by: Sharon Elber
Sometimes dog ownership comes with its own stressors – fitting the vet appointment into an already busy schedule, time invested in training, cleaning up accidents, and letting go of our beloved friends, always before we are ready.
However, despite the additional responsibilities that come with having a dog in our lives, it seems that they still offer health benefits that are cumulative and significant.
A new study published in the peer-reviewed journal Circulation has confirmed previous reports that dogs may improve cardiovascular health by lowering stress levels, heart rates, and blood pressure while encouraging us to stay more active and socially engaged.
Researchers analyzed ten previous research studies, accumulating data from nearly four million participants, and found that dog ownership correlated to a whopping 24% reduction in mortality from any cause, and those who have cardiovascular health problems showing the most drastic reductions in mortality – 31%!
To make the most of the health benefits of dog ownership, it is important to realize that certain activities in general may help you to make the most of your relationship. Here are a few ways to take advantage of your canine companion’s zest for life, unconditional love, and desire to engage in the simple pleasures.
Dogs benefit from exercise just as much as people. If you need a little extra motivation to go on a long walk, take a hike, go swimming, or enjoy the outdoors, then look no further than Fido who is always up for the adventure!
Most of us lead hectic lives and dogs offer us a chance to reconnect with the emotions of joy, excitement, and happiness unfettered by the worries of modern life. Using positive training methods, teach your dog games such as fetch, tug, hide-and-seek, or consider joining an organized dog sport such as flyball or agility.
When we connect with our furry friends doing something they love, their positive emotions are contagious. It is one of the best ways to remind yourself that everything you need to feel joy is right in front of you.
If your dog is ready for some lap time, take a moment to get present with the calming energy of simply petting your dog. Pay attention to the soft feel of her fur, her slow and deep breathing, and the slowed frequency of her energetic field. Research has shown that petting a dog lowers blood pressure even more than sitting back to enjoy a good book.
In addition, bonding with dogs may increase the release of oxytocin, according to some research. This “feel good” hormone is not only associated with positive emotions, it may also support and boost the immune system. If you're looking to thank your pet for all of the ways they benefit your life, check out our line of therapeutic dog massagers to help give them a little TLC.
If you have ever taken your dog to the ever-increasing numbers of dog-friendly venues, then you already know that they offer a great conversation starter to meet new people. In fact, their role as a social catalyst for human interaction has actually been documented. In fact, the social benefits of dog ownership have been noted by researchers as well, with some arguing that promoting dog-friendly communities for the elderly may offer important health benefits for seniors.
Another way to tap into the social benefits of dog ownership is to join organizations where you are likely to meet other dog lovers. For example, fostering as part of a breed rescue organization, volunteering with a local rescue group at local fundraising or adoption events, or even joining organized dog sports offer opportunities to build a social network around an issue you are passionate about – Your dog!
Sharon Elber is a professional writer and received her M.S. in Science and Technology Studies from Virginia Tech and has worked as a professional dog trainer for over 10 years.