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10 Health Benefits of Having a Dog – Based on Science

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By Nicole Cosgrove

Health Benefits of Having a Dog

Having a dog for a pet is almost like a rite of passage. The chances are you grew up with a canine companion that accompanied you on all your adventures. Perhaps some of your fondest childhood memories include your pup. After all, there’s a good reason that over 63 million households in the United States have a dog in the home.1

Besides the friendship, it turns out that owning a pooch provides many benefits, some unexpected. What’s more, there’s the science to back up the claims that your pup is truly man’s best friend. Let’s discover what the research tells us about inviting a canine into our lives. Here are the 10 best benefits of having a dog, for a child and for an adult.

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The 10 Health Benefits of Having a Dog:

1. Having a dog may help you live a longer life.

dog may help you live a longer life
Credit: stephencphotog, Pixabay

The greatest benefit of owning a pup tops our list because, frankly, it doesn’t get much better than this one. A study published in the journal, Scientific Reports, looked at its effect on the rate of cardiovascular disease (CVD) and death in over 3.4 million pet owners. CVD is the leading cause of mortality in the United States. The researchers found that having a dog lowered both CVD and deaths.

2. Dog ownership can reduce your risk of high blood pressure.

dog helping human
Credit: 947051, Pixabay

You may wonder how having a dog can decrease your chances of CVD. We’re glad you asked. It turns out that pet ownership acts on the risk factors that affect your cardiovascular health. They include lowering your blood pressure, which helps take the load off your heart. Your canine friend can also improve your cholesterol and triglyceride levels, which can cause hardening of the arteries or atherosclerosis.

3. A Dog may lower your child’s chances of developing asthma.

Dog may lower your child’s chances of developing asthma
Credit: cgordon8527, Pixabay

This is one of the best benefits of having a dog for a child. Asthma is one of the most prevalent diseases in the country, affecting nearly 25 million Americans, with over 5 million children under the age of 18. Research published in the journal, JAMA Pediatrics, found that an association between early exposure to dogs and a reduced rate of childhood asthma. The scientists surmised that it might influence the development of the immune system of children.

4. Dog ownership can improve your mental health.

Dog ownership can improve your mental health
Credit: Mylene2401, Pixabay

The evidence is overwhelming about the positive effects of having a dog in your life. It’s the main reason that organizations like the K9s For Warriors exist. Their trained pups can help veterans cope with mental health issues, such as post-traumatic stress syndrome. Your pooch may also make it easier for you to deal with everyday anxiety from work.

5. Dogs may improve health outcomes and quality of life in dementia patients.

dog helping quality of life in dementia patients
Credit: josealbafotos, Pixabay

Dementia describes a collection of mental disorders that interfere with day-to-day activities through the impairment of one’s cognitive function. There is no cure. However, having a dog can improve the quality of life of these individuals in several ways. Research published in the Australasian Journal of Ageing found that having a dog around reduced angst and enhanced social skills in patients.

6. Your dog could be your friend in need.

dog could be your friend in need
Credit: Seaq68, Pixabay

You may think that Lassie and Rin Tin Tin are the stuff of fiction. However, researchers at Arizona State University say, guess again. They found that dogs showed pro-social behavior that motivated them to rescue their seemingly trapped owners. If your pup knows you’re in trouble and can figure out what to do, the chances are he’ll save you. Now that’s worth a doggie treat or two!

7. Your pup could help your child read.

pup could help your child read
Credit: Muscat_Coach, Pixabay

One of the most important skills your child can master is to learn to read. It opens new worlds with a turn of a page. However, if he is unmotivated to practice, you can recruit his best friend to help. Research published in the journal, Anthrozoös, found that having a dog around not only encouraged kids to read but also gave them that extra push to get through a more difficult passage.

8. Your pooch can fill in as your personal trainer.

pooch can fill in as your personal trainer
Credit: Sammy-Williams, Pixabay

Owning a dog is an excellent motivator to get both you and your pooch in shape. That’s especially true if you live in an apartment. A study published in the Journal of Cardiovascular Nursing agrees. The researchers found that patients who owned a dog were nearly twice as more likely to ramp up their home exercise by walking their pooch. That offers more ways for both of you to stay healthy!

9. Your dog may ramp up your social life.

dog may ramp up your social life
Credit: jty11117777, Pixabay

It’s a dog-eat-dog world out there, sometimes. Your pooch can ease the pain of social rejection a lot easier than you realize—by just thinking about him! Research by Taylor & Francis suggests that it has to do with our ability to anthropomorphize our pet or give him human-like traits. When you’re feeling down, the mental image of your canine friend can boost your mood. Don’t believe us? Try it!

10. Your pup understands you better than you think.

pup understands you better than you think
Credit: 27707, Pixabay

Your dog is a keen observer of his world. However, that’s not all he’s watching. Several studies have shown that your pooch understands what you’re saying, but he can also read your emotions. Your pup will often reflect what you’re feeling, too. Now you know why he’ll put his head on your lap when you’ve had a bad day. It’s all over your face!

Divider 4Are There Any Drawbacks to Having a Dog?

Anyone who has owned a dog knows there are times when he’s not your best friend. Think about those times he wouldn’t stop barking. Or how about when he chewed the kitchen table leg? Undesirable behavior is part of pet ownership. That means you must make a commitment to training your pooch properly. It’s going to cost time and money.

Yes, it takes time and effort. He will inevitably be naughty, sometimes. You may have to discipline him. There’s no getting around it.

Some people find having a dog a burden if you travel a lot or work varying hours. That can make crate training a nightmare. They differ from cats that you can leave alone for a day or two with some dry food and fresh water available.  In many ways, having a puppy is like a toddler in the family. This one never grows up and moves out of the house.

That’s why it’s imperative to consider the pros and cons of owning a dog before you get one. Honestly, this pet isn’t the best choice for everyone. You must be realistic about what you can put into owning a puppy and all it entails.

One Last Thing…

There’s one thing we need to make clear when discussing science-related topics.

Science does not prove anything. Instead, it conducts experiments in which it makes conclusions about what the researchers observe. It certainly does not say anything based on a single study, either. The essence of it is to be able to repeat an experiment and get similar results. It may sound picky or nuanced, but that’s the nature of the beast.

Think of it this way. If you toss a coin and get heads, it doesn’t mean that every time you’ll have the same results. That’s how science views experiments. That’s the reason that researchers repeat them again and again. Bear in mind that some things are anecdotal that beg for further investigation.

Related Read: 6 Benefits of Dog Daycare – Based On Science

Divider 2Final Thoughts About Dog Ownership

Dog lovers understand the trials of having a pup in the family. Sure, it’s hard work, but as you can see, it also promises many benefits. If you decide to take the plunge, be ready for some trying times. However, all be prepared for a wonderful relationship built on unconditional love. There’s a good reason that he is your BFF.

Featured Image Credit: 8777334, Pixabay

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