15 Health Benefits to Dog Ownership 

This month, we unleash the "pawsitives" to puppy parenthood

With the dog days of summer upon us, and in honor of National Dog Day on August 26, it’s only fitting that we celebrate by highlighting the most paws-itive health benefits associated with our loyal companions. 

Some you might have heard before, but some of these might surprise even the most dogged of trivia buffs, and you may be surprised by what we’ve been digging up. So, read on…and then give your pup a little extra love today, because they are a huge part of why you feel invincible, like you can live...fur-ever. 

1. Sleep Like a Dog

Dogs sleep for an average of 12 hours a day and spend another 30% of their day lazing around (hopefully gazing peacefully out of their owner’s new Renewal by Andersen® windows*). 

This amounts to a whopping 80% of chill time. But did you know that these sleep-savvy animals can also help us doze off? Just by having your pet in the same room as you snooze, you can increase your sense of comfort and security, lower stress, and prevent nightmares. On top of that, dogs can even help prevent sleepwalkers from injuring themselves.

2. Constant Companionship

Becoming a dog parent means having the presence of a loyal companion every second of the day. Whether you’re an introvert or extrovert, chances are that you’ve experienced loneliness at some point, and dogs are one of the best ways to remedy that. By reducing loneliness, it can alleviate mental health problems such as stress, anxiety, and depression to make you happier in the long run.

3. Fur-nomenal Heart Health...

Dogs have a fur-nomenal effect on their owner’s health. Studies completed by the Harvard Medical School concluded that pet ownership reduces the risk of cardiovascular problems by lowering blood pressure, cholesterol, and triglyceride levels. It turns out dogs have a calming effect on their owners, subduing the effects of stress by returning the body’s heart rate and blood pressure to normal faster.

4. …And Mental Health, Too.

As we briefly mentioned above, our most loyal animal companions are great for reducing stress. Dogs have a wonderful calming presence and ability to distract their owners. On top of that, studies have shown that petting your favorite furry friend reduces cortisol (the stress hormone), meaning simply interacting with them may help you calm down when you’re under emotional duress. 

5. Serve, Protect, and Heal

That calming effect is just one of several reasons that more and more dogs are being trained for service work for individuals who have Post-Traumatic Stress Syndrome (PTSD). An anxiety disorder stemming from witnessing or experiencing trauma, PTSD causes intense, disturbing thoughts and feelings related to the individual’s experience. Persons with PTSD may have vivid nightmares and flashbacks, and have extreme sadness, anger, fear, or depression. They may avoid situations or people that remind them of the traumatic event, or experience disproportionately strong negative reactions to ordinary actions such as loud noises or an accidental touch. 

Dogs are excellent service animals for individuals with PTSD, as they help lower stress, re-instill a sense of trust, require structure, and love unconditionally. Service dogs for PTSD are trained to perform interruption tasks (helping to stop or circumvent behaviors like panic attacks, flashbacks, self-harm, freezing, or disassociation); movement and guide tasks (e.g. keeping crowds/other people at a distance, checking an area for hazards or triggers, or helping move the individual to a safe spot during a panic attack); as well as call tasks (being able to notify 911 or other support systems when their handler is in crisis).  Learn more about the capabilities of a PTSD service dog here.

6. Fetch a Better Physique

One of the best benefits of owning a dog is that they improve your physical health and appearance. Dogs are the best exercise companion by far. After all, they don’t take a single holiday, sick day, or vacation day off. If you are looking for the ultimate workout companion, your pooch will get you up and going every day without fail. As a result, both your physical and mental health will reap the rewards.

7. Look Well-Groomed

A lesser-known benefit of owning a dog is that you gain points on the attractiveness scale. If you (or someone else in your life) have ever been on the dating apps, chances are that you (or they) matched with someone purely because they have a cute pet and can’t possibly be a weirdo at some point in your life.

Whether it’s simply for the adorable animal or because of the associated caretaking skills, 63% of survey respondents said they are more inclined to "swipe" on a person with a dog on their profile. Furthermore, a New York Times article stated that people think dog owners are easier to approach, are happier, and have higher levels of empathy. 

8. Increase Your Yapping Skills

Walking your pup gives you a more approachable appearance and boosts social skills. Other than the fact that you have a cuter than cute animal on your arm, it gives people an easy in for making conversation. A recent study published in PLoS One (Public Library of Science), showed that 40.5% of dog owners got to know their neighbors due to their pet. Plus, dog owners are more likely to start talking and fetch a date (refer to section 7) via socialization at the dog park.

While it’s a work of fiction, 101 Dalmatians is a great example of this. In the film, Roger’s Dalmatian, Pongo, is crushing on Anita’s dog, Perdita, and forces his owner to take him outside, dragging him to the park. Eventually, Pongo’s plan to get the humans to fall in love is successful (we’re crediting this to the above theory). So, if you’re single and looking, get a dog. It may help.

9. Cultivate Innate Nurturing Skills

Owning (and loving) your dog brings out innate capabilities and mindsets that you may not have realized existed in you. It’s closer to parenting than some people may think and brings out similar nurturing skills. Don’t believe us? Baby talk? Check. Potty training? Check. Waking up at ungodly hours? Check. Keeping them from getting into things? Check. Bringing them outside for their own wellbeing? Check. Unable to do anything or go anywhere until you get a babysitter? Check. Feeling complete loyalty and adoration for your little one? Also check. (And usually, the reason we put up with all the previous checks…)

Furthermore, dogs and babies both elicit “infant schema,” the perception of cuteness encouraging a bond and bringing out a caretaking response. 

Owning a fur baby is hard work with even less praise. But there’s a large positive to parenting your pooch. It brings out the natural biological inclination to care for and raise someone, or something, other than yourself.

10. Get Your Brain Barking

In case we needed yet another reason to love dogs, they also improve cognitive function in their owners. A study by the American Academy of Neurology shows that owning a pet for five or more years may lead to better brain benefits and slower mental deterioration. There’s no single reason behind this, but we’re guessing it has something to do with a sense of purpose in combination with the physical health benefits of owning a dog. Either way, your brain benefits big-time.

11. Feel Paws-itively Slim

No barks about it, dogs are great at getting you in shape and help you keep at a healthy weight. Studies show that dog owners exercise more and walk three times as much as people without pets.  

The fact of the matter is that your fur baby isn’t going to walk themselves. If you’re human, chances are that there are days where you don’t want to leave the couch. But, surprise, surprise, your dog will still make you. There’s just something about those pleading, dopey eyes and the lopsided, spitty smile they give you that gets you going. That, and the whining or barking. Your loyal companion won’t take no for an answer. No matter the weather, you must get up and let them outside. And while some days are harder to do it than others…our body (and mind) will thank you.

12. Be an Unbiased Ear

Dogs are the least judgmental fur-iends a person can ever have in their life. Which makes them the perfect candidate for helping treat mental health difficulties like anxiety, depression, loneliness, PTSD, and so many others. Canines are great at sensing when you’re in physical or emotional pain, and some can even argue that they are empathetic (whimpering when you’re sad, playful when you’re happy, etc.). A trusted, loyal companion by your side can help offset loneliness and other mental health complications by creating an emotional bond. 

13. Unleash a Greater Purpose

Dogs show you how to care, and love, unconditionally. All their little individual quirks and personality traits—the way they walk, sneeze, bark, cuddle, give woo-woos, snore…everything… all can make you love them just as deeply as you do a human friend. They become your purpose. By having a purpose in life, you’ll feel more inclined to get up every day to care for this little being. While you may think all they offer is affection and cuteness, dogs bring so much more than that. For many people, they fill empty spaces, give them a sense of belonging, and become a huge part of why they live.

14. Feel Safer with a Companion at Your Feet

One of the biggest reasons people get a dog is to increase their sense of security. Having a trusted companion literally at your feet brings peace of mind. Known for their extreme senses, dogs—even the small ones—can make you feel safer. A study published in the journal Social Forces cited researchers found that neighborhoods with more dogs had lower rates of homicide, robbery, and (to a smaller degree) aggravated assaults compared to areas with fewer dogs, at least when residents also had "high levels of trust in each other." The researchers suggest this is due, in part, to more "eyes on the street", which can contribute to an even greater reduction in crime, beyond that which already occurs in high-trust neighborhoods.

It’s often easier for your mind to relax with such a calming presence at your side, dogs are great for emotional security as support animals, and having one in your home may help ease anxiety over break-ins. Not to mention that dogs have been known to sense illness and help in emergencies. Meaning he’s not just your pup…he can be a protector, as well. (Want to read some stories of canine heroes throughout history? Check out these inspiring tales of canine loyalty.)

15. Ruff Day? Find a Dog to Feel Happier

Last, but not least, dogs boost happiness by releasing more oxytocin (the love/happiness hormone) in the body. We can trigger this innate response just by looking at our pets, playing with them to increase endorphins, and spending time petting them. If you’re having a down day, getting to be with Fido might balance it out and shed some light in your life. 

The Moral of the Fairy Tail

If all of those aren’t pretty solid supporting evidence for the Case of Human’s Best Friend, or if you don’t already feel smarter, healthier, happier, fitter, and just all around better because you have a canine companion by your side… well, then what are you waiting for?  Get out and adopt your own mood-lifter/ride-or-die/workout buddy today! 


*Renewal by Andersen windows are not resistant to dog licking and paw prints...puppy kisses are inevitable. 

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