By Breanna Callahan, Southwest Health Marketing Coordinator
Pup. Pooch. Four-legged friend. Whatever you call them, dogs are great companions and great for your health. Once you get past the puppy phase, the crying (or more like ear-piercing howling) through the night while they are stuck in their kennel and the peeing on the floor, dogs can make you happier and healthier. Whether you are just starting to entertain the idea of getting a pet or have already made the leap and need a few reminders on the benefits, the ideas below are for you.
Dogs love playing and going for walks. Because of this, their humans are engaged and active as well. Whether it’s a leisurely stroll around the block (stopping every 10 feet to sniff a tree or fire hydrant) or an invigorating run, your dog is sure to enjoy this time getting active with you. Plus, since you are caring for another being, you feel a sense of obligation and are less likely to blow off their need for activity. Walking with your dog is a lot more fun than walking by yourself!
Stress reduction. Who doesn’t need some of that? Having a dog has been shown to reduce blood pressure and anxiety. Caring for them increases the levels of serotonin and dopamine in your body; both of those chemicals help you to be happy and calm. Every dog is different, some are more playful and silly, and some are cuddlier. Getting to play or cuddle with them helps us to feel happy.
Companionship. I constantly talk to Rocky (my dog). I am doing dishes, and he is lying at my feet. I carry on a full blown conversation with him! I get home and ask him how his day was as he looks at me with the fur on his face all smooshed up because he just woke up from a nap. Don’t get me wrong, I enjoy talking to friends and family, too, but talking with Rocky is different. He is a great listener, and he doesn’t judge or interrupt. When my husband or I are working on our laptops, he sits on the floor and whines until we place him on our lap. He assumes his comfy position with his head resting on the edge of the laptop.
According to the National Institutes of Health, children exposed to pet allergens have a lower risk of developing asthma. Having a dog may also lower the risk of children developing allergies and eczema. Even more amazing, is that Medical News Today reported that the children of mothers who were exposed to dogs while pregnant were less likely to develop eczema. If you have dealt with eczema, you know that this is a great benefit, not having to deal with the itchy, burning, and scratching that comes with having eczema.
Kids also learn social skills by having a dog. They learn how to care for other beings. It helps them learn responsibility and selflessness. Our daughter takes great pride in putting on Rocky’s leash so he can go outside. It is her daily chore to feed him supper. If she doesn’t feed him promptly at 5:30, he lays by his bowl and waits. She notices the way he is looking at us forlornly, and that reminds her that he is depending on her. She has also learned empathy. If Rocky whines because the rest of us are on the couch and he wants up, she notices and figures out what he is feeling and why.
Though these are just a few of the good things about having a pet, I could go on and on about the ways Rocky has enriched our lives. His affection, cuddles, and playfulness. There are ways that I can’t describe with words; I just feel the happiness in my heart when he is around. That happiness is an immeasurable benefit.