A bad day always becomes better when you’re greeted by a dog wagging its tail and offering you unconditional love. Having a four-legged companion can do wonders for you when it comes to your mental, physical and social well being. On an emotional level, a dog can relieve your anxiety and reduce depression.

On a physical level, it not only lowers your blood pressure and increases your immunity but can reduce your risk of having a heart attack or a stroke. This is not by any means the extent of the benefits. Read on to discover more about the health benefits of owning a dog.

Dogs are good for your heart

When interactions between humans and dogs have been studied, touching or talking to a dog have been found to lower blood pressure. There’s also the fact that dog owners have to walk their dogs and often get more exercise than those who don’t own dogs.

You have less risk of developing heart disease because of the decrease in blood pressure, triglycerides and cholesterol levels. It’s also been found that dog owners who do have heart attacks are more likely not to suffer another event than those who don’t own dogs.

Dogs motivate you to exercise

It’s much more fun going for a walk in the park with your dog than going alone. A walk in the park or a simple game of catch in your backyard keeps you active and your dog fit and healthy. Many dogs are full of energy, and they expect you to keep up with them, forcing you to be more active than you may otherwise have been.

Shaun Whitestone of who works for assignmentgeek.com.au says that before he owned a dog, he struggled to motivate himself to exercise. Now he rides his bicycle 5km every day with his dog running beside him and has never been fitter in his life.

Older adults who walk their dogs tend to visit the doctor less, have a lower body mass index and seem to have fewer daily living limitations than others.

Dogs help you to connect with others

When you take your dog for a walk, you have the perfect opportunity to interact with other people. Many dog owners will speak with other dog owners on walks.

They will often start up a conversation quite easily with questions such as “What breed is your dog?”, “How old is your dog?” or a comment like “Your dog has such a silky coat!” An instant connection is created, and people tend to open up more than they would have done if they were walking alone.

Dogs improve your mood

Studies have revealed that dogs can reduce tension and improve your mood. Playing with a dog elevates levels of dopamine and serotonin in your system. These are the ‘feel good’ neurotransmitters that create feelings of well-being and emotional stability. This can help with mild to moderate depression.

Dogs are great companions for the elderly

Dogs provide companionship for old people and can help to reduce depression and anxiety. They are found to forge connections with elderly people suffering from conditions like Alzheimer’s and Dementia.

One study found that Alzheimer’s patients who owned dogs were subject to fewer emotional outbursts caused by anxiety and less aggression than patients who did not own dogs.

Dogs help children with ADD and ADHD

Dogs have been found to help children with attention deficit disorder and attention deficit hyperactivity disorder. Owning a dog teaches them to maintain a routine and stay organized to take care of them. Playing with the animal can also reduce feelings of restlessness associated with these disorders.

Dogs offer protection

Dogs are very loyal to their owners and will often go to great lengths to warn and protect them against any danger. They have territorial qualities, and their instincts are so sharp that they are quick to react if someone is trying to break into your house or they feel you are in any danger.

Dogs help with disease and injury

Service dogs are used to help with everything from blindness to traumatic brain injury. They are trained to promote independence and increase mobility. They can even be trained to sniff out various types of cancer, detect low sugar levels in people with diabetes and detect the onset of seizures in epileptics

Dogs can prevent a child’s allergies

This benefit may be hard to believe when you think about all the mess dogs can make and their how dirty they can sometimes be. For a long time, the belief was that having a dog in the home contributed to a child’s allergies.

However, a study has now found that children who are exposed to pet dander and fur have a decreased risk of allergies and asthma. This study done in 2004, suggests that having dogs and cats in the home lower a child’s chance of becoming allergic to pets.

Dogs add meaning and purpose to life

When you own a dog, you have a faithful, loyal companion. As you grow older, and especially once you are retired, it is more difficult to structure your day and find meaning in your life.

Dogs help to take care of this because you have the responsibility of feeding them and exercising them. They can provide a reason for you to get up in the morning. They also help you to take your mind off your own problems because they need your attention and your love.

Conclusion

Dog owners not only live longer healthier lives but they have the benefit of having a loyal and loving companion. Owning a dog is especially helpful for those living along and for the elderly, but everyone can benefit. Owning a dog brings a lot of joy into someone’s life, and anyone who has the capacity to take care of a dog should think about having one because of the incredible health benefits it brings your way.


About the Author: Mary Whitman is a blogger and freelancer from Adelaide, South Australia. In her spare time, she enjoys talking about Sustainable Development and Art. Find Mary on Twitter.