It’s no secret that people love dogs. And why shouldn’t we? They’re our happy, fluffy friends that bring joy and countless internet memes to the world. For hundreds of years now, we’ve had domesticated dogs to herd, hunt and act as our faithful companions — but do you ever think about the health benefits of your canine counterpart? It turns out that our brains and bodies have very real reactions to our household pets. So if you think your dog’s only asset is its cute little face, you’re barking up the wrong tree.
Dogs Decrease Our Stress
We’re all aware that, on some level, dogs calm us down — but now you have hard scientific evidence to back it up. Studies show that spending time with a pup lowers our levels of cortisol — a stress hormone. Having a bad day at the office? Go out and pet a dog. (Better yet, bring your dog to work if your office is pet-friendly.) Your Wi-Fi refuses to work? Give a furball a hug. It might be the most therapeutic decision you make all day.
But that’s not all! Our woofers and sniffers also increase a happy hormone that we produce called oxytocin, which reduces anxiety. One study showed that making eye contact with your dog would increase both yours and your dog’s oxytocin levels in a positive feedback loop. These are the same hormones produced by new mothers to help them form a special bond with their newborns. So maybe the term “dog mom” really does have a place in our vocabulary.
Heart Health and Our Hairy Babies
Growing evidence also suggests that dog owners are less likely to suffer from cardiovascular disease. It seems that our loyal pets can lower our heart rate and blood pressure, especially when we’re petting them. It’s not entirely new news — for decades there’s been a strong correlation between lower rates of hypertension and dog ownership. Less chance of heart attacks and strokes for us, more pets and belly rubs for them.
Our Pups Give Us That Extra Push
News flash: Dog ownership also comes with a nice helping of responsibility. That means that you’re in charge of another living creature that might not be content to laze around and binge-watch TV shows. You’ll have to take them out for walks, bathroom breaks and maybe even dog parks. That push to get up and move more often can have great physical results, like lower cholesterol. You’re more likely to take frequent walks with a dog, which is good for your overall health. You might even surpass your 10,000 step goal.
But caring for your dog can also give you an excuse to socialize and meet new people. Some bars even cater to dog owners, creating a space where you can bring your best friend while drinking beer with fellow pup parents.
A Canine Care Disclaimer
So clearly there are some serious benefits to dog ownership, but that doesn’t mean everyone should go out and get one. It takes a lot of hard work and determination to be a good pet owner, and you have to be willing to sacrifice your time to account for another animal. You’ll also want to take into account your schedule, potential allergies and finances before you seriously consider extending your family. That being said, you can always dogsit for friends or try foster care before you make the plunge!
Do you have any examples of how your dog has improved your life? Tell us in the comment section — we’d love it hear.