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The phrase “man’s best friend” has been in use for a long time to refer to the special relationship between dogs and humans. Dog lovers already know from their own experience that having a dog has improved their life and health. But in recent times these benefits have been backed by science as well, and the research has shown that not only does having a dog improve your physical health, but it improves your mental health too!
The Physical Health Benefits of Having a Dog
1. Improves Your Cardiovascular Health
Having a dog can improve your overall cardiovascular health through lowered blood pressure, cholesterol, and triglyceride levels. This can not only lead to better overall health but can also lengthen your life span. Cardiovascular disease is the number one cause of death for both men and women in America. Plus, dog owners who do end up having a heart attack tend to have a higher rate of survival and more positive recovery outcomes. So, having a dog not only improves your health but also makes you live longer!
2. Helps You Lose Weight
It can be hard to motivate yourself to get off the couch sometimes, but having a dog makes you responsible for something other than yourself and pushes you to get outside and give your dog a walk or provide some dog training. One study showed that on average dog owners spent around double the amount of time as non-dog owners walking and engaging in physical activity per week.
3. Can Save Your Life
Due to their immense olfactory receptors, dogs have long been trained by the police to detect bombs, drugs, and even to locate a missing person. Past these well-known amazing benefits from a dog’s ability to smell, it was also recently discovered that dogs can learn to smell cancer through in-depth dog training! There are numerous stories in which a dog detected cancer and saved their owner’s life.
4. Helps You with Your Illness or Injury
Dogs are often used to assist people with their physical illnesses and disabilities as well. One of the most common instances of this is as a guide dog for a person who is blind or visually impaired. But dogs can also be trained to detect the onset of seizures and even prevent allergic reactions by locating allergy sources.
5. Reduces Your Risk of Developing Allergies and Asthma
Contrary to popular belief, having a dog as a child actually reduces the risk of developing allergies or asthma later in life. This is likely due to the effects of constant exposure leading to the development of a more resilient immune system.
The Mental Health Benefits of Having a Dog
1. Increases Your Levels of Mindfulness
Dog’s truly live in the moment, focusing intently on whatever task or squirrel is in front of them, and this is the essence of mindfulness. Living with a dog can train you to also live in the moment; taking your dog on a walk can be a mindfulness practice on its own. The benefits of being more mindful have wide-ranging effects on your mental and physical health, such as improved concentration, decreased stress, and lowered blood pressure.
2. Fosters Social Connections & Relationships
A recent study showed that people with dogs are often viewed as more approachable and friendly, thereby increasing the likelihood for you to meet and connect with other people. Dogs get you out of your house when you take them for a walk as well, creating the opportunity for you to meet people in the dog park and along the way. As we all probably know, connecting with other people makes you happier and healthier, providing lasting bonds that can insulate you from the difficulties of life.
3. Reduces Stress and Anxiety
In recent times, dogs have become a very popular form of therapy, called an emotional support dog. Dogs provide so much love and care to their owners, looking up to them as if they were the most important thing in the world. The effects of this unconditional love can be very calming. Also, having a dog forces you to get outside, and the fresh air and exercise are great for stress and anxiety relief as well.
4. Can Help You Overcome Trauma and Depression
As a therapy animal, dogs are often used in more serious contexts to address trauma for veterans because of their happy and exuberant nature. The companionship of a dog and the exercise they provide can also reduce the symptoms of depression and PTSD.
5. Provides a Sense of Meaning and Purpose
Having a dog makes you responsible for another being besides yourself and provides greater meaning to your life. Many elderly people who are especially vulnerable to loneliness and depression often have dogs to give this meaning to their life. Dogs give you something to care for besides yourself which can be a very powerful healing tool.
As Coronavirus spreads around the world, it is so important to work on our physical and mental health. Being isolated into our homes, especially for people who live alone, having a dog to keep you company can be transformative. The connection between dogs and humans is deep-rooted and it is easy to understand why. Mentally, dogs provide companionship, love, and emotional support for their owners. Physically, dogs get you moving as you take them on walks, train them, and play with them outside. The bond between humans and dogs will likely never go away and not only are they good for your health, but they can even save your life!