Most of us pet parents appreciate the benefits of having a dog in the general sense. After all, even the humans who love us most rarely run to greet us at the door when we come home (and maybe even pee a little because of all the excitement) the way our dogs do.
But let's Olivia Newton-John this one and get physical. According to researchers at Purdue University College of Veterinary Medicine, having a dog can literally improve your overall physical health in some very specific ways. Drumroll please, here are 10:
- Dogs facilitate social interaction like nothing else. Whether at the dog park or even walking down the street, dogs are a people-magnet. And there's an immediate topic of conversation--the dog! Easy peasy.
- Dogs keep us on a schedule, orienting the day in a predictable routine that's good for humans. If getting up and out of bed is an emotional challenge, a dog who needs to 1 and 2 outside provides excellent motivation to move.
- Dogs give us something to nurture, which provides psychological and physical relaxation. A soft, repetitive pet is just as good for you as it is for the dog.
- Dogs require our focused attention. "Living in the moment" can be difficult in our busy culture, but dogs are a shortcut through all the bull. Not only does attending to their needs require our attention, but our dogs know us and interact with us at a very focused level, reading our moods and exchanging attention in the now (not over text message returned three hours later).
- Dogs provide humor. From silly to playful to outright absurd, our dogs do things that make us laugh. And laughter is some legitimately good medicine!
- Dogs are tactile. Not only will they welcome our cold toes under their warm bodies, but this interaction gives our entire physiology a boost of feel-good hormones like serotonin.
- Dogs encourage exercise. It might be easy to shrug off an afternoon walk without a dog, but it's almost impossible with one. Getting up and getting out for regular exercise is just as good for you!
- Dogs lower blood pressure. Therapy dogs frequently provide immediate drops in blood pressure for patients dealing with anxiety and panic disorders, and a growing body of research suggests that dogs may lower blood pressure overall in pet parents.
- Dogs offer unconditional love and acceptance. Knowing we are loved and appreciated no matter what provides us humans with a secure psychological attachment, which translates into things like better mood and even better sleep.
- Dogs provide a sense of purpose. Whether we are facing a major life transition or just an unstructured weekend, our dogs provide a consistent sense of purpose to our everyday life. We may not know all of what tomorrow brings, but we know that we will be caring for our dog (and getting some snuggles).
There you have it. Dogs for life!