Written by Andrea Hanson under the direction and review of Tara Shafrath (former SDSU Extension Health & Physical Activity Field Specialist)
Dogs provide comfort and companionship to their human counterparts, but recent findings also suggest they have a positive impact on health at nearly all life stages. Similarly, the owner-canine bond can have beneficial effects on the health of your dog. Mental and physical health are just a few of the many benefits of owning a four-legged furry friend.
Just like humans, physical activity is an important component to a dog’s healthy lifestyle. Although the amount of physical activity each dog needs varies, the importance of getting a daily walk or run remains consistent. Even if dog owners do not want to go for a walk, the added motivation from your pet is extremely beneficial. In fact, being an adult dog owner greatly increases your likelihood of meeting physical activity guidelines and reaching daily physical activity goals, compared to individuals not owning dogs. Additionally, children who grow up with dogs have also seen added physical activity benefits. This increase in physical activity commonly found in dog owners, is strongly correlated to improved blood pressure, cholesterol, weight status and overall cardiovascular health.
Not only do dogs offer unparalleled companionship and an opportunity to increase physical activity, but they can also boost mental health. Research shows that just petting a dog can reduce an individual’s blood pressure and heart rate, while also having a positive effect on the animal. Being a dog owner also increases feelings of safety and opportunities for socialization, and decreases feelings of loneliness, isolation, and stress. Dogs can positively influence an individual, a family, or strangers in the park; but in a world where obesity and ill health has become a growing issue, finding new, innovative ways to be happy and healthy is essential.
While the emotional and physical rewards of owning a pet are great, there are many aspects of being a pet parent that should be considered before you choose to bring home a new furry, four-legged friend. To learn more about these considerations, access the iGrow article Costs Of Owning A Pet.
- Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Health Benefits of Pets
- Harvard Health Publications – Harvard Medical School. Get Healthy, Get a Dog
- National Institute of Health. Can Pets Keep You Heathy?