Okay not really. But it will improve your quality of life tenfold!
You know your dog makes your life better. You can feel it in your bones, even if you can’t quite put your finger on why. The good news is science has done that for you. Extensive research into the positive health effects of having a pet dog has yielded some obvious and some surprising results.
A lot of these positive effects are on our mental health.
Studies of populations of dog owners all over the world show consistencies. Dogs help prevent and alleviate depression. They fulfill our basic need for touch and positive sensory input. This decreases the sense of isolation people, particularly the elderly, can feel. Dogs make people less lonely.
Playing with a dog releases serotonin and dopamine in the brain, the feel-good chemicals that make us happy. Petting your dog is an excellent form of stress relief. A study of 246 university students reported that directly after having the opportunity to cuddle dogs, the students felt much happier and less stressed than their pupless-peers and these effects lasted through at least the next 10 hours when the follow up survey was taken. It’s also becoming a more common practice to train dogs to provide comfort to combat veterans suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD).
Being a good pet owner means a dog-dictated schedule to fulfill their needs. This helps people that are struggling to stick to a healthy routine, including getting up out of bed when they may not feel like it, regular play, and walks. Dog owners are far more likely to hit their target exercise for the day. Increased exercise has a positive impact on mental health too, and reaches beyond physical health.
On top of the obvious bonus of weight loss from more exercise, dog owners tend to have lower triglyceride and cholesterol levels, which are indicators of good heart health. They also have lower blood pressure levels in stressful situations than non pet-owners. One study even found people with borderline hypertension found their blood pressure greatly reduced in the months following adopting a dog from a shelter.
Health benefits that owning a dog bring span right across society too.
People over the age of 65 that own pets make 30% fewer visits to their doctors than their animal free counterparts, and children that grow up with dogs have a lower risk of developing asthma and allergies, as well as learning empathy and responsibility.
So next time you’re feeling down, give your best mate a good cuddle. It’s proven to help!