I’ve thought long and hard about writing this post because I don’t want to persuade people to get a dog. It is a massive commitment for the length of that dog’s life. I also don’t condone buying dogs with so many being put to sleep every day simply because nobody wanted them. But my rescue dogs have changed my life for the better, not least because of the health benefits of owning a dog.
Physical health benefits of owning a dog
The NHS suggest that walking 10,000 steps a day is a great way to kickstart a more active lifestyle. But according to their research, the average adult walks only 3,000 to 4,000 steps a day. Because it’s so easy to fall into an unhealthy pattern of inactivity. And yet for dog owners, achieving 10,000 steps a day is a doddle.
Dogs need to go for walks. It’s not just physically beneficial to them, it’s all they’ve got. It’s what they live for. The hours they spend dozing on their bed or playing with you at home are just a way of passing the time. Waiting for the moment they get out for a walk. And when they’re strolling through the countryside, walking down the street or running after a ball, that’s when they’re happy.
And dog owners know how happy dogs are about walkies. Dragging yourself off the sofa to walk the dog can be a massive chore. But even a short walk will clock up a good few of your 10,000 steps. And you’ll be making someone’s day whatever the weather, whatever your mood and however you feel.
What’s more, dog ownership has been linked to lower blood pressure and cholesterol so you’re less likely to have a heart attack. And if you do have one, you should recover quicker. Children who own pets are less likely to be allergic to them. And they’re more likely to be active and spend time outside.
Mental health benefits of owning a dog
Physical activity reduces stress according to various studies. So by virtue of the fact you get out walking with the dog, you’re lowering your stress levels. Additionally, just spending time with a pet lowers the levels of stress chemicals in the brain. They also ease tension between couples and help people to perform better at stressful tasks.
Another thing that makes us feel better is being around people. So for anyone who is isolated, dog ownership can be a bit of a lifeline. It doesn’t instantly provide the emotional support of a good friend, but it can lead you to meet like minded people. Whether that’s when you’re out for a stroll, taking part in a training class or just going to a dog friendly café, it’s a great way to improve your social life.
Which brings us back round to the main benefit of owning a dog. They make us happy. They’re always there, delighted to see us and acting as if we’re the only thing in the whole world that matters. Dogs can’t make life easier, make you a cup of tea or offer words of advice. But the all-consuming greeting of a doggy grin and a tail wagging so hard that their whole body wiggles about is enough to make any dog owner smile.