Until recently evidence was merely anecdotal. But now researchers are finding solid affirmation that our dogs genuinely keep us emotionally and physically healthier.
- Go Go Go. Research shows that dog ownership keeps us moving. Dog walking, even just an hour and a half per week, reduces the likelihood of conditions linked in part to sedentary lifestyles, such as coronary artery disease.
- Spring Chickens. Older adults who walk dogs are shown to be significantly healthier and leaner. Plus they smile more (Okay, that’s just anecdotal, but I’m quite sure it’s accurate).
- Measurable improvement. When older adults interact consistently with dogs, they have lower cholesterol and triglyceride levels.
- Better than Yoga. Research on cardiovascular health evidences that our dogs’ presence decreases stress and has a positive impact on blood pressure and heart rates.
- Skip the Doctor. Studies indicate that dog owners visit their doctors less. It used to be argued that this was because healthy people chose dog ownership, but now studies demonstrate that people who didn’t have dogs became healthier after getting one.
- Comfort better than chamomile. Children specifically benefit from dog ownership. The dog may step into the role of friend and sibling. A UK study concluded that dogs were ranked high (higher than many significant human relationships) as a source of comfort for children. More than 75% of children in the study tell their dogs their secrets (I do too!).
- Sharing and caring. Owning a dog fosters empathy and the ability to share in children. Studies suggest that dog interactions promote communication in children with special challenges such as autism.
- Let’s get scientific. Research indicates that a dog’s gaze increases the owner’s oxytocin levels (code for: making us happier). Fascinatingly, a comparable positive oxytocin response was discovered in dogs reacting to their owner’s attention, signifying a mutually beneficial relationship.
- Helping those most in need. A relationship with a canine can mitigate stress, anxiety, depression, and other mental health issues. For example, the positives oxytocin response a dog can stimulate improves trust and relaxation, helping to counter the symptoms of PTSD.
- As restoring as a spa. No expensive massage needed. Even simply being near a dog can reduce a person’s blood pressure. Now that’s a dog-gone simple stress buster.