I have always been an animal lover. Horses, dogs, cats, bird, fish… you name it, I’ve owned it, most recently rescuing two labrador mutts from the shelter. While some people were born letting animals into their lives, not everyone is drawn to the idea of pet ownership. It can be a huge responsibility, a huge expense, a huge mess, (dog owners have stock in lint brushes) and when you are traveling, can be a huge inconvenience. But despite all the reasons why owning a dog may not be for you, there are many health benefits that make it very worthwhile.
1. Your dogs will get you outside. While outside you get your daily dose of Vitamin D. Vitamin D is essential and it comes from spending time in the fresh air. Vitamin D helps fight depression, cancer, obesity, and other mental and physical ailments. On top of all of this, spending time walking your dog every day is relaxing. It will help lower your stress levels and let you take some time to enjoy the great outdoors. If this doesn’t put you in a good mood, I’m not sure what will!
2. You will get exercise. If you’re too lazy to go out by yourself, your dog will force you out on 2-3 walks per day to get fresh air, circulation and moving. You’ll run around playing Frisbee, fetch, or even jogging with your dogs. My dogs are my favorite jogging partners and they love it as much as I do, and look forward to our daily runs together. I also take them swimming and even got involved in some dog sports such as agility and dock diving. The more exercise you get, the better it is not only for your physical, but your mental health. Additional benefits include lower blood pressure, better physical shape, and a contribution to a more active lifestyle.
3. They build your immunity to allergies. Studies have shown that people who grow up with dogs have a higher tolerance for or are less likely to develop allergies. This also contributes to a lower risk of asthma as well. Allergies can lead to all sorts of health issues and inconveniences. So build your tolerance and be around dogs often!
4. They reduce stress. Petting, walking, playing with your dogs reduces stress. They even have special needs dogs for people who suffer from anxiety and other issues. Personally, I can have the worst day in the world and when I come home to two wagging tails jumping for joy, the weight of the world lifts from my shoulders.
5. They are amazing companions and reduce loneliness. My dogs are like my children. When I move, they move. I never feel alone in a house full of furry friends. For those of you who hate being alone, or have a significant other who travels often, dogs are wonderful. They take your mind off of being lonely, keep you preoccupied and if they are anything like my dogs, will demand your attention. You won’t have time to be lonely!
6. They love you unconditionally. If you saw how spoiled my dogs were, you’d think I was crazy, but they are in fact beloved family members to me. I love them and they love me, unconditionally. They don’t care what I’ve done, who I am, or what is going on in my life. Dogs love you for you, exactly as you are. They are sad when you leave and overjoyed when you return… even if you only left for a minute. I can’t even go into another room without my dogs being upset I’m not with them. I take them everywhere I can because I can’t bare their sad faces when they get left behind. They’re always there when I need them full of wags, barks, hugs and just plain love. They always want to be around you, and loved by you, because they love you.
7. Help you meet new people. There’s nothing easier than talking to a stranger when you’re walking with your canine companion. Everyone loves a dog. In fact, most people will come to you to pet, play with or talk to you about your dog. They are great ice breakers and are the best “wingmen” in social settings – such as parks and dog parks, yappy hours, beaches, hikes, or even a walk around the block. I developed a great group of friends with the owners of the dogs my dogs played with at the dog park. We would arrange playdates and BBQ’s were both owners and our dogs could enjoy each other’s company and relax. My dogs love children so much I actually got them “Good Canine Certified” so we can visit children and adults in hospitals and make them smile. Dogs will help you connect with other people.
8. They can give you a purpose and get you motivated. I was never a morning person… but because my dogs are morning people, I had no choice but to become one. They wake me up every morning when its time to eat. I couldn’t sleep in if I tried. They’re polite about it at first, but if I hit the snooze button more than once, I get paws and wet noses in my face until I fall out of bed. They also get you into a routine, which is a good thing. Having the responsibility of caring for another living being can give your life a sense of purpose or worth. Dogs need their humans. Their well being is dependent on us and it is extremely enjoyable and rewarding to get positive responses for all of the TLC you provide your dogs.
9. They make you laugh. Laughter is key. Not a day goes by that I’m not grateful for my dogs or they don’t do something silly or sweet to make me laugh or smile. I have the facebook photos to prove it. People post about the funny things their children do, and I post about my dogs. This raises your serotonin and dopamine levels, enhancing your mood. They make me smile every day from morning until night.
10. They are great listeners. If you ever need to vent, if you’re upset or angry – your dog will be there to comfort you. Our family dog as a child wouldn’t even let me cry. If I did he’d turn into a howling mess and lick my face until I stopped and started laughing. They’ll listen to anything you have to say and offer their comfort in anyway way they know how — with a cuddle, a kiss, a tail wag, or even a distracting game of fetch and tug-of-war.
Now I don’t recommend dog ownership for everyone – but if you have the time and resources to dedicate to a new best friend, I can tell you their is nothing like opening up your door to a bundle of laughter, smiles, good memories, an exercise partner, an adventure friend, a cuddle buddy and a comforting pal. With years filled with fun and unconditional love, and stress relief, your mental and physical health will thank you for it!