Who doesn’t love dogs? The perpetually happy canine is America’s most popular pet, and for good reason. Dogs are fun and lovable, and we’re beginning to learn that they’re good for our health, too!

Dogs Keep You Happy

After a difficult day, getting greeted by an excited pooch or cuddling up on the couch with your fur ball can make everything feel better. There’s some research behind how the use of therapy dogs attests to the anxiety-battling effects of dogs. Some workplaces have even added therapy dogs to their staff, due to studies showing reduced employee stress.

A big reason dogs improve your mood is because they provide companionship and a sense of feeling needed and wanted.

In addition to anxiety, dogs can help humans cope with depression. In fact, dogs literally raise your levels of serotonin and dopamine, the two hormones that make you feel happiness or calmness.

A big reason dogs improve your mood is because they provide companionship and a sense of feeling needed and wanted. If you’re feeling lonely, few things can make you feel better than a dog. This is especially true as we age, when isolation doesn’t just cause sadness but becomes a genuine health concern. Studies find that pet owners are 36 percent less likely to report feeling lonely. Dogs can even help you meet new friends!

Dogs Keep You Active

Have you ever accidentally said the word “walk” around a dog? You should share in their excitement, because owning a dog is a great influence when it comes to exercise and fitness.

Dog-owning seniors are sedentary for 30 minutes less each day compared to their dog-less counterparts.

Seniors especially can benefit from owning a dog. Dog-owning seniors are sedentary for 30 minutes less each day compared to their dog-less counterparts. Dog-owners are also more likely to be active on days that have bad weather, like during the winter.

In fact, dog-owners take an average of 2,760 additional steps each day. This equates to 20 extra minutes of moderate exercise, which can make a big difference!

Another study saw that volunteers were more likely to adhere to a walking program when paired with a dog. They viewed the walks as a responsibility to the dog, not exercise for themselves. Participants lost an average of 14.4 pounds after a year. Whether it’s taking a long walk or playing fetch, both your pup and your body will appreciate the extra exercise.

Dogs Keep You Healthy

Owning a dog is one of the best things you can do for your heart. The CDC claims pet ownership decreases your blood pressure, cholesterol, and triglyceride levels. Together, they work with other health factors to reduce your risk of heart disease. Plus, pet owners who suffer heart attacks also live longer than survivors that don’t.

Trained assistance dogs can act as guides for their owners or learn to set off alarms in emergencies.

We’re also seeing a growing number of assistance dogs helping Alzheimer’s and dementia patients in a number of ways. Trained assistance dogs can lead their owner home if they get lost and are trained to stick by them should the patient let go of the leash. The dogs are also taught to set off an alarm should the patient fall or begin choking.

The companionship and routine that dogs provide is also beneficial to dementia patients. This relationship creates a “psychological anchor,” which can lead to fewer anxious outbursts.

These benefits are reflected in how often the owners needed doctor visits. That’s right, owning a dog can lead to you needing the doctor less. A study of Medicare insurance claims found that pet owners required fewer trips to the doctor’s office. The study found that the stress-fighting nature of pets (which boosts your immune system) helped their owners get sick less often.

Studies have shown that pet owners save $11.7 billion each year in the United States!

These findings are corroborated by a report by the Human Animal Bond Research Initiative Foundation, which found that pet owners had significant health care savings. In fact, they estimated that the savings reached $11.7 billion each year in the United States!

According to one study, “Dog walking is associated with lower body mass index, fewer doctor visits, more frequent exercise and an increase in social benefits for seniors.”

Owning a dog is linked with improvement in nearly every aspect of your health. Your four-legged friend will make you happier, healthier, and keep you physically active all year round. In return, all you need to do is give the occasional belly-rub. Sounds like a fair trade, right?

What’s Next?

With all the benefits of owning a dog, you may want to look to adopt a dog into your family. But ask yourself a few questions first:

  • Am I ready for the responsibility?
  • Can I afford a dog?
  • Am I willing to change my schedule to fit a dog?
  • What kind of breed do I want?

Tools like the American Kennel Club’s Dog Breed Selector can help you to choose the dog for you, but nothing beats actually meeting the dogs.

When you’re searching for your future pooch, consider a rescue dog. There are hundreds of kennels and rescues with animals that could use a home. Most adoptable dogs cost less than breeders and an older rescue dog, with less energy than a puppy and prior training, may be the perfect fit for a senior lifestyle.

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If you’re looking to adopt a dog, check out your local ASPCA or find a kennel in your area. You’ll give a loving home to a dog that could really use it, while getting a loving companion that’ll make you happier and healthier for years.

Further Reading

Bright Side (YouTube) — 16 Useful Clues to Understand Your Dog Better
Harvard Health Publications — The health benefits and risks of pet ownership
The Simple Dollar — The Financial Benefits of Adopting A Pet
WebMD — 5 Ways Pets Can Improve Your Health