The relationship between pet and owner is so much more than “You scratch my back, I’ll scratch yours.”
I can’t speak for all pet owners, but I can attest for me, my wife and my close friends: nothing compares to coming home to the excitement of a loyal, four-legged companion. The waggy butt and excited barking -or passionate purring- can make you want to simply squeal with delight, too. With no effort at all, and just being themselves, pets bring an immeasurable amount of joy to most pet owners. No wonder nearly 70% of American households own pets. The unconditional love of our furry friends warms our hearts and the affection we share with them enriches our lives. But research is now suggesting that owning pets provides many benefits to our mental and physical health, as well. Here is a quick look at some of the most widely studied and agreed upon benefits of having pets.
They Help You Stay Fit
All breeds of dog require daily exercise. This provides owners with the benefit of walking their dogs. Certainly, walking has many proven benefits on human health and physiology. Additionally, more active dogs may enjoy running, swimming, fetching, and playing tug of war. Engaging in these rigorous activities can even give dog owners an aerobic workout.
The World Health Organization recommends that everybody should get at least 30 minutes of exercise per day. At minimum, that’s essentially two short walks (i.e., potty breaks) with a dog. So, at least for dog owners, a pet helps keep you on track with suggested physical guidelines. For all of us working at home these days, a couple sniffy walks per day is a great way to break up the monotony. They force you to get up out of your chair and step away from the desk. Not only does this help you avoid the dangers of sitting all day, but it can give you a chance to clear your head and possibly be even more creative and productive. I know these walk breaks help me, so I look forward to them daily.
They Help You Spend Time Outdoors
As stated, dogs need their exercise; and the typical activity of dog walking is done outside. Spending time in nature also has many proven benefits to humans. Not only does it reduce stress, but also increases creativity and happiness. So any outdoor activity is fantastic for both the pet and the owner. I don’t know if the fresh air or the change of scenery, but even short walks around the neighborhood help get my creative juices flowing so I can clear writer’s block or solve the next problem.
They Improve Your Heart Health
The two benefits above actually have a cascading effect. The increased amount of activity helps decrease blood pressure, cholesterol levels, and triglyceride levels. A healthier heart leads to a healthier you. In turn, this tends to lead to fewer doctor visits and an overall longer life.
Their Companionship Lowers Your Stress Levels
Interacting with animals has been shown to decrease levels of cortisol, a stress-related hormone. So not only do pets provide you with a constant friend and confidante, ready to hear all your troubles, but they are proven to prevent the withering dangers of stress. Once again this leads us to improved health and longevity. Finally, a benefit for all my couch-lovers! Although we shouldn’t ever laze around for too long, it’s great to know that there truly is something healthy happening when you simply snuggle up with your cuddle buddy.
Additionally, any pet owner knows that pets simply make you laugh. Sure they require some work. However, their funny quirks, messy eating, and random bouts of playful energy force the most authentic smiles and haha’s from you. There’s a reason that there are literally billions of hilarious pet videos circulating social media and on the internet. Seeing as laughing and smiling also help reduce stress – among other benefits – pets really do an amazing job of helping us relax.
They Can Help You Make Friends
The time spent at the local dog park or puppy training classes lends itself to more opportunities to interact with people. And further, you already have something in common: you love your pets! As we know, humans are social creatures. Therefore, the increased interaction and bonding with like-minded people can create a network of friends with whom to socialize. When I got my first dog, attending some training classes gave me the chance to meet, and ask questions of, experienced dog owners. This made it much easier for me to know where to locate good dog parks, and which to avoid. They also gave me anecdotes about which treats were healthiest and tastiest for my new my pup. I’m sure my little pal appreciated it; I know I did!
They Can Teach Children Responsibility
If you have kids, having a pet can help teach them responsibility. (Heck, this may even apply to some adults.) Children will learn what it means to have another creature depend on them for food, physical activity, grooming, and other chores. In fact, one study showed that giving diabetic children the responsibility of feeding pet fish helped them to stay on track with their own scheduled blood-sugar testing and injections. In many ways, caring for an animal also teaches the child about gratitude, since they know they pet is grateful for the care.
They Can Provide Safety
Besides all the health and life benefits listed above, pets can also provide extra security. Dogs have been used for ages to help guard property and livestock. And we have all heard many stories of dogs (and even cats) coming to the rescue of owners in distress. The one caution is: you need to try to make sure your pet is not overly protective. It is great to know your animal loves you, but aggressive behavior can land you and your pet in trouble if not kept in check. So use a leash, and muzzle as necessary, along with effective training to your advantage, so you can continue to reap the benefits listed above.
Bringing It Home
Owning pets certainly takes time and attention, and does carry a cost. And simply having one in the house does not guarantee an immediate improvement in your health, especially if you face chronic illness or allergy to animals. However, for most people, living with a four-legged friend provides companionship, a workout buddy, a lap warmer, and more. Certainly, for all the treats they deserve and are given, they give many more in return.
If you are looking for a new furry friend, I highly suggest you adopt. There are many shelters and organizations that need your support and are happy to help you find the perfect pet. Both of my dogs have been adoptees, and it’s easy to tell how much they appreciate having a warm, loving home to call their own. And from my side, it wouldn’t be a home without them.
What’s your favorite part about owning a pet? How do they bring you joy? Tell us in comments below, or send us an email at firstname.lastname@example.org. Be sure to include pics, so we can include in a future post!