Heart-Healthy Hounds: 5 Ways Dogs are Good for Your Health

Dogs are good for your health

There is evidence of the human domestication of dogs spanning 15,000+ years. In fact, human and dog evolution occurred in tandem with each other. The fact is, the saying is spot on: dogs are man’s best friend—and it’s been that way for quite a while. We all just love when our dogs roll over or cuddle up next to us, but you may be surprised to learn that dogs are good for your health.

If you’re a dog daycare or pet business owner, you’re well aware of the benefits (and headaches!) dogs provide. We invite you to share these benefits with your clients or customers to give them a little dog know-how. If you’re an apartment manager with a community dog park, it’s important for you to know all of the benefits dogs bring to people, thus making residents happier and healthier. Here are just a few of the ways dogs are good for your health.

Dogs Reduce Stress and Anxiety

Research has shown that simply petting a dog lowers the stress hormone cortisol. Additionally, petting a dog and looking into its eyes also increases oxytocin, which improves mood. While some dogs have their ways of increasing stress from time to time (those little troublemakers), the fact of the matter is that they have a calming effect on us at a physiological level.

Neurochemical benefits aside, it can be beneficial for those suffering from stress and anxiety to have a diversion from their inner thoughts. Looking after a dog can help someone get out of their own head, go outside for a walk, or simply give their dog a pet, distracting them from negative thoughts and stressors.

Dogs Promote Heart Health

Dogs are good for your health in more physical ways as well. Did you know that decreased cortisol and increased oxytocin levels described above help to lower blood pressure? There are more obvious ways that dogs make people healthier, such as encouraging (and begging for) walks, thereby lowering cholesterol and improving physical fitness. When you’re accountable for another life, you’re more likely to get out of the house and get active. In fact, dogs are even recommended by the American Heart Association to aid in a healthy lifestyle.

The numbers don’t lie. Dog parents are 34% more likely than non-dog owners to fit in 150 minutes of walking per week as recommended by the American Heart Association. If that doesn’t surprise you, dog owners are 31% less likely to die from a heart attack or stroke than non-dog owners. So, if you’re on the fence about adopting that excitable terrier you saw at the shelter, do your heart a favor and go for it!

Dogs Help Avoid Social Isolation

Dogs are a great way to meet new people. Whether you head to a dog park with your canine friend or simply sit outside of a café with them, people are more likely to approach and engage in conversation with someone if they have a cute pooch in tow. A dog can be a disarming presence and they can provide an easy and relatable conversation topic among strangers. In many neighborhoods, dogs are the stars of the show! When I take Bear for a walk, everyone says hi to him. Oftentimes, people recognize neighbors first by their dogs. Dogs can help connect communities and open dialogue among neighbors—even if it seems like Bear gets all the attention.

Avoiding social isolation isn’t just a way to make you feel less lonely; it has real, tangible health benefits in the short and long term. Older adults in particular are at an increased risk of social isolation—and older dogs need love too! Dogs can be that first step in getting out of the house and making new friends—and if you don’t happen to meet anyone new, you always have the company of a good dog!

Dogs Make Ideal Service Animals

Even in daily life, dogs are good for your health. Service animals—or animals ‘with jobs’—are a big help for those with disabilities or difficulties navigating everyday life. Service dogs can be trained to help guide the blind, detect allergens, retrieve objects for wheelchair-bound people, help ease those with PTSD through panic events, predict and help someone through epileptic seizures, help those struggling with mental health to navigate through social situations, and much more. Dogs can be enthusiastic and diligent workers and the experience is often mutually rewarding for dog and owner.

Dogs Make Us Happy

At the end of the day, one of the most important benefits of owning or taking care of a dog is also the most intangible; they simply make us happy. Whether we attribute that happiness to our increased physical activity, our improved social lives, morning cuddles with our pup, or simply that we are hard-wired to think pups are cute and lovable, what matters is the effect that dogs have on us.

Happiness, in turn, benefits heart health and encourages positive life choices, but what does health mean without happiness? Dogs are deeply embedded in human culture, and to many people the companionship of a dog feels as natural as the love between siblings or between a parent and child. We just fit together. Human and dog cohabitation has many benefits, but the decision to adopt or take care of dogs is often an emotional one—and no animal connects with us on an emotional level quite like dogs.

Our 15,000+ years together have linked dogs and humans in fundamental ways, and the respect is mutual as far as we can tell. (Our intern, Bear, has been tight-lipped on the matter but we’ve been advised that more treats might elicit a clearer response.) Despite all the carpet messes, jumping up on guests, or tearing up toilet paper rolls (looking at you, Bear), the truth of the matter is, dogs are good for your health.

It’s clear that dogs are good for your health, so it’s only natural that we do what we can to keep them healthy. If dogs are to remain happy and healthy, they need plenty of stimulation. Scent is a dog’s primary sense, and when they are allowed to sniff the earth they gain a clearer picture of the world and they are healthily occupied. A real yard provides hours of sniffing time for dogs, whereas other surfaces like concrete and gravel provide less interesting and varied scents.

With Natura turf, you can have the benefits of an artificial turf yard with the natural positives of a real grass yard. Unlike conventional artificial turf, grass grows through Natura, and liquids and sunshine pass right through so dogs can smell the ground unimpeded. Best of all, the turf places a barrier between paws and mud so your home or pet business will stay clean. With Natura, you can take advantage of all the health and emotional benefits dogs provide, without the mess and worry of contamination.

A natural grass yard is the perfect environment to keep your dog happy and healthy so they can keep you happy and healthy in turn. If you want to learn more about the many benefits natural grass provides dogs, check out our recent blog on the matter.

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