You’ve probably heard the age-old saying that dogs are man (or woman’s) best friend. And it’s true! Dogs give unconditional love and loyalty to their humans, and those of us who are pet parents are lucky enough to know the endless joy they bring to our lives. Beyond companionship, there are numerous other benefits to having a dog.
1. They enhance our physical health.
Dogs need regular walks, and they encourage you to spend time outdoors. A walk is good for blood circulation, allowing you to stretch your legs. And, a little fresh air helps you start and end the day on a good note with a boost of oxygen and vitamin D. A Michigan State University study found that those who live with a dog exercise about 30 minutes more per week than those who don’t. Research also shows that owning a dog decreases blood pressure, cholesterol levels and triglyceride measures (which helps you stay healthy and live longer). Now those are life-enhancing benefits we can all bark about!
2. They help improve our mental health.
Beyond physical health, dogs have a positive impact on our mental health too. In general, being healthy makes you happier, but exercise also releases endorphins generating a positive reaction to your brain. When you combine this with spending time with your dog, you are sure to be more content and have a lower chance of being one of the 40 million adults who suffer from depression. Further, studies suggest that after 15 to 30 minutes of petting a dog, people can experience lower levels of cortisol (a stress hormone) and gain a higher level of oxytocin (a happy hormone). How can you do anything but smile when you see a puppy’s cute face?
3. They help us find balance.
Before you owned a dog, you might have worked extra-long hours at the office or stayed a little too long at happy hour. Dogs are a reasonable excuse to head home and check on your pup, making sure you are not overdoing it in other aspects of life. That’s not to say that dogs turn you into a homebody, but they do make coming home that much more enjoyable when they jump with excitement to see you. They also make good snuggle buddies for the times when you find yourself at home, watching a movie alone or sick in bed. If only they could make you popcorn or soup!
4. They bring fun on-the-go.
Headed on a road trip? Pups make sitting in traffic and long, lonely rides that much more enjoyable. They also need potty breaks, giving you an opportunity to get out and stretch your legs too. Whether you’re out and about at a Farmer’s Market or taking Fido to a pet-friendly patio, people will stop and greet your furry friend, bringing smiles to other people’s lives as well. And who knows, your pet might make a new friend (or you could too?).
To learn more about how pet ownership is enhancing your health and life, read the health benefits of having a dog.
Sadie Cornelius is a dog mom to an adopted Cavalier King Charles Spaniel—Lexie—and has been dog sitting for more than ten years. When not writing and executing graphic design for Canine Journal, she can be found traveling and taking pet photography for friends and family. Learn more about Figo, one of Canine Journal’s top-ranked pet insurance companies.