Here we are in the dog days of summer. School is about to start up again and vacations are coming to a close. Yet, the month of August and its 31 long days is a month to relish. After all, August is National Dog Month. It’s a time to celebrate everything canine and enjoy our faithful companions like there is no tomorrow.
Dogs are the #1 most owned pet throughout the world. Because they are pack animals, they actively search out leaders they can follow, and humans have filled that role for millennia. Man’s best friend keeps us safe, makes us happy, reduces our stress levels, and makes us more fulfilled and optimistic toward the future.
Dogs impact our lives more than we realize. The list below is just the tip of the iceberg. There are even more ways in which pets, and dogs, in particular, impact our daily lives. And one of the best ways to thank our furry friends, and celebrate National Dog Month at the same time, is to spend more time with them. By taking some extra long walks, playing fetch more often, buying a new toy, or paying a visit to a local dog park, we can reward our pooches for adding so much to our lives. A visit to the vet is another way to thank them and to make sure everything is running smooth. The ultimate goal is to find more together time this month, and throughout the year, with our furry friends and enjoy each other’s company to the fullest.
Dog ownership brings many advantages, including improved health compared to those who don’t own dogs or other pets. Dog parents experience a general decrease in blood pressure and a more regulated heart rate during stressful times when they are around their pooch. Dogs tend to have a calming effect on those who interact with them both short-term and for longer periods. Dog owners also experience lower triglyceride and cholesterol readings on average than non-dog owners.
People who own dogs or are around them a fair amount of time tend to get sick less often than those who don’t interact with dogs. Dogs tend to boost our immunity, and children who are exposed to dogs at an early age tend to have fewer allergies and skin rashes than those not exposed to dogs or other animals at a young age. The thinking used to be that exposure to dogs and pets would cause more allergies. The opposite appears to be true.
Lower Stress Levels
Dogs help lower stress levels. They aid us in avoiding harmful chemicals like cortisol and norepinephrine which can negatively impact our immune system. Plaque buildup in arteries is another side effect of too much stress. Our canine companions help us avoid much of the stress we would be susceptible to if not for their soothing and comforting demeanors.
Less Chronic Pain
Experts estimate that roughly 20% of all adults in the U.S. suffer from chronic pain. Dogs can help relieve some of this pain. It has been discovered that dogs who sleep with their chronic pain-suffering owners, help provide better, less painful sleep. The comfort and added companionship aid as well.
Decreased Risk of Death
Researchers have found that dog ownership provides a 24% lower risk of death from all causes. And owning a dog brings a 33% lower death risk for heart attack survivors who live alone. Loneliness and a sedentary lifestyle are major risk factors for premature death and those who own dogs are more apt to be active in playing and walking their canine companions.
It is a well-known fact that dogs can lift a person’s mood, enable them to feel less anxious, offer needed companionship, and provide comfort and pain relief. The consensus is that dogs can also help those suffering from PTSD by providing the aforementioned benefits.
Fewer Doctor Visits
Pet owners over the age of 65 enjoy 30% fewer doctor visits versus those who don’t own pets. This can be a big advantage to older adults. And dog owners participate in even fewer doctor visits on an annual basis compared to those that own other types of pets and non-pet owners. If an “apple a day keeps the doctor away” is the preferred prescription, then dogs are a close second.
Dogs need to go for walks and exercise their legs. They need to play as well. This means that dog owners are greatly encouraged and prodded by their faithful companions to be more active themselves, whether they want to or not. This leads to a healthier lifestyle for all involved.
Lower Depression Rate
Pet owners, in general, are less likely to suffer from depression than those who don’t own pets, but dog owners gain an even bigger advantage over depressive feelings. Playing with a dog increases levels of serotonin and dopamine, which are “feel good” hormones. This helps combat any negative thoughts that might occur throughout the day or night. A dog’s companionship and friendly demeanor go a long way in fighting anxiety and depression.
People who spend time with dogs and other animals tend to have fewer allergies – especially if exposed to dogs early in life. The old way of thinking suggested being around animals would aggravate and increase allergic reactions, but it appears quite the opposite is true. And it tends to make sense. When the human body is exposed to allergens from the beginning, the body gets used to them and learns to combat their effect. If a person isn’t exposed to dogs or other animals until later in life and their immune system has never had to adjust to those allergens, then it’s typically too late to avoid pet allergies if they are prone.
More Social Support and Interactions
Dogs help their owners develop more social support and interactions by effortlessly introducing them to more people.
And when dog owners meet other dog owners while walking, frequenting dog parks, or visiting pet stores, the benefits are shared by all involved. Many people would never strike up a conversation or get to know their neighbors if not for their dogs. Dogs tend to attract other people like magnets. And if those people are also dog owners, then common ground is automatically established and can be enhanced upon additional interactions.
Additional Structure and Routine
Dogs thrive on routine and a structured day. From feeding and watering to walking and playing, dogs help us keep in a routine and they add additional opportunities for exercise and social interactions. Routine and structure are important for pets and people, so dogs help tremendously in this department.
Children Show Less Anxiety
Pets and dogs create a calming effect on children. And when children can relax and keep calm, they display less anxiousness. Dogs are often prescribed for children or teens that exhibit anxiety as a way to help with the issue. Dogs provide companionship, comfort, and create a calming effect that can soothe, self-heal and allow for less medicinal usage.
Children Display Greater Empathy, Self Esteem, Social & Physical Activity
When children are consistently around pets, and dogs, in particular, they tend to display greater empathy toward other people and animals, their self-esteem shoots up substantially and their social and physical interactions are much greater. Owning a dog can allow for some good exercise and physical interactions which help with childhood obesity, type II diabetes, and fewer doctor visits.
Children are more Motivated to Read and Learn
When a dog is present, children are more motivated to read and learn. Dogs not only provide comfort and a sense of pride for children, but they also help instill a “can do” spirit that motivates children to be at their best. Reading at a young age is always fun with a buddy and dogs fulfill that role well.
Our canine companions have all types of tricks up their furry sleeves to positively impact our daily routines and add more meaning and value to our lives. There are countless ways in which dogs have an impact on our well-being. As we experience National Dog Day on August 26th and enjoy National Dog Month throughout August, we can reflect and imagine how much more challenging life would be without dogs. They truly impact our lives more than we realize.
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