According to a recent survey by the American Pet Products Association, as of 2016 nearly 44% of U.S. households own a dog, meaning that millions of people out there are already familiar with the multiple benefits of dog ownership (ASPCA). Besides making for excellent and loyal companions, dogs have been found to play a key role in improving their owners’ social lives, physical health and psychological wellbeing by encouraging them to get more exercise, prompting their bodies to release stress-reducing hormones and making it easier for them to socialize with other dog owners.
As people age, it becomes increasingly hard for them to meet new people who share their interests (Sturt). Interestingly, numerous studies have revealed that dog owners tend to be more extroverted and sociable than people who do not own a dog. Being dogs excellent conversation starters, dog owners can easily make new friends by simply taking their dogs out for a walk, going to the nearest dog park or running errands with their dogs. As Dr. Sandra McCune pointed out, animals have the power to connect people from all kinds of cultural, racial, ethnic and socio-economic backgrounds, which explains why dog-friendly neighborhoods are usually perceived as being safer and more socially vibrant.
More physical exercise means less health problems in the long term. Since dogs need to be taken out on a daily basis, owning a dog can have a tremendously positive impact on people’s physical health. According to health experts, all one has to do to prevent a wide range of chronic diseases (including heart disease and high blood pressure) is engage in moderate exercise for at least twenty minutes a day. Considering that most dog owners walk and play with their pets for at least ten minutes every day, it is no wonder that people who own dogs are less likely to suffer from cardiovascular disease than people who have no pets (Scoular). As for those who are too lazy to go to the gym or simply find it difficult to stick to a demanding exercise plan, a dog can provide them with the motivation they need to put on their joggers and go out for a walk. The best part of all this is that since dog owners know that their four-legged companions need daily walks for both mental and physical stimulation, they don’t even see walking as a form of exercise. In fact, a 2010 study revealed that dog owners see walking and playing with their pets as a responsibility rather than an avoidable activity. The same study also demonstrated that people who walk their dogs five times a week can lose more than 14 pounds a year, meaning that dog ownership could potentially play a crucial role in fighting and preventing obesity (Sturt).
Available data clearly suggests that dog ownership plays an essential role in preventing depression, promoting happiness and reducing stress (Zorthian). This is because playing with a dog for a few minutes is enough to prompt the body to release dopamine and serotonin, two very important neurotransmitters that make people feel calm and euphoric. By filling people’s lives with joy and vitality, dogs also relieve symptoms of depression and anxiety.
Dogs are wonderful companions who bring multiple benefits to those around them. By forcing their owners to get regular moderate exercise, they make it easier for them to stay active and fit without having to join the local gym. Furthermore, dog owners can easily make new friends by simply walking their dogs and sharing stories about their pets with other dog owners. Last but not least, spending time with dogs helps the body release certain hormones which play a crucial role in reducing stress and preventing depression.
- ASPCA. Pet Statistics. 2017, https://www.aspca.org/animal-homelessness/shelter-intake-and-surrender/pet-statistics
- Scoular, Aileen. “Seven brilliant benefits of owning a dog.” The Telegraph, 2017, http://www.telegraph.co.uk/pets/essentials/seven-brilliant-benefits-of-owning-a-dog/
- Sturt, Kristen. “The 10 Health Benefits of Dogs (And One Health Risk).” The Huffington Post, 2017, https://www.huffingtonpost.com/entry/the-10-health-benefits-of-dogs-and-one-health-risk_us_57dad1b8e4b04a1497b2f5a0
- Zorthian, Julia. “More Evidence That Owning a Dog Is Really Good for You.” Time, 2017, http://time.com/4870796/dog-owners-benefits/