Dog ownership is one of the great joys in life. Nothing beats coming home after a hard day of work to an excited dog furiously wagging its tail with excitement. Dogs can bring unlimited smiles to your face with their silly behavior, warm cuddles, and their unconditional love for you. While dogs are undoubtedly fantastic companions, they can also have serious positive impacts on both our physical and mental health. So, what about your furry friend is so good for you?
Helping You Stay Fit
For starters, dogs can be the ultimate exercise buddy for you no matter your capabilities or level of fitness. Dogs need regular exercise, and are more than happy to go on long walks, brisk jogs, or steep hikes with you. Though pets do require daily exercise, it is important to make sure you don’t work them too hard, keeping an eye out for signs of overexertion like excessive panting or strange behavior.
Obesity in America is an epidemic, and though your family nurse practitioner can help you to develop a diet and weight loss plan, they most likely won’t be hitting the trails to make sure you get your exercise. Even if you’ve suffered an injury that causes chronic pain, it is a good idea to maintain your fitness because it can reduce the chances of future injury and improve your cardiovascular health. Starting off slow and building up to longer and more intense workouts is beneficial for both you and your dog as well, as they also need to build up the endurance required for more strenuous physical activity. Before you know it, you’ll be going on five-mile walks with your dog, helping both of you stay healthy.
Aside from the physical activities you do with your dog, dogs have several other ways of improving your health. People who own dogs have a reduced blood pressure response to stress and tend to have lower levels of cholesterol and triglycerides, and combined these two reduce the overall risk of cardiovascular disease. Additionally, children who were exposed to pets before six months of age were less likely to develop allergies, hay fever, eczema, asthma and other upper respiratory infections due to a boosted immune system.
Fighting Off Negativity
While it isn’t usually openly discussed, a good portion of Americans suffer from many common mental health problems. There is a reason that dogs have been historically used to great effect as service animals for both physical and emotional needs. While dogs are of course adorable, their demeanor and closeness can do wonders for your mental and emotional health.
As companion animals, dogs can help those suffering from mental health issues in a variety of ways. During times of crisis or mental health episodes, a dog’s ability to connect with and console a human being is nearly unparalleled. Companion animals can relieve worry, provide comfort, and reduce feelings of isolation and loneliness, giving people the emotional nourishment they need to fend off negative mental health issues. Companion animals also offer their owners increased chances to socialize with the outside world as they require you to get out and about regularly.
Even just being around a dog, sitting next to it, petting it, or playing with it, can drastically improve your mental health. Dogs can provide a calming effect and give you time to self-reflect, and they also give your day-to-day life a bit more purpose as you have more than just yourself to take care of. Even children can have mental health benefits from dog ownership, as taking charge of the dog’s care schedule like feeding, walking, and grooming, can have a positive effect on children suffering from ADHD.
They Can Add Meaning to Your Life
Dogs have been known as “man’s best friend” for years, and for good reason. The bonds we form with our pets are incredibly strong, and the sense of responsibility that comes with owning a dog can yield a more positive outlook on life. Because dogs have the potential to be our best friends for many years, it is important to keep them healthy and safe.
Many consider their pooch to be a member of their family, so making sure that they are safe can become a top priority. Unfortunately, dangerous situations are part of everyday life, and even your daily walks with your dog can result in tragedy if you aren’t mindful of your surroundings. Traffic accidents kill a pedestrian every two hours, so it is important to only use marked crosswalks, and to pay attention to the vehicles around you even if you have a walk signal giving you the go-ahead.
While dogs undoubtedly bring joy to your life, the prospect of losing them is hard. Because of this, you should do your absolute best to ensure that your dog is as happy and healthy as they can be during their time with you. Provide them with a healthy, high-quality diet that meets all of their nutritional needs to keep them at a healthy weight, and get regular vaccines in addition to other preventative measures like dewormer to give them a long and healthy life.
Dogs truly do take care of us just as much as we take care of them. Both physically and mentally, owning a dog has incredible benefits and can help you to live a longer, happier life. We owe it to them to try to give them the same.