Human and dogs have been together for millennia. They evolved together and helped each other grow and develop. At first, dogs were physical necessities – they pulled milk cards, helped hunting and herder the livestock. Now dogs are more of a mental need – they are valued for offering unconditional love and support and constant companionship.
Today, dogs are becoming even more critical from a whole new aspect. Dogs can help human be healthier. Read the list below and see why dogs have earned their keep.
Dogs Keep You Active
The Journal of Physical Activity & Health, in March 2011, published a study implicating that dog owners have higher chances of reaching their fitness goals than non-dog owners.
A similar study concluded that dogs promote health and fitness because taking your dog for a regular stroll in the park or the neighborhood, increases your leisure-time physical activity by 69%.
This study also suggested that walking with a canine companion increases the walking speed by 28%. On the other hand, walking without a companion increases the walking speed only by 4%.
Another benefit is that dogs do not accept excuses. No matter how tired you feel, you need to get up and stick to your walking routine.
All in all, it can be concluded that dogs are good for keeping you fit and physically active. By doing this, dogs indirectly keep you safe and prevent obesity, as well as obesity-related diseases.
Dogs Are Amazing Mood Enhancers
Dogs have a unique way of putting a smile on your face and boosting your mood. This is something all devoted dog parents know and experience on a daily basis. Fortunately, today we have scientific evidence that proves this statement.
A recently conducted study measured the hormonal changes that occur in both humans and dogs while interacting. The study was conducted on three different groups. In the first group, people were petting their dogs.
The people in the second group people were petting unfamiliar but friendly dogs. In the third group, people were petting robotic dogs.
After 15 minutes of petting and cuddling, the group if people petting their dogs experienced significant rises in the levels of the hormone serotonin (a feel-good chemical). Serotonin rises were not detected in people from the second and third group.
All in all, it can be concluded that spending quality time with your furry friends is an excellent mood enhancer.
Dogs are Good for the Heart
Many studies show that dog owners have better overall heart health in comparison with people who do not own dogs.
Even the American Heart Association released a report that there is a link between dog ownership, heart health statuses and reduced risks of heart conditions. The American Heart Association based its report on surveying dozens of different studies.
It is believed that dogs improve the overall heart health as a result of their ability to decrease and lower several factors that directly influence the heart’s health. Those factors include:
- Blood pressure
- Heart rate
- Adrenaline-like hormones.
By reducing the effects and levels of these factors, dogs contribute to improved heart health and prevent heart-associated diseases and conditions.
Dogs Help Lower Cholesterol and Triglycerides
A researcher named Erika Friedman published a quite controversial study. Her research was conducted on two groups. The first group included 784 pet owners (ages varying between 20 and 59) and the second group included 4957 non-pet owners (same age group).
Then she measured the plasma triglyceride levels in all of the participants and compared the results.
The results were quite interesting – dog owners had a lower average level of plasma triglycerides. Another impressive finding was that male pet parents have significantly lower cholesterol levels.
The controversial part is that pet owners were more likely to eat fast and takeout food, as well as more likely to drink alcohol. However, since pet owners tended to be more physically active, these factors did not contribute to decreasing their health statuses.
Even the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention stated that owning a pet decreases your cholesterol levels, triglycerides levels, and blood pressure rates.
Dogs Help Lower Blood Pressure
Dogs offer good social support to stressed people. A study published in the journal Hypertension showed that people suffering from chronic high blood pressure might benefit from owning a dog.
Dog owners who already take proper medications to reduce the blood pressure will find it easier to stabilize the blood pressure than non-dog owners. The research also showed that dogs could be more effective at lowering the blood pressure than corresponding drugs.
You can even conduct a little research at home. It is simple, all you have to do is measure your blood pressure whenever you feel stressed and record the results.
After obtaining several data, it is time for the second phase. In this phase, you will also need to measure your blood pressure in stressful situations, but before the measuring, you should pet your dog for at least 5 minutes.
Once again, record the results and then compare them. You will be able to see both the short-term and long-term effects.
Petting and Cuddling with Dogs Fights Depression
Depression affects a vast number of people. Although not often discussed, depression is a serious and common problem. New studies suggest that the best tool for fight depression has four legs and a wagging tail.
Researches show that petting dogs induce a release of feel-good hormones and chemicals such as oxytocin, serotonin, and dopamine.
Also, petting dogs reduce the levels of the stress hormone, also known as cortisol. The released cortisone promotes deeper attachment thus creating the perfect foundation for friendship.
That attachment is crucial for fighting depression. Even without the attachment, the hormones on their own are enough to enhance the effects of depression.
Growing Up with Dogs Reduces the Risk of Allergies
It is scientifically proven that kids’ future allergy risks depend on their exposure to allergens during infancy.
The journal Clinical & Experimental Allergy published a study stating that living with dogs during infancy significantly reduces the risk of developing allergies in later years of life. According to researchers, this protective effect is believed to be due to the prolonged strengthening of the immune system through constant exposure to dog-related allergens and bacteria.
Another fascinating study showed not only that dogs reduce the risk of allergies, but also that there is a positive correlation between the chances of developing allergies in babies and the number of pets in the household.
According to this study, infants who grew up in households with two or more pets were 77% less likely to develop allergies.
Growing Up with Dogs Boosts the Immune System
A pediatrician, named James E. Gern was dedicated to showing how owning a dog can affect the owner’s odds of developing allergies.
In his researches not only he linked having dogs with fewer allergies, but he also made another exciting discovery. He discovered that children who grew up with dogs had stronger immune systems than children who grew up without dogs.
Dr. Gern explained that the immune boost is because dogs are ‘’balls of fur and dirt”. Being exposed to that dirt strengthens the immune system. Another similar study showed that children who grew up with dogs do not get sick very often.
According to another fascinating study, dogs can act as probiotics that enhance the health of our gut bacteria. The gut bacteria and overall gut health are linked with proper immune responses. Therefore, this study also proves that dogs can boost our immune systems.
Dogs Prevent Respiratory Conditions in Kids
A study published in the journal Pediatrics stated that kids who were surrounded with dogs during their first year of life were at lesser risk of developing infections of the respiratory tract.
The study showed that the chances of developing respiratory tract infections were reduced by 31% which is a significant number.
The reason why dogs reduce the occurrence of respiratory tract infections is the additional bacteria exposure dogs bring with themselves. The term additional bacteria exposure is not always associated with something healthy and beneficial.
However, in this case, the increased exposure strengthens the immune system during its developmental period, thus making it more resistant once it fully develops.
Dogs Encourage Kids to Exercise
With child obesity becoming a major concern on a global level all exercise encouragement is welcome. Dogs are particularly great in helping kids to exercise more or at least be more active.
Simply stated, kids that grow up with dogs spend more time outdoors and more often engage in activities like walking and running.
By preventing obesity, dogs, in fact, avoid a plethora of severe and life-threatening obesity-related conditions like cardiovascular diseases. Other obesity-related conditions that can be prevented through regular exercise include certain types of cancer, diabetes, and arthritis.
All in all dog ownership is a fantastic way of encouraging physical activity and keeping kids fit.
Dogs Ease the Road to Recovery
Today, it is a well-known fact that dogs can ease the road to recovery. Many studies show that dog parents have much higher recovery rates from being sick than non-dog parents.
For example, dogs help recovery from heart attacks. The National Institute of Health researched to prove this hypothesis. The study included 421 adults and demonstrated that dog parents have a better one-year survival after a heart attack compared to heart attack survivors who do not own dogs.
Owning dogs also reduces pain and eliminates the need for taking pain medications after painful treatments. For example, according to Loyola University researchers, patients recovering from hip replacement needed 50% fewer pain medications is using animal-assisted therapy.
Dogs Promote Mobility in Senior Citizens
It has been demonstrated that dog owners have better movement during their golden years. An NIH study researched to test this hypothesis.
The analysis included 2500 senior citizens with ages varying between 71 and 82. The study showed that senior dog owners who regularly walked their dogs (casual walks around the neighborhood) had higher mobility rates inside the house too.
The increased mobility has beneficial effects on the overall health – it reduces arthritis-related pain, helps to maintain ideal body weight and prevents certain age-related diseases (cardiovascular conditions, diabetes, some types of cancer).
Dogs Can Sniff Out Certain Types of Cancer
The dog’s extreme smell sensitivity can help in diagnosing certain types of cancer in people. There are countless stories about dogs that constantly licked and sniffed moles and lumps on their owners, which then turned out to be cancerous skin conditions.
After these stories, many researchers were devoted to proving this theory. Fortunately, researches claim this theory to be true.
In fact, it has been shown that dogs can detect melanoma (skin cancer) by just smelling the skin lesion. Dogs can also detect prostate cancer and bladder cancer by sniffing the patient’s urine.
The best thing about this ability is that dogs can detect cancerous changes in a relatively early phase when the condition is still treatable.
For this purpose, today there are dogs specially trained to detect various forms of cancer and save the lives of many people living with cancer.
Canine Cancer Research Contribute to Human Cancer Research
Unfortunately, cancer in dogs is even more common than cancer in people. It has been estimated that one in three dogs will get cancer at a certain point in its life.
With the advances in veterinary medicine, more and more researches and treating facilities dedicate to solving this issue. There are also many foundations dedicated to research and raising awareness.
Because cancer is a condition that both the human and the canine species share, the innovations and treating options established in one species can be applied in the other one too.
Simply put, the cancer happening is being attacked from two fronts. The human cancer research benefits dogs and canine cancer research benefits people. It is a win-win combination.
Dogs Lower Your Risk of Diabetes
According to an exercise scientist Cindy Lentino, dog parent who regularly walks their dogs has one-third the risk of diabetes than those who do not have furry babies.
It is believed that this positive effect is since dogs keep people more physically active. Being physically active helps reduce weight and prevents weight gain.
Maintaining a healthy body weight and staying active are two crucial factors for controlling the blood sugar levels in people with type 2 diabetes.
Dogs Can Sniff Out Diabetes
The dog’s ability to sniff out diabetes makes him the perfect alert system. Many diabetic dog owners reported that their dogs could somehow sense spikes in the blood sugar levels, thus manifesting behavioral changes.
For many years it was not known how dogs could sense those changes. Today it has been shown that dogs smell changes in the blood sugar levels. The dog’s ability to smell these changes in the blood sugar concentration is compared to being able to detect a tablespoon of sugar in a water tank the size of two Olympic swimming pools.
This discovery is highly practical. Today there are specially trained alert dogs whose role is to alert owners of possible blood sugar crashes, thus preventing dangerous hypoglycemia.
Dogs Improve Your Sleep Efficiency
According to a recent study, dog owners who allow their dogs to sleep with them sleep better and feel more rested. Simply put, sharing the same sleeping area with a dog can improve the overall sleep efficiency.
Having a well-behaved dog in the bedroom is not only relaxing but also conducting to sleep. When we say a well-behaved dog, we refer to a dog that does not interrupt your sleep, and that does not snore. A well-behaved dog will easily fond its sleeping position and remain calm during the night.
It has been suggested that the improved sleep efficiency is since being accompanied by someone gives you a sense of security. Therefore, the safer you feel, the better you will sleep.
Dogs Improve Your Self-Esteem
Unlike people who do not own dogs, dog owners have higher self-esteem levels. Dog owners think of themselves as being better and needed. Dogs give their owners a sense of purpose and fulfillment.
It is only logical that when someone feels needed, his self-esteem will rise. Also, dog owners are less likely to feel alone and abandoned. Also, dog owners tend to be less fearful, more extroverted and more open to new experiences.
Dogs improve your self-esteem because they serve as valuable sources of social support. They generally provide many psychological benefits, thus improving the overall mental health.
Dogs Can Help Kids and Adults Socialize Better
As counterintuitive as it may sound at first glance, dogs can improve your social life and help you socialize better. New studies suggest that being close with your furry canine helps develop better human relationships.
Also, walking with your dog increases social interactions. This is because aside from playing with the owners, dogs need quality playtime with other dogs too. During these playtimes, dog owners have a chance to socialize with other dog owners.
The best thing is that the main conversational topic will come naturally since you both have something in common. Even the simplest walk around the block can be the beginning of a new friendship.
Dogs Add Structure and Routine to Your Day
At first, the idea of having structure and routine may sound like something tedious and demanding. However, in the long-run, sticking to specific schedules and rules has many beneficial effects.
Dogs are creatures of habit. They need to eat, play, sleep and go out. All these activities occur at specific points of the day. Therefore, owning a dog means making a schedule and sticking to it.
This is beneficial because of no matter how you feel you will need to get up and care for your furry baby. This is also helpful for people who struggle with keeping their lives well organized.
Unfortunately, people obsessed with organizing have troubles dealing with the fact that they cannot control everything. Sticking to a dog routine is something that can be easily controlled.
Dogs Make Lovely Personal Heat Pads
The best way to relieve chronic pain, like irritating back pain, is heat therapy. Heat therapy soothes chronic pain because it dilates blood vessels, stimulates the skin sensory receptors and helps stretch soft tissues.
A proper heating therapy is impossible without a heating pad. Luckily, if you own a dog, you already have the perfect personal heating pad. Dogs are the best heating pads. They are cute, affectionate, lovely and cuddly.
However, it should be noted that certain dog breeds make better heat pads. For example, the Mexican Hairless dog excels at this task. Due to its lack of fur, the Mexican Hairless dog gives off exceptionally high amounts of body heat.
Dogs Teach Kids Empathy and Compassion
Learning empathy and compassion are integral parts of growing up. Through leading by example, kids can learn a lot about empathy and compassion from their parents. However, recent studies suggest that kids can learn these two traits from dogs too.
Robert Bierer, a child psychologist, stated that children who had a dog and needed to take care of a dog while growing up have higher levels of empathy, compassion, and self-esteem.
The very foundation of empathy and compassion is the relationship between the kid and the dog. Kids and dogs tend to form positively reinforcing bonds. They make each other happy and therefore help each other when hurt.
Dogs Are Amazing Therapy Professionals
It is a proven fact that dogs make amazing professional comforters. If properly trained dogs can be excellent service companions for people with various disabilities.
Some dogs can be trained to bring medication or even detect approaching medical emergencies. For example, many dogs can sense an imminent epileptic seizure or an unexpected drop in the blood sugar levels.
When early detected, the dog can alert its owner and warn him so he could take corresponding preventable measures.
Other dogs are trained to focus on improving the mental health of their owners. They are supposed to alleviate stressful situations or provide comfort to people who have survived severe trauma.
All in all, dogs make excellent furry counselors.
Dogs Give a Sense of Community
There is no better icebreaker in the world than having a furry baby. Owning a dog gives you something to talk about with other dog owners.
It gives you something to ask about and something to focus on. Besides, having a dog is the perfect starting point for making new friends because all dog owners have something in common.
No matter how shy you are, you will be able to talk to other dog owners and discuss common situations and conditions. There are also dogs specially trained to help people overcome their social anxiety and to stimulate people to start social interactions.
Dogs Are Good Listeners
Your dog can be your best friend. In spite of being loyal, affectionate and continuously present, dogs are good listeners. In fact, they are the best listeners.
You can tell your dog everything – from how your day went, through your hopes and fears to small talk about the weather. No matter the topic, your dog will listen and be entertained.
Most of all, your dog will never judge you. Dogs are ideal speaking partners when you need to say certain things out loud without anyone suffering the potential repercussions.
Dogs Boost Your Dating Life
Dogs are amazingly cute social magnets. This is quite amazing for all single dog parents. Dogs can help you connect with other people on a deeper level.
Many dog owners state that they feel more comfortable to start a conversation with unknown people if they have a dog beside them. This is mainly due to two reasons. First, if you and your crush have a dog, it will be easier to start a conversation since you both have something in common – your love for dogs.
Secondly, it has been proven that dogs help you build better self-esteem. The more self-confidence you have, the easier it will be to engage in social interactions.
Today there are even online dating sites that specifically target and connect dog parents.
All in all, your adorable pouch can boost your dating life.
Dogs Offer Social Support For Autistic Children
Many studies support the idea that interacting with dogs benefits children with autism. Dogs are good sensory stimuli to people living with autism. They also encourage autistic children to interact better and to be more socially active.
Furthermore, recent research showed that classmates tend to relate better to kids with autism if there is a dog present in the classroom. The presence of dogs helps integrate less typical members in the otherwise typical environment.
Dogs can also help autistic children overcome their episodes of repetitive motions. Repetitive motions are a common problem among autistic kids.
Having a dog to hug and pet can distract them from this urge. There are even trained dogs that can sense an episode before it starts and interrupt it by engaging in a play with the kid.
Autistic children can easily relate and form a positive relationship with dogs because dogs offer unconditional love and nonjudgmental companionship.
Dogs Are Good Aphasia Listeners
Dogs act as catalysts for human communication, as anecdotal as it may sound. This statement is true even for people with aphasia.
\Aphasia is a language disorder that causes speech impairment and leads to speaking difficulties. People with aphasia find it extremely hard to communicate with other people because the process is not only harder on itself but also because of not being able to express is a major frustration cause.
Dogs are good listeners and never judge how their owners communicate with them. Being able to express in a non-judgmental environment is good for people with aphasia.
Also, dogs can be trained to understand non-verbal commands. Therefore, dogs tend to boost the aphasia sufferer’s confidence simply because dogs understand him.
Dogs Can Detect Seizures
It is a scientific mystery how dogs can detect epileptic seizures before they happen. In fact, not only they can detect it, but also they are very good at it.
Although the precise detection mechanism is not determined, it is believed that dogs can sense slight changes in the person’s body language. Dogs are very much in tune with our body languages and can communicate with us in a non-verbal manner.
Being so much tuned they can quickly detect abnormal patterns that occur before seizures. Other theories suggest that dogs detect seizures by smelling changes in the body odor or by sensing the electrical build up that causes the seizure.
Regardless of the mechanism, the effect is more than obvious. Dogs save plenty of lives by being able to detect epileptic seizures.
Dogs Make Us Genuinely Happy
It is a non-disputable fact that dogs make people happy in many ways. Being happy boosts your emotional and mental health. Being emotionally and mentally healthy is directly linked to being physically fit.
Studies suggest that dogs make us happier because of 4 basic reasons. These reasons include:
- Improving the overall mood
- Offering great therapy support
- Reducing stress
- Releasing oxytocin and other feel-good chemicals.
As an animal expert, Karen Winegar, in a New York Times interview said: “The human-animal bond bypasses the intellect and goes straight to the heart and emotions and nurtures us in ways that nothing else can.”