actually help!
#14 Mood Booster
We have talked about endorphins and the different hormones that a dog can help your brain release but let’s look at it with simplicity.
When you get home after a long day, and your dog comes up with that tail wagging, the worries of the day melt away.
Dogs are the ultimate mood booster.
They can make the worst day seem worth it. Like Josh Billings said, “A dog is the only thing on earth that loves you more than you love yourself.” What could make you feel better?
#15 They May End Up Being your Hero
There are countless stories about faithful pups who saved their owners’ life.
Dogs develop a special bond with their people.
They really do love unconditionally and would give their life for ours in an instant.
So give Fido an extra hug tonight because if you were ever in trouble he would save you, or die trying.
#16 Therapeutic for Those (Especially Children) Diagnosed with ADD and ADHD
While having a dog will not cure your child of their ADD or ADHD, it has been shown to help with their therapies.
It teaches them empathy and time management, as well as encouraging social behavior.
And as an added bonus, playing with a pet dog will help expel any excess energy.
Many therapists use therapy dogs to help prime their patients for treatment.
#17 Keep Calm and Pet A Pooch
As we said, petting a dog can have a soothing and calming effect.
Here is a little challenge for you: The next time you have had one of those days, where it seems as though everything has gone wrong, go to an animal shelter and visit some dogs.
I dare you to not leave with a huge grin on your face.
I guarantee that you can’t do it.
Animals, especially dogs, just have that special something.
When my hubby gets home after working a long day, our dogs are the first to put a smile on his face.
The dopamine, serotonin, and oxytocin elevations ensure it!
#18 Can Help with Autism/Autism Service Dogs
With a combination of many of these health benefits, a dog can work wonders with people, particularly children, with autism.
Encouraging social behavior, and providing a companion that offers unconditional, non-judgmental love can be priceless in treating autism.
Autistic children can also benefit from the routine of caring for a dog, walking, feeding, and sticking to the schedule.
Just like service dogs specifically trained for certain disabilities (IE: Seeing-eye dogs), autism service dogs are taught to assist those on the spectrum.
#19 Therapy VS Service Dogs: Beneficial to the Modern World
We have already established that dogs are amazing pets, but some dogs provide a very important service to their owners or the general public.
Therapy and service dogs are both hardworking animals but with very different roles.
Service dogs are trained to perform tasks and/or do work for their disabled handler.
These dogs must not be touched or interacted with, as they should not be distracted from the job at hand (or paw).
Therapy dogs are trained to interact with people other than their handler.
These are the dogs that visit places such as hospitals, schools, hospice, and nursing homes.
Petting and cuddling are very much encouraged.
#20 Mental Acuity
There is a reason that therapy dogs visit hospitals and nursing homes.
Of course, the stress relieving qualities help immensely but did you know that being around dogs can help with mental acuity?
Yep, studies have shown that dogs have been known to help dementia patients with their routines and to combat memory loss.
#21 Furry Little Pain Killers
Don’t ask me how, but your dog knows when you are in pain. They can sense it.
Thanks to the extra oxytocin, serotonin, endorphins, and dopamine that come along with dog ownership, your pup can be a natural pain reliever.
Many chronic pain sufferers swear that their dog helps keep their pain under control.
By inspiring you to exercise more, a dog not only keeps you active, but it will also keep your mind off of the pain.
#22 Lower your Blood Pressure
Lowered blood pressure can decrease your chances of having a stroke, heart attack, or developing heart disease.
The simple act of petting a dog can lower your blood pressure.
This along with the added exercise means that dog owners have lower blood pressure than non-owners.
Some studies even show that simply being near your furry companion can help better than an ACE inhibitor in times of high stress.
#23 Increased Oxytocin
Oxytocin, also known as ‘the cuddle hormone’ is released when bonding with your pet.
This can help relieve stress, and help ease pain.
When you spend time with your dog, whether it be walking, playing, or snuggling together for a nap, your oxytocin levels increase.
This assists in forming a deep and long lasting bond between dogs and their humans.
This is the same hormone that is released during and after intimacy and childbirth.
#24 Provide a Workout Partner
Having a workout buddy can help motivate you.
Who better to have by your side than your faithful furry companion?
While old school working out like walking or jogging with your dog are fine, the new rage is specialized workouts with your dog:
- Dog Squat Challenge:
So this is one of those new challenges, ya know, like the ice box challenge, except you put a dog on your head instead of dumping water over it…err yeah.
So, this is actually pretty healthy for you so no judgment but there is no way I am putting either of my 100 lb dogs on my neck, glutes be damned!
Doga – Doggy Yoga:
‘Doga’ or doggy yoga, is an actual class that you attend with your dog (or you can do it at home).
Incorporating your pup into your yoga routine can promote bonding which then produces those lovey-dovey hormones like oxytocin.
#25 Constant Companionship Helping Combat Depression
One of the major symptoms of depression is loneliness.
I promise you that your dog will never let you be lonely (or go to the bathroom by yourself, for that matter).
They are one of the constants in your life. As long as they are provided with their basic necessities, they will be loyal.
Throw the loyalty in with the hormones and endorphins and they can definitely help you stave off depression, if not cure it altogether.
Dogs, such as emotional support dogs, are a proven treatment for depression.
#26 Boost your Immune System
Remember that good bacteria we talked about earlier? Well, the reason that it can help so much is that boosts your immune system.
A dog being, well, a dog, can track thousands, if not millions of germs into your home.
Don’t freak out yet! These germs help you build antibodies to fight off disease and illnesses.
This will boost your immune system.
#27 They Can Steer you Away from Dangerous Food (Allergic)
One of the greatest things about dogs is that they can be trained for literally anything.
As we learned earlier dogs can sniff out cancer.
They can also detect dangerous food allergies.
When trained properly they can even alert to foods that could cause a reaction.
Peanuts are one of the most common food allergies.
So common, in fact, that there are peanut detecting dogs, and they have already saved lives.
Dogs noses are absolutely incredible.
#28 Grow Old Together, Live a Longer Life
I am sure that we have all heard the stories about a dog not wanting to leave their human, even when that person has passed.
Those emotional images of a faithful companion snuggled up to their humans’ gravesite are heartbreaking for sure, but they are not just a picture.
This is the epitome of the relationship between ‘mans best friend’ and their person.
They love you for life. A life, that science has proven, can be extended by having furry companionship.
All of the things that come with aging, loneliness, aches and pains, depression, can all be combated by having a furry companion or even just contact with a dog.
#29 Unrivalled Protection
Ok, this is one that most are already aware of. Dogs are territorial by nature.
They think of their humans as their pack and will do anything to protect them.
A dog that is to be used for this purpose should be well trained to know the difference between a threat and a guest.
Having a dog in your home is like living with a living security system!
One that offers love along with protection.
#30 They Give Meaning to your Life
When my grandfather passed away, my grandma was understandably depressed.
She had lost her lifelong companion. So, I decided to get her a sheltie.
She was like a new woman with that dog. Dogs need love, shelter, to be fed, among other needs and by providing these things they give us a reason to keep going.
They make us feel needed, and give us a purpose in life.
#31 Increase your Energy Levels
Motivation is a huge factor in your level of energy.
When you have a dog to care for, you have no option but to find the energy to do all of the things your dog is dependent on you for.
After a while, these activities help you energize naturally.
Likely due to all of the Doga and Doggy Squats you’ve been doing!
#32 Treat your Depression
All those happy hormones and endorphins that your furball helps your brain release, can be a huge help to those suffering from depression.
Those hormones, the added exercise and time outdoors, the kisses and the cuddles, all mix together to make one heck of a natural antidepressant.
#33 Can Alleviate Joint Pain
One of the solutions to joint pain, no matter how it is caused, is exercise.
Exercise helps strengthen the muscles which can help remove some of the pressure placed on your joints.
Do you know who loves exercise?? Dogs.
By having a dog, you will be more inclined to want to stay active, and Fido will also help keep your mind off of the pain.
#34 Help you Quit Smoking
This was a shock to me too.
Did you know that second-hand smoke can be detrimental to your poochies health?
Yep, they are at just as much risk as humans.
Using your dog as an aid to quit smoking can greatly increase your chance of success.
When you decide to pick up that cancer stick, remember the damage it could be doing to your biggest supporter.
Dogs can also be trained as smoke detectors!
Then he will bark whenever you light up. Try to have a smoke while being, literally, yapped at. Take him for a walk instead!
#35 Support for Mental Health
As discussed multiple times, dogs can be a big help to those with mental health issues.
So much so, that emotional support animals and therapy dogs have been incorporated into the treatment of the patients.
Many people suffering from mental health issues can feel hopeless, lonely, and depressed.
Dogs have been proven to alleviate many of the symptoms associated with this debilitating illness.
#36 Hone your Awareness/Mindfulness
Mindfulness is the ability to live in the moment. To focus on everything as it comes without judgment.
Dogs are pros at this. They take in every sight, sound, smell… everything.
We can most certainly learn a thing or two, as mindfulness can improve overall health according to those who use it in yoga, meditation, and other mind healthy activities.
#37 They Make Every Day Better and Help you to Not Sweat the Small Stuff
(Dogs are a Wonderful Distraction from the Perils of Everyday Life) –
What could possibly be better than coming home to a wagging tail and slobbery kisses?
Especially after a long and stressful day.
Dogs can be such a great distraction from the busy and hectic aspects of our lives.
Dogs love to have our attention and when we are focused on our pups, we will not be focused on all the noise around us.
Dogs are quite unique creatures.
They do not just offer ways to keep us healthy, they are actually very interesting. Did you know:
- While humans can perspire (sweat) from all over their bodies, dogs are only capable of perspiring through the bottoms of their paws.
- Some believe that dogs can sense or smell when a storm is coming, which is something that some of their human counterparts can do too.
- Despite popular belief, dogs are not color blind.
- Those amazingly trained seeing eye dogs we talked about? They are taught to go to the bathroom on command. This makes it easier for their owner to clean it up.
- That love hormone, oxytocin, can be released just by staring into your pups eyes.
- Dogs can form such a close bond with their owners that they can develop separation anxiety from being away from them for too long.
- While the basenji is considered the only ‘barkless’ dog, he can yodel.
- In addition to seeing eye dogs, therapy dogs, autism service dogs, and emotional support dogs, there are many specially trained super pups, including those that can detect human remains, even underwater!
- As mentioned earlier, dogs can sniff out cancer and dangerous foods, but they can also detect epileptic seizures!
- The Newfoundland breed is a natural lifeguard, even trying to ‘rescue’ their humans while swimming!
I Would LOVE to Hear your Opinion!
Dogs really are nature’s cure.
They would do anything for us, even benefiting our health without even realizing it.
As I mentioned earlier, I adopted a dog, Shelby Shannon, for my grandmother.
My grandma had been with my grandfather since she was a teenager.
I had heard stories about people simply giving up when their significant other dies and I was concerned about this.
She recently joined grandpa in the hereafter, after an extra 12 years of happiness.
She passed within months of her Shelbelle. That dog gave her the strength to keep going.
A dog can enrich and improve your life in so many ways.
I know that I was surprised to learn that dogs can assist in smoking cessation, which benefit was the most interesting to you?
Are there any health benefits that we didn’t cover?
I would love to hear your stories, how has your pup helped your life?
Don’t forget to like and share, let’s get the word out.
A pet dog could be exactly what your soul needs!