One of the best parts of my day is being greeted by our dog Lucky at the door. It’s impossible to think it’s not his favorite part of the day too. As he’s running around in tight, little circles wagging his tail and squealing for joy – it’s like all of the day’s stress is washed clean.
My wife Laura says the same thing. It’s almost eerie when one of us gets home alone and he’s not there to greet us.
Most pet owners know just what I’m talking about. Our dogs, cats, and other pets easily become integral parts of our families whom we love and cherish. In addition to the companionship they offer, owning a pet offers several health benefits for their owners. Check out some of the benefits below.
Decreased Anxiety and Depression
Several studies have examined the benefits our furry friends have on our mental health. Veterans with PTSD benefited significantly from owning a dog and showed improved self-compassion. Other studies have examined how having your pet at home decreases loneliness and anxiety – especially if you’re single or living alone.
Your fur-baby may benefit your heart in a few different ways. Pet owners (especially dog owners) tend to get more mild and moderate exercise on average which leads to stronger, healthier hearts. A Chinese study showed a decreased risk of coronary heart disease among cat and dog owners compared their pet-less counterparts. Another study showed cat ownership was associated with a decreased chance of dying from a cardiovascular event (i.e. stroke). Dog-walkers that had already had a heart attack showed greater physical capacity in a 12 month follow-up compared to controls.
Increased Exercise and Activity Levels
This was one of the first things I noticed after getting Lucky. Even when he was a puppy, Lucky’s Australian Shepherd blood meant he needed and craved lots of walks, runs, and playtime. One study showed dog-owners, on average, spent an additional 22 minutes walking and took 2760 more steps each day. They also had less “sitting events” – or in other words, were less likely to be couch potatoes. Playing with our pets will often make us get down on the floor and perform movements/stretches that we otherwise wouldn’t have.
Increased Social Interactions
Our pets can also help us engage with other people too. A 2015 study showed that pet owners are more likely to meet and get to know their neighbors. The researchers found pet owners had more incidents of meeting people, were more likely to call the people they met with their pet “a friend,” and that their pet gave them emotional support while meeting the new person. Another study showed children with autism could interact more easily with others with their dog around for support.