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Pet Therapy and The Healing Power of the Dog

A list of the health benefits of owning a dog.

A list of the health benefits of owning a dog.

Heart-Health Benefits of Owning a Dog

  • Dogs improve heart health by lowering the blood pressure of their owners.
  • They reduce cholesterol, decrease triglycerides levels, and reduce the risk of heart attacks of their owners.
  • It has been shown that dog owners who have heart attacks have better survival rates. This may be because dog owners are more physically active than non-dog owners.
  • Typically it is recommended that adults get about three hours of exercise a week. If you have a dog, you are more likely to meet the health goal because many people walk their dog or spend time with their dog outdoors.
  • A study was done that showed that people who walked dogs had lower body mass, fewer doctor visits, fewer living limitations, and got more exercise than people who did not.

Social Benefits

Dogs are social animals, and as such, they also get their owners to be more social. Research has indicated that 40% of people who walk their dogs make friends more easily. This is thought to be the case because in one British study, 4 out of 5 dog owners speak with other dog owners during their walk. Another theory is that people want to share stories about their pets and this causes social interaction with other pet owners.

Psychological Benefits

There are many psychological benefits of owning a dog.

  • Spending time with a dog can lower anxiety and blood pressure.
  • It also increases serotonin and dopamine (which are two neurochemicals that play a big role in feeling good and feeling calm).
  • Studies have shown that people perform stressful tasks better, there is less tension in the office, and even less tension and stress in a marriage if a dog is around.
  • Dogs also create a purpose for living, especially for people who are retired.
  • Dogs also aid as a companion preventing loneliness and isolation which in turn staves off cognitive decline and disease.
  • Dogs have been shown to help lessen depression and other diseases.

They force people to continue to do things. So, even if you're not feeling well emotionally or physically, the dog doesn't care. I mean, they care, but they still want you to feed them and take them for a walk.

— Kristi Luttrell, Adoption Management at Best Friends Animal Society

Dogs Helping With Illnesses

Dogs are very beneficial at aiding people with different medical conditions and illnesses.

  • It has been reported that some dogs have been able to sniff out a cancerous spot on their owner's body.
  • They have also been known to help those with rheumatoid arthritis because they get the person to move around a lot and get the person's mind off of their illness.
  • The way that they help kids with A.D.H.D. is by helping the kids exercise more and improving their mood.
  • Dogs are used as therapy animals in hospitals, nursing homes, etc., and have proven to be quite effective.
  • Traumatic brain injury is another medical condition with which dogs help.

Dogs Help Kids by Being Protectors

Dogs can also act as a security system and even help in aiding children's health. Research has shown that burglars are less likely to target a house with a barking dog. A dog's sense of hearing can detect prowling giving you a better sense of security and lessening anxiety.

Other than making a home more secure, the dog helps kids because if a kid owns a dog or a cat they are 33% less likely to become allergic to them. There is also research indicating that the dog betters their immune system. Also, dogs help shape a person's character. They teach patience, commitment, sharing, and responsibility.

Service Dogs and Adopting Dogs

Dogs throughout history have been trained as guard dogs. They serve as guide dogs for the blind. However, they also help veterans with P.T.S.D., traumatic brain injury, and other ailments. Dogs can be trained to help people in other ways listed in the prior paragraphs. They are used as police dogs, can sniff out bombs, and are often trained to help people in other situations as well.

If you are not looking for a dog for a specific purpose like a service dog, it is better to get a dog from the local animal shelter because the majority of the time they are already housebroken. Often, they are already vaccinated, microchipped, and spaying or neutering is often covered by the adoption fee.

It is cheaper to get one of these dogs than it is to buy one from a breeder or pet store. Also, there are six to eight million dogs in animal shelters. So, if you buy one from there, you are not supporting back yard breeders or puppy mills that treat the animals terribly and contribute to the problem of overpopulation. A World War II veteran once said, " A dog's tongue brings healing."

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This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and is not meant to substitute for formal and individualized advice from a qualified professional.

© 2017 Ezria Copper


Cecil Kenmill from Osaka, Japan on September 05, 2018:

I wasn't a pet person growing up but a couple years ago we got a Maltese. He's really amazing. I can't imagine life without him.

Ezria Copper (author) on January 17, 2017:

Yeah. Dogs are great. They give unconditional love.

John Hansen from Australia (Gondwana Land) on January 16, 2017:

This is a great article. I can't imagine life without dogs. We currently have three and at no time growing up or in my adult life can I remember not having at least one dog. They certainly do all the things you mention.