It may come as no surprise to us pet parents, but bringing a dog into the family not only makes us happier, it can make us healthier too! Our canine friends have an uncanny ability to improve our overall lives as humans and research suggests this includes both our physical and mental health. But how do they do it? What’s their special secret? Well, here are our top five favorite ways your dog can help improve your health and assure you live a long and happy life together.
1. They Increase Your Daily Exercise
It’s no secret that dogs love to get outside and go for a walk. In fact, most dogs require at least two, long walks a day to maintain a happy body and mind. Of course, this means we get our daily steps in as well! It’s not just walking, however, that increases when you own a dog. Studies have shown that pup parents actually partake in more various forms of exercise than many others. From running to biking, hiking to kayaking, and even surfing and skydiving, dogs inspire us to do things we otherwise wouldn’t, all because we want to experience it with them!
2. They Help Create a Sleep Routine
Dogs thrive when they know what to expect out of each day. Waking up every morning at 6:00am for their breakfast and bathroom break actually helps your dog maintain a healthy sleep cycle and keep their mind sharp. As it turns out, this is true for us humans, too! It might seem silly to build your routine around your dog, but studies have shown that going to bed and waking up at different times each day can actually give you mental jet-lag that interrupts your body’s sleep chemistry and makes you more tired. This can leave you groggy and unproductive for the rest of the day. However, if you have a wet nose poking you in the face every morning at the same time, it’s much easier to rise and greet the day well rested and full of energy!
3. They Help to Lower Stress
Stress can be very devastating on both the body and mind. Today’s demanding world expects so much from each us, and more people have succumbed to the effects of overwhelming stress than ever before. Luckily for us dog lovers, our canine companions can help! Dogs have been proven to help lower blood pressure and relieve mental stress by releasing a hormone in the human brain called oxytocin, otherwise known as the ‘love hormone’. This hormone alone helps connect humans and dogs in a way that actually makes us feel better when we’re together. Literally just being around your dog and gently petting or playing with them is enough to release the hormone and make you super relaxed. This takes away headaches, muscle aches, stomach cramps, and worry. Now that’s what we call a good dog!
4. They Make You More Social
Humans, like dogs, are social creatures who thrive when they’re with others. Sometimes, however, getting out and meeting new people can be difficult. But with a dog at your side, studies have shown the odds are much higher that you’ll engage in conversation when out and about. After all, many people love dogs, so your four-legged friend can actually be a great conversation starter between you and the one eager to meet them. This helps to broaden your social circle which, in turn, leads to a healthier life. After all, having more friends and even acquaintances helps fight off depression, helps you sleep better, and makes you more productive!
5. They Boost Children’s Immune Systems
If you have a young child in the house and are wondering whether or not to get a dog, this might help with your dilemma! Studies have shown that children who grow up in households with dogs actually have stronger immune systems if exposed to the animal within the first year of life. Children with dogs also tend to have fewer allergies and respiratory problems later in life, and are 31% less likely to contract regular colds or suffer from high fevers. While dogs can sometimes be dirty and track in outside bacteria, scientists argue that this can actually be a positive thing. Studies have shown that babies and young children exposed to certain bacteria in a controlled environment have stronger immune systems and are healthier overall. Plus, they get to grow up with a dog as their best friend!
There are many other proven ways that dogs (and animals in general) can help improve human health beyond just companionship. Whether it’s lowering the risk of heart disease, detecting certain illnesses or ailments, or simply helping their human get more exercise, dogs really can make a huge difference for our health. We guess that’s why they’re called man’s best friend!