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Whether you are a long-time dog owner, are new to canine companionship, or simply enjoy dog sitting on occasion, you’ve likely marveled about how great dogs are. After all, they’re adorable and are always happy to see you — what’s not to love about that?
Owning a dog may be even better for you than you realize. Dogs can reduce stress, increase your productivity at work, and improve your physical health in countless ways. They give us just as much, if not more, than we give them. Here are just a few of the many ways that dogs can better our lives:
1. Dog Owners Are More Physically Active
Though needs will differ on an individual basis, dogs of all breeds and sizes need regular exercise, and a daily walk is one of the best ways to do that. The best part is that you get to join them and get some exercise too!
One study found that not only do dog owners walk more than their companionless counterparts, but they walk at a quicker pace. A similar Canadian study suggests that obtaining a dog may be a good way to help people who need to increase their level of activity. So grab that leash and get going!
2. Owning a Dog Teaches Responsibility
When you have another living creature’s well-being depending solely on you, you will quickly learn a lot about responsibility. Dogs are a big commitment, and when considering bringing one into your home, you need to be prepared to take care of your dog for the duration of their life, which could easily exceed 10 years.
In addition, you need to provide your dog with everything it needs, from basic necessities like food and water to fun entertainment like toys and games. If your dog gets sick or injured, you are responsible for taking them to the vet and covering any medical costs. It’s up to you to ensure your dog has a fulfilling and happy life. Though it can feel overwhelming at times, this responsibility will also lead to a rewarding relationship with your pooch.
3. Owning a Dog Can Promote Green Behavior
Dog owners tend to care about their dogs as much as their relatives and often consider their pet to be a member of their family. This means giving them the very best life possible, including food, toys, and bedding that are free from harsh chemicals and harmful additives. Buying green pet products is beneficial both for the health of your pet and for the environment.
There can be a lot of confusion surrounding “natural” and “organic” labels on pet and human products alike. Just because food and toys claim they are natural does not mean that’s the case. To ensure you’re giving your dog the best, look for USDA Organic labels on food, toys made of biodegradable or sustainable materials, and ingredient names you recognize. You can even consider making treats, beds, or toys at so you know exactly what your dog is getting.
4. Dogs Reduce Stress
This may not come as a surprise. After all, who isn’t happy to see an excited dog waiting for them when they come home from a long day at work? But there’s more to it than that. Spending time with your dog reduces your overall stress, both in the short and long term.
Scientists who have studied the benefits of pet ownership believe dogs are effective at long-term stress management because dogs promote high self-esteem while reducing fear and loneliness in their humans. This increase in positive feelings and decrease in negative ones may be part of the reason that dogs can even lower your blood pressure.
5. Dogs Will Protect You
Dogs are famous for their loyalty to their owners. You spend so much time loving and caring for them, so they naturally will want to protect you if anything suspicious happens. They learn to look out for any potential danger, and whether you’re at home or on a walk, dogs can sense if you become anxious or fearful.
Certain breeds, like Rottweilers and German Shepherds, are known for their watchdog ways. However, depending on their personality, any dog will alert their owners with a bark or two if they notice anything amiss — even if it’s just the mailman.
6. Dogs Help Humans Socialize
Dogs are great at bringing people together. If you need to make new friends after a recent move, you can take your pooch to the dog park to meet other dogs and their owners. You already have a love of dogs in common, which makes starting the initial conversation less awkward. You and your dog may even meet new friends on a quick stroll around your neighborhood.
Dogs can even help humans fulfill their need for social interaction, just by being in our lives. A study on the positive consequences of pet ownership claims that “the support that pets provided complemented rather than competed with human sources.” This study concluded that pets can act as important social supporters to their humans.
7. Dog Owners Spend More Time Outside
Those daily walks, trips to the park, and long fetch sessions mean you and your dog both spend a lot of time outdoors.These activities involve being more active, which is good for you, but simply being outside or in nature has its own physical and mental health benefits.
By spending time outside, you can relieve stress, increase happiness, bolster your mental well being, get a healthy dose of vitamin D, lower your blood pressure, and boost your immune system. And that’s just a few of the ways that nature can improve your health. Next time you feel frustrated that your dog wants to go for yet another walk, just keep in mind all the good it can do for your health!
8. Dogs Help Your Job Performance
One of the less obvious perks of pet ownership is enhanced job performance. If your company allows it, dogs in the workplace are an asset to employees and employers alike. Companies that allow dogs in the office cultivate a positive company image and culture, show dedication to work-life balance, and increase employee morale.
As an employee, you can work, guilt and stress free, with your best friend at your side. When you bring your dog to work, you’re less stressed, miss fewer days of work, and work longer hours. You don’t have to worry about rushing home at lunchtime to let your pooch out, pestering your neighbor to check in on them, or hiring a dog walker to get some of their energy out while you’re gone.
9. Dogs Are Great for Children
Dogs can improve the lives of children just as much, if not more than, the lives of adults. Aside from teaching kids about the responsibility of petcare, infants who grow up with dogs are less likely to develop dog-related allergies, asthma, and skin conditions later in life. In addition, children tend to miss less school when their family has a dog, because their overall health is better.
Dogs can help children develop a higher self-esteem because of the unconditional love they give their owners. This constant companionship and love can greatly benefit children with autism because dogs do not have the same nuances in communication as humans. Dogs understand human emotions and can give comfort and love, which is important for all children, but especially those on the autism spectrum. Whether or not your child has autism, dogs can still be a significant part of their support system.
10. Dogs Can Help with Mental Health
Because dogs are generally sweet, can read human emotions, and are easy to train, they make great service animals for a range of health conditions. Dogs can sense panic attacks and seizures before their owners have one, giving them time to remove themselves from a potentially dangerous situation. They can also learn how to bring medication to their owners, act as guides for humans with visual or auditory impairments, and act as therapy animals for people with mental illnesses.
Dogs can also help their owners who deal with depression. They need to be fed and cared for regularly and exercised daily, which provides structure to their owner’s day — something that some depressed people struggle with. They offer companionship, which is good for those who feel lonely and isolated. Petting your dog can be therapeutic, relaxing, and make you feel calmer. Above all else, they offer constant, unconditional love.
11. Dogs Bring Us Joy
Dogs are an overflowing source of positivity. Each pooch has a unique personality and getting to know them is incredibly gratifying. It’s difficult to not enjoy their company, because it feels like spending time with a close friend. Whether it’s the way they stick their tongue out while they sleep or like to sit on your lap while you watch TV, when you look at your dog, you know that you have a companion for life.
They’re humankind’s best friend for a reason: We love them as much as they love us. Dogs help promote a healthier lifestyle for their owners and can benefit human health directly, but it’s the happiness they add to life that makes them so wonderful. And this is just the tip of the iceberg; if you have ever had a dog in your life, you know how much more they have to offer their human.
Devin writes from somewhere along the West Coast. He is infected with wanderlust but always tries to bring his dog, Scrummy, along for the ride. You can follow him on Twitter.