7 Scientific Mental Health Benefits of Being a Dog Owner | Guest Post by Leo Wilson
Dogs are not only man’s best friend, but they are also great for your overall well-being. If you have a four-legged friend, you know the kind of joy they bring to humans.
Part of the reasons dogs are such popular family additions is their eagerness to please and their ability to live in the moment. Dogs don’t care what happened yesterday or five minutes ago. They only care about what’s happening at the present moment and food.
We know dogs are great mood boosters and companions. However, you might be surprised to know that there are actually scientific benefits to owning dogs. If you’re looking for an excuse to bring a dog into your home, look no further.
Science Confirms – Dogs are Good for Your Health
Any dog owner could tell you how their lives improved after they brought home a canine buddy. But there’s real scientific evidence that dogs improve the health of everyone in the home, as well as anyone who comes in contact with a dog. Here are seven ways dogs benefit their owners.
The growing popularity of airports, colleges and funeral homes using dogs for therapeutic purposes greatly underscores how simply petting a dog can calm nerves and reduce stress. In fact, medical professionals can prescribe an ESA (Emotional Support Animal) for people who suffer from post-traumatic stress disorder, autism or other serious medical conditions. However, it’s important to note that online ESA registries are scams and disability act (ADA) doesn’t provide ESAs the same public access rights that it does for service dogs.
One of the main symptoms of depression is a feeling of loneliness. Pets give us companionship and loyalty that can help lessen loneliness. Dogs are especially good at showing their unrelenting devotion, which can give people a sense of purpose. Pets make people happy and even children can get sad or deal with depression. Studies show that just petting a dog increases mood-boosting endorphins.
Owning a dog can help boost your heart health and in more ways than expanding with the love you’ll feel for your pooch. The American Heart Association found evidence that suggested dog owners were at less risk of experiencing cardiovascular issues than non-dog owners. They suggest that dogs can help promote a more active lifestyle, which in turn reduces the risk of obesity, high blood pressure and lowers cholesterol.
You’ll Get More Exercise
In addition to keeping your heart healthy, regular exercise can help you lose weight and improve your mood. Many dog owners take their dogs on brisk 30-minute walks twice a day. Playing fetch, taking your dog for a run or other physical activity with your dogs such as camping or hiking can reduce the risk of cardiovascular disease.
One study at Baylor College of Medicine estimates that dog owners were 54% more likely to get the recommended amount of daily exercise compared to non-dog owners. However, as a responsible dog owner, don’t forget to get your dog a harness, a leash, or a carrier before going outside!
They Teach Children Empathy
Many adults fondly recall adventures with their childhood pet dog. Any type of pet ownership can teach children responsibility, empathy, and compassion. However, a 2017 study suggested that children with pet dogs form higher levels of empathy.
For example, neighborhood children are likely to engage in conversation with your child when a dog or other pet is present. This helps boost your child’s self-esteem and ability to socialize with others. Pet attachment at an early age can promote positive attitudes toward animals as well as overall well-being. After all, there is a popular belief that serial killers often get their start by torturing animals.
Boost Immune System
The immune system fights against infections and illnesses. Believe it or not, the best way to build a strong immune system is by exposing yourself to a wide variety of germs. Despite our instincts to disinfect against all germs, dogs can bring a bio-diverse selection of good bacteria into the home. In response, our immune system gets stronger by creating the antibodies needed to fight the invading germs.
You’ll Be Happier
You probably don’t need science to tell you that dogs make us happy. However, an increase in time spent outdoors getting vitamin D has been scientifically proven to reduce depression. Dog owners frequently spend a significant amount of time outdoors whether they want to or not. Studies show that dogs are an immediate mood booster.
Dogs Can Improve and Extend Your Life
Adding a dog to your home can enhance many areas of your life, not just your physical and mental health. Dogs provide unwavering loyalty and a sense of purpose to what may be an otherwise lonely life, especially for older people whose children have left the nest.
Not only can a dog sense undiagnosed medical issues, but they can also prevent illnesses by keeping their owners active, reduce stress and depression and give the immune system a boost. In the argument of cats versus dogs, dogs win, paws down.
Leo Wilson graduated from a university major in animal health and behavior. He had over a decade of experience working in the pet industry and has contributed many dogs and pet-related articles to several websites before he decided to start sharing his knowledge on his own blog. And when he is not busy working, he and his wonderful wife love spending time at home with their 3 dogs and 2 cats.