dog

Photo Credit: Caroline Chin

Should we get a dog? It’s a question that is raised in households around the world, and recently a popular topic in my home. I’ve been a firm ‘no’ on the matter, even though I would consider myself a ‘dog person’. That’s not to say there haven’t been several pro and con lists drafted, but at the end of the day, busy schedules and condo living rule against it.

While tossing the idea around and reading up on the benefits of being a dog owner, there was an overwhelming wealth of information on the positive impact a dog can have on your health, be it physical or mental. It seems that dogs can improve your health and help you maintain good health in various ways.

Dogs help increase your activity level
Dogs require daily walks, which inevitably means you walk every day. Not only do they encourage adults to be more active but children with dogs are often more active too by simply running around and playing with their pet.

Dogs protect you
Our canine companions are family members and many have an instinct to protect that family. Some dogs can even sense when something is medically wrong with their owner, whether they have been trained to do so or not. Studies have shown that dogs living with people with diabetes are often known to display changes in behavior when their owner’s blood glucose levels drop, sometimes even alerting owners of changes in the body before the owner is aware.2 Canines have even been linked to determining early signs of cancer in their owners.2

Dogs provide emotional support and healing
Dogs not only have the ability to detect and help prevent health issues, but can help rehabilitate individuals. They often provide emotional support for their owners and can help individuals deal with a multitude of ailments. Pet visitation programs in rehab centers and hospitals are more popular than ever before.4 One study evaluating the cardiovascular effects of human-pet dog interactions revealed that blood pressure levels were lowest in participants while petting dogs, labeling the influence as the “pet-effect”.5

Dogs help you socialize more
A dog can also help you meet new people. They serve as a conversation starter when you come across new people, whether it be in a park, walking down the street or in an elevator. Dog parks in urban areas are also another great place where owners come together, often at routine times, leading to a pet owner community within the neighborhood.

Overall, studies are showing that dog owners tend to be healthier than the average person2, and that trumps just about every con list created! We live in a world where dogs are beloved companions, but they can also be professional service dogs, warn us of dangers, detect substances that can trigger allergic reactions, alert us of medical situations, and rehabilitate the injured. And while seemingly more dogs than ever before are being utilized as service dogs, researchers are continuously finding other ways in which dogs are helping humans stay healthy1.

So while I won’t be greeted by a dog at home in the near future, it is most definitely a consideration for another time.

By Megan McCracken

  1. http://epilepsyontario.org/service-dogs/
  2. http://www.medicalnewstoday.com/articles/61316.php
  3. http://www.livescience.com/35463-seven-surprising-health-benefits-dog-ownership-110209.html
  4. http://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/10.1111/ap.12021/abstract
  5. http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/3236382