Pet owners know that dogs provide us with unconditional love, comfort, and companionship, but a lot people are unaware of the therapeutic effects of having a dog. Research shows there are many physical and mental health benefits associated with the relationship between humans and dogs. By increasing exercise, lowering stress, and bringing joy to our lives, dogs contribute greatly to our overall emotional well-being.

Health Benefits

Having a canine companion improves heart health by lowering cholesterol, blood pressure, and triglyceride levels. Evidence shows that people who own dogs have better cardiovascular health and are less likely to suffer from heart attacks. Simply playing with or petting a dog can decrease production of the stress hormone cortisol and increase levels of the stress-reducing hormone oxytocin. Serotonin levels are also increased which influence our moods, so pet owners have less symptoms of depression. Having the responsibility of a dog encourages exercise and physical activity, promotes socialization, and prevents loneliness and isolation. Dogs give us a reason to get up in the morning….they give us purpose.

Helping the Community

Dogs provide great affection and support to people in hospitals, nursing homes, retirement homes, schools, and disaster areas. They are able to show empathy and give emotional support by responding and reacting to the people in their environment. Therapy dogs are great at this. Dogs emotionally connect with people and create a sense of mindfulness by being very present which in turn has amazing calming and healing effects on people who are going through difficult times in their life.

Helping One Another

Rehabilitation programs are being introduced that pair up otherwise unadoptable dogs with prison inmates in a training to help prepare them for their release back into society and the dogs with a forever home. Through this program, prisoners find a new sense of purpose and learn social skills like empathy, commitment, self discipline, and the feeling of unconditional love, which many may have never before experienced. At the end of several months of training, the dogs are ready for adoption and inmates who have participated in dog training programs are much less likely to return to prison.

Dogs are not just our pets, they are our best friends and they can enhance our lives in so many wonderful ways. Dogs can be our best doctors, therapists, life coaches, and everything in between if you give them the chance. Life is better with a pup!