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Owning a dog is healthy–it’s a fact!

woman kissing dog's cheek

There are many benefits to owning a pet, and one of the most important is that they are good for your health. And that goes well beyond the benefits of walking five miles a day and getting fitter; there are many more benefits than just muscle toning.

Think about it: Dogs have a wonderful habit of spreading their love and affection. So is it this behavior that keeps us healthy? One group that specializes in the human-animal health connection" and has found many instances of dogs improving the well-being of people. This ranges from pet dogs to therapy dogs, all helping to improve health by just being around.

And the facts speak for themselves in all areas of life. Through recent studies, the Society has found that people with dogs are more likely to accept change, are more likely to deal with stress, and have fewer contacts with their doctor. It was also found that pet owners have lower blood pressure, lower cholesterol levels, and better psychological health than non-dog-owners.

Improved state of mind

Many dog owners feel their pet is healthy for them because their pet makes them feel good. Doctor Ambrose, a medical practitioner and dog owner, feels that owning a dog improves a person's state of mind, therefore improving their health.

"In lots of circumstances, research has found that owning or being around a dog for any period of time has helped patients to focus on something else," he states. This can be seen in instances of enormous trauma, such as someone losing a family member or undergoing severe cancer treatment, where people around therapy pets show vast improvements. People who have pets show less depression and reduced stress. Dogs are a major source of support and increase the ability to cope, which contributes to keeping cholesterol and blood pressure down. Of course, taking a dog for a half hour walk every day is also a great benefit."

The healthy benefits, physically and mentally, of owning a dog can be seen in every walk of life. In a sector study of people over the age of 60, it was found that even the most highly stressed dog owners in the study saw their doctors 21 percent less than non-dog-owners. It was also found that the level of activities of daily living of non-pet-owning seniors deteriorated more on average than that of pet-owning seniors. Dog owners in their senior years also coped better with stressful events without having to enter the health care system."

Healthier children

At the other end of the scale, having a dog in the family can mean a healthier lifestyle for your children. Studies have shown that contact with a family dog develops nurturing behavior in children, encouraging them to show empathy and enhance positive self-esteem. Children who have a pet dog are also less likely to suffer from feelings of isolation and loneliness. It is also noted that children exposed to dogs during the first year of their lives have a lower frequency of allergies and asthma. Plus, 70 percent of families surveyed reported an increase in family happiness and fun after adopting a dog.

All the studies point to the fact that owning a dog is good for a child's well-being, encouraging them to get involved in more social activities, and that children with dogs in the family lead less stressful lives, with better health.

There is also research that suggests that dogs help to keep heart attacks at bay, and that owning a dog may decrease heart attack mortality by 3%. Although this doesn't sound like a lot, it still translates to more than 30,000 lives saved annually in the U.S. alone. Imagine what this figure could be for the rest of the world.

It was discovered that dog owners are also less likely to feel afraid of being victims of crime when walking their dog or sharing their home with their dog.

Of course, anyone who owns dogs will list thousands of benefits: love, companionship, fun, excitement, and now they can list health too. It's official: Owning a dog is healthy!

  • The Serious Benefits of Play

    dog carrying a frisbee in its mouth

    Playing and having fun helps to eliminate stress from your life—and the same holds true for your dog. In fact, incorporating various forms of play into your dog's daily routine is vital to helping him develop a healthy, loving personality.

    The benefits of play

    Here are some of the ways that playing and having fun is important:

    • Physical health. Active play helps keep your dog's heart healthy, keeps the joints lubricated, and improves his overall balance and coordination.
    • Mental health. Games with rules force your dog to use his brain, not just his body. This can help keep his mind sharp and focused.
    • Social skills. When your dog plays with other dogs and other people, it helps improve his overall social skills. He learns basic rules and how to play by them.
    • Bonding. Even if it's only for a few minutes a day, playing with your dog helps strengthen the bond between you.
    • Your health. What better way to alleviate the stress of a busy workday and get a bit of exercise than to come home and play with your dog? It's a win-win for both of you.

    How to play with your dog

    There are right ways—and wrong ways—to play. The most important thing to remember is that you're the boss. You decide what games should be played and you set the rules. This helps establish your credibility as the pack leader. It also helps keep your dog from getting overly excited and out of control while you play. If your dog does become difficult to manage, simply put a stop to the game until he calms down again.

    When you're teaching your dog a new game, reward him when he does well. Remember, rewards don't have to be just treats. You can also reward him with his favorite toys or lots of hugs and praise.

    When you start out teaching your dog a new game, keep it simple and go through the game slowly, until your dog fully grasps the rules. Also, wait until he fully understands one game before you teach him a new one, otherwise it will end up confusing him.

    Playtime tips

    • Avoid games like keep away, wrestling, or tug-of-war. Those games encourage biting or dominant, aggressive behavior.
    • Stay in control of the game at all times. Show your dog that you're the pack leader, not just another member of the pack. Retrieval games are good at teaching control.
    • Don't include your body or clothing as part of any game.
    • Incorporate the SIT or DOWN and STAY commands in every game.
    • You decide when it's time to end the game, not your dog. The best time to stop the game is when your dog is still eager to play.
    • If, for some reason, your dog doesn't seem to understand the game at some point, go back to the beginning, or simply leave it and try again a few days later. Don't get angry if you're dog isn't "getting it" right away. Remember it's supposed to be a fun experience for both of you!

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