Dogs are a treasured part of family life. We bring them into our families and homes because of the joy they can bring, as well as the companionship.
Many dog owners have the suspicion that dog ownership is good for their health. However, many aren’t aware of precisely how much good these dogs can offer.
In this guide to the health benefits of owning a dog, we will look at some great benefits for physical and mental health. We will also look at the potential of therapy dogs for more chronic and debilitating conditions.
10 great health benefits of owning a dog.
1) Dogs can help us get more exercise.
This is the most obvious health benefit of dog ownership to start with here. Our dogs need plenty of exercises to keep them fit and healthy. We have a responsibility to them to ensure that they get those walks and playtime in the park. This can spur owners on to make positive changes to their own regimes. Long daily walk means the chance to work on fitness levels, weight loss, and aid other illnesses.
2) Dogs can help to improve heart health.
This regular exercise is going to help with heart health. There is the chance to reduce cholesterol and blood pressure. However, the benefits appear to go beyond that. Studies show that dog owners generally have lower blood pressure and better heart health than those that don’t own one. In the long term, this can lead to a reduced risk of heart attacks.
3) Dogs can reduce day to day stress levels.
Most people can appreciate the joy and sense of calm that comes from petting a dog. This is true whether we greet our own beloved animal at the end of the day, or meet a friendly dog in the park. This encounter releases positive hormones and counters stress levels. Therefore, daily playtime with a day can do wonders for general mental health.
4) Dogs can help dog owners to improve their immunity.
Dogs are sweet, lovable members of the family. But, they also have a habit of rolling around in and eating, unpleasant things. We know this, yet some dog owners still insist on allowing their pets to lick their faces. This means that they can pass on germs to bacteria. While this sounds like a negative, there is the chance of building immunity here.
5) Dogs can help children with allergy issues.
This one may be a little hard to believe when there are so many people that are allergic to dogs. There are many families that try and find hypoallergenic dog breeds to avoid any risk of children suffering from allergic reactions. That is why all those “doodle” breeds are so popular. However, evidence shows that children that grow up around dogs actually have a reduced risk of developing allergies.
6) Dogs can even sniff out some cancers.
This one would also be difficult to believe if there weren’t so many great stories out there about dogs saving the lives of their owners. There are instances where dogs paw and whine at certain areas of the body. There is nothing detectable to us, but they can sniff out the cancerous cells. This can lead to speedier diagnoses.
7) Therapy dogs for extreme stress and anxiety.
We mentioned above about the potential of therapy dogs for stress levels in a day to day interactions. However, there is the potential for dogs to help even further. Therapy dogs are trained to help people dealing with stressful situations and anxiety attacks. Some universities use dogs to calm students before exams. Others are used after traumatic incidents. This can speed up the healing process considerably.
The same is true when tackling depression. Sufferers dealing with chronic depression, and in need of therapy, have different options available to them. Sometimes talking to a human therapist isn’t appealing. People don’t want to hear psychological talk or judgment. A therapy dog will listen and act as a soothing companion.
9) Therapy dogs for those with chronic illness.
There are also therapy dogs that can help those dealing with long-term chronic illnesses. We often think of guide dogs for the blind, or hearing dogs for the deaf. Support and therapy dogs are also available for other conditions. They can help people deal with difficult situations and allow them a little more confidence and independence.
10) Therapy dogs for Alzheimer’s.
Finally, there are therapy dogs for Alzheimer’s. This is an area of dog-based therapy that is sure to grow as dementia and Alzheimer’s becomes more common. Just like with issues of stress and other illnesses, patients are observed to respond well in the presence of dogs. These dogs seem to calm them and lessen any risk of outburst.
Finding the right dog for health and therapy.
Different dogs have different personalities and temperaments. Some are better suited to work as therapy dogs than others.
The personal, physical health benefits that are mentioned above can be achieved when owning any breed of dog. That is as long as owners take the time to give them those long walks and play with them.
Therapy dog services require breeds that are a little calmer, more patient, good with children and easy to train. You will often see photos of therapy dogs with labradors and retrievers. These dogs are popular in this role because of their temperament and eagerness to please. They also aren’t intimidating to strangers. For example, German Shepherd Dogs and Rottweilers have great potential in this role, with training. The problem is that they have more of a reputation.
If you want to learn more about dog breeds check this blog. There are lots of dog breeds that are suitable. But, if you have a child with health issues or an elderly parent with dementia, you can search for a breed that may be more suitable. There are lots of health benefits to owning a dog. This can be a great, rewarding two-way relationship when you match the right dog with the right owner.