The Health Benefits of Having a Dog: Why Everyone Should Consider Dog Ownership



The Dogs in My Life


Some of you may know, I adore my dogs. My family exclusively has standard poodles which, if you don’t know, are the original size of poodle that range in size from about 45 to 70 lbs. They are super smart (the second smartest breed of dog, following only the border collie) and super athletic (bred to hunt and retrieve waterfowl). Anyways, all of that is beyond the point! My parents and brother are travelling all the time for my brother’s soccer tournaments and games, so I come back home for those weekends to dogsit. I used to have 3 standard poodles, but our eldest, Bacio (the light brown one), passed away about a year and a half ago at the age of 15. The two that are left are retired breeding dogs that we adopted together—they are mother and daughter. The mom, Cortona (the dark brown one), is about 7 years old. Her personality is very regal, sweet, and curious. Siena (the cream one), her daughter, is about 4 or 5. She is way more energetic, desperate for attention, and yet extremely shy. We adopted them as retired breeding dogs, but we do not think they were treated very well by the man in the house. It took months for them to approach my brother and my dad which was so sad to see. After almost two years of constant love and attention, they spend a lot of time in my brother’s room with him willingly, and they will go up to my dad and lick his hands without being called.

The Health Benefits of Having a Dog



Now, back to the point of this post: The health benefits of having a dog in your life. For this section, I think we should go through the wellness wheel.

Emotional


Dogs are proven to lower your blood pressure and reduce stress. Right when one begins petting and loving on a dog, happy chemicals are released in the brain. This is why dogs are so effective as service animals. People with dogs tend to be much more emotionally stable and grounded. I know that whenever I experienced stress in high school—whether that be social or educational or just hormonal stress—my dog, Bacio, would come and give me a lot of attention. Dogs are proven to sense what we are feeling, so, when we are stressed, they usually react to that. He would always ask me to play ball with him, take him on a walk, or just sit with me. Any of these actions would instantly calm me down. Additionally, when I am studying non-stop, they remind me to take them for walks and take cuddle breaks. This is great for reducing my stress when studying.

Intellectual


Intellectual—When you have a dog, you are constantly learning new things. Every day with a dog is a new adventure that you conquer together. Recently we adopted my current dogs, Cortona and Siena. They came into our lives with extreme social anxiety. This was a struggle for my family who thought we knew everything there is to know about dog ownership because we raised Bacio for 15 years. The truth is: each dog is different. I learned a lot about myself and the world through Bacio, and I have learned a ton more from Cortona and Siena. It is a great way to because proficient in another craft: dog care. It is important to always be learning something new; perhaps life with a dog is your next great adventure?

Physical


Physical—Studies show that dog owners are generally more active than those without dogs. My dogs take me out everyday. I make a point to take them on as many new adventures as possible which has been great for their anxiety! Some days we go swimming at the lake, to the dog park, on a hike, or on a walk around town. All of these activities are great for me as well as for them. I notice that when I am responsible for their care, I take better care of myself as well. 

Social


Social—Having a dog can be a really social activity! You have to make relationships with groomers and vets and dog walkers/sitters. Not to mention you can meet some very interesting people at the dog park. For example, one of my closest high school friends met her husband at the dog park after their dogs hit it off! Not saying that’s a common occurrence…but it happened! Finally, I love going on dog walking dates with my friends that also have dogs. It is a great way to just talk and catch up with someone, and your dog gets a new friend out of it too :). At the very least, you have a built in best friend who adores you no matter what you look like, what your hobbies are, what you eat, what you do—it doesn’t matter! As long as you show them love, they are your biggest fan, and that is really special. 

Environmental


Environmental—I strongly believe that a house without a dog is hardly a home. One of the best things in the world to come home to is a dog who is just filled with excitement that you have returned. You are the apple of their eye, and they want to spend every waking moment with you. That kind of love is great to fill your house with! 

Financial


Financial—I am not going to lie to you and say that dogs are not expensive, but you can definitely make an educated decision based on your monthly budget as to what kind of dog to get. Maybe getting a smaller dog that requires less food is the way to go. Maybe getting a short haired dog that is easy to groom at home is the way to go. There exist lots of ways to make having a dog financially feasible. I know a few people that say they waste less money on things they do not need because they know they have to care for their dog, so maybe that is a financial benefit depending on your spending habits. 

Spiritual


Spiritual—Depending on your religious beliefs, this area of the wellness wheel may or may not interest you, but, for me, having a dog is one of the best parallels of God’s love that we can find on Earth. They unconditionally love us. They never judge us or condemn us. They are constantly there for us if we will let them be. They want to go with us everywhere we go. They want to be closer with us every day. God gave us dogs as a companion, so I am definitely going to take advantage  :).  

All of these things specifically are results I have noticed personally while spending time with my dogs. Obviously in some cases, having a dog can be a detriment to your health. Maybe  they just stress you out, you do not have enough time to properly train and exercise them, you do not have enough money to pay for surprise vet bills, or you just do not like dogs. If you have been thinking about it and researching for a while, oscillating toward maybe adopting a dog, I encourage you to take the plunge. Maybe start by babysitting a friends dog, and then have a few meet and greets at your local shelter with a few dogs. People who have a dog often live longer, live happier, and live healthier!

 Ways to Integrate a Dog into Your Everyday Life

There exist many ways to integrate your dog into your everyday life too! Below I will share some of those tips on how to be a really active dog owner, or really fun dog-sitter.

·        Take your dog on an adventure every day. Like I said earlier, I like to go swimming, snowshoeing, hiking, to the dog park, or just walking around town every day. Dogs need a lot of exercise and mental stimulation, so really give them that time outside, exploring the world.

·        I think it is so important when you get a dog to really integrate them into your everyday life. That means, when you go out to dinner, try and go to a place with a patio that allows dogs. Maybe you are a runner who needs a canine training partner! We like to take our dogs to my brother’s soccer games to chill with us as we watch. If I am going shopping across town or something, if it is not too hot outside, I like to find a dog park or fun place to walk in the area. That way I can take them and wear them out, so they just sleep in the car while I run my errands. They like it much better than being left at home in their kennel. (If it is too hot to leave them in the car when you shop, please just leave them at home; better safe than sorry)

·        Try and go on family trips that they can go on too. Lots of Airbnb’s allow dogs. Camping and backpacking is a great dog trip. When we go on vacation and stay with family, we always bring our dogs too. Finally, my sister went and snowshoed out to a yurt with her friends this last winter, and her friend took his dog. It was a great time. They love adventure, so really make an effort to make those memories with them during the time you have together.

·        Find lots of chew toys and puzzle toys for them! They need the mental stimulation so that they do not get bored and wreak havoc :). There are lots of fun toy subscription boxes, the clearance section at Petco is very fun, and there are lots of DIY dog toys to be tried online.

·        Take lots of pictures of them! We only get them for a short while! Keep those memories because they are precious!

If You are Thinking of Adopting a Dog

Having a dog is not always practical, but, if you are confident that you can give a dog a good quality of life for the ENTIRETY of its life, definitely consider adopting a dog from the shelter or finding a reputable breeder who could match you with a puppy or retired adult dog. I would never suggest buying a dog from a pet store unless they are coming from a local shelter. Many puppies in pet stores are from puppy mills which are pretty much just puppy breeding factories where the health of the mother is completely disregarded, resulting in many terminally ill puppies. You can read more about them here if you are interested. I always suggest going to the shelter and being matched with a dog in need; there are so many dogs in shelters looking for a good home! If you are looking for a specific breed or type in particular and cannot find it in your local shelter, or if you just couldn’t find your perfect match in the shelter, here are instructions for finding a humane, reputable breeder that will give you a great, healthy dog with a good temperament. 



Comment below and tell me about the dogs in your life :)

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