By Richard Cross | Dog Breeds
If you have the time, patience and money to care for a dog, there are many wonderful benefits. Here are seven of my favorite examples.
In fact, adopting a dog can have a positive impact on your physical fitness, social life and mental health.
So, whether you’re thinking of adopting a shelter dog or buying a puppy from an ethical breeder, here are seven of the many benefits.
There appears to be a link between cardiovascular health and owning a dog. In fact, the American Heart Association has concluded that owning a pet – and particularly a dog – is likely to be associated with improved heart health and lower blood pressure.
It’s not known why this is the case. Perhaps the extra walks maintain a healthier heart. Or it could be that the companionship of living with a dog reduces stress. Whatever the reason, your canine friend may protect you from future heart disease.
Research has shown that petting or playing with a dog for just a few minutes has a positive effect on anxiety and stress. This is because stroking a dog increases dopamine, oxytocin and serotonin, which all play a crucial role in mood regulation.
Bringing your dog to work may even increase your productivity. A calmer and happier employee gets more work done, which is why many offices are hosting “bring your dog to work” days.
The good news is that your dog also gets a boost when you stroke them!
An obvious benefit of caring for a dog is more walks and time spent outdoors. The amount of exercise a dog needs varies depending on breed and other factors, but most dog parents get at least 30 minutes extra exercise each day. As your dog needs this exercise, it’s also impossible to skip – unlike the gym!
Aside from helping your mental health, regular exercise may also help lower your cholesterol, decrease the risk of obesity and prevent diabetes.
A dog can also improve your social life. You’ll meet new people on daily walks, which can start relationships or just get you talking to different people. An active social life is essential for well-being, so this is a major benefit of being a doggie parent.
Surprisingly, living with a dog may reduce the chance of a child developing a pet allergy. This might sound counter-intuitive, but exposure to pet dander as a child is growing up seems to help their immune system tolerate it.
There’s also some evidence that living with pets can give a child’s immune system an all-round boost.
Another benefit of owning a dog is that it can help with feelings of loneliness. A dog can’t replace a human relationship, but, in a different way, many people feel just as close with their pets as their loved ones. A dog really does become part of the family!
It’s also wonderful to have a companion who never judges or criticizes. Your dog will love you regardless of your successes or failures – he just wants to be with you.
Aside from reducing stress, living with a dog may also help prevent depression. This is a positive side-effect to many of the other benefits in this article, including lower stress, reduced anxiety, increased exercise and better health.
Studies have also shown that taking responsibility for another human or animal can improve mental health. So, the act of caring for your dog could have a positive effect on depression.
The unconditional love of a dog has been shown to increase the empathy of young children. In the study, researchers found that children who grew up with dogs had the highest scores for “pet attachment,” and also had more positive feelings towards animals.
This makes sense. If a child grows up with a canine companion, it’s natural for him or her to develop a deeper understanding of animals and how they behave. While this is possibly true for every type of pet, children develop stronger and longer-term bonds with dogs.
Even so, while dogs can make brilliant companions for children, it’s important to teach your kids how to politely interact with a pet. This is vital for both the child’s and dog’s safety. I’ve written an in-depth guide to this topic here.
There are many benefits to being a dog parent. Improved cardiovascular health, a better social life and lower risk of depression are just a few examples. And the main benefit is that you get a new best friend!
Adopting a dog isn’t always the right decision though. A dog is a long-term commitment who requires lots of attention, money, love and time. You should only consider adopting if you can fully meet your pet’s needs for the rest of its life.
Don’t despair if you can’t commit to adopting a dog though. There are other ways to gain the benefits, such as dog-sitting, volunteering at a local dog shelter or downloading pet walking apps. And, when you’re ready to adopt a dog, you’ll have much more experience caring for one.
The seven benefits in this article are just some of the positives of adopting a dog into the family. Have you experienced any others? Let me know in the comments section!
Richard is a journalist who specialises in dog behavior. He's written hundreds of articles and books related to dogs, including for the Continental Kennel Club, Dog Fest (the UK's biggest dog festival) and various veterinary surgeries. When he's not spending time with Jess and Rudy (his beloved Labrador and Golden Retrievers), he enjoys reading, hiking and watching sports.