mental health
Stress

Are Dogs Good Pets, or Sources of Stress?

February 18, 2019

Having a dog can change your life in so many different ways. Sure, we all know they can shower you in unconditional love, show you how to forgive and forget, and teach you responsibility and empathy. However, pet ownership has its downsides. Dogs can be a huge inconvenience when you want to travel on holiday. They can cause a variety of other issues from odors and messes in the house to barking and destroying property, and if they get sick or hurt can cost you an arm or leg at the vet’s visit. If you’ve ever asked yourself whether having a dog as a pet a good idea or an added stressor, here's our take on the answer!

According to studies, the benefits outweigh the challenges. Certainly there are compelling arguments for both sides, but overall dogs do more than just improve lives on an emotional level; they can actually help improve our health as well. For one, a dog owner will walk an average of 2,800 steps each day! That’s incredible! If you have a dog or are thinking about adopting one (or just want to get more fit AND connected to an new pet), keep reading to learn about the eight amazing ways a dog can change your life for the better.

8 Ways a Dog Can Change Your Life

#1 Having a Dog Can Help You Stay Active: Dogs need to be walked, which means you’ll be getting more steps in each day helping you stay more active. Having a dog may also help encourage you to get outside more and just enjoy your time walking and staying active. You may notice that you don’t dread getting your daily exercise in as much when you can spend some quality time with your four-legged friend going on a brisk walk together.  

#2 They Can Help You Become More Responsible: Dog ownership isn’t the same as parenting, but it still comes with a lot of responsibility. Dogs need to be fed, cleaned up after, and need lots of love and attention! They rely on you to take care of them, which can help you learn good habits. Having a dog can help to teach you how to take care of others and increase your empathy.

#3 Having a Dog Can Help Reduce Anxiety & Depression: There’s a reason why service dogs are often brought to nursing homes or hospitals. Having a dog around can help ease symptoms of anxiety and depression, and can even help you feel happier! Having a companion around is an excellent way to help support mental wellness and reduce feelings of loneliness.

#4 You May Learn Healthier Habits: When you have a dog, chances are you’ll get yourself on a more regimented schedule, which can ultimately help you make healthier habits. Your dog may need feeding at the same time every day, which means you end up getting up earlier. With your extra time in the morning, you can make yourself a healthy breakfast, or get a quick workout in. And of course, as we already discussed, dogs also need to be walked, which is a great habit for both you and your four-legged pal. Dogs also tend to eat pretty regularly. You may even find them begging for food at the same time of day knowing it’s time for their next meal. This can help you get on a better eating schedule yourself, reminding you that it’s time to make a healthy meal for yourself!

#5 You May Become More of a Home-Body: While getting out and socializing is a super important part of overall wellness, staying home with family, or staying home to just find some time to rest and relax is important too. When you have a dog, you will most likely be home more, since you can’t leave your dog all day and night. Not only will this help you carve out more time to relax, but you may also save money not going out as much. It’s a win-win.

#6 You Will Smile More: Let’s face it, dogs just have a way of making you smile. They love you unconditionally, and will greet you with sloppy kisses every time you walk in the door, so how could you not smile? Smiling more often helps you feel happier and more relaxed! Laughter is sometimes the best medicine, so having a dog can ultimately help you be happier and healthier.

#7 You May be Healthier: For all the reasons stated above, dog ownership can result in more exercise, more time outdoors, more rest, and less stress. All of these are key to supporting a strong and healthy immune system and staying healthy all year long. Here’s just one more reason to cuddle up with your pup each day.  

#8 You Learn to Live in the Moment: Dogs aren’t like humans that focus on the past, present, and future. They are creatures of the present moment which is something many of us could learn from. Being mindful of staying present and not projecting or deflecting and thinking about what could have or what will be can greatly reduce feelings of stress and anxiety. Stop to think about how dogs perceive life and what is going on around them, and try to remember how important it is to live in the present moment. It can help you focus on what is going on in the here and now and also reduce feelings of anxiety by forcing yourself to not think ahead, but to take everything day by day or even moment by moment.

Dogs are amazing, and if we really take the time to stop and think about what dogs have to offer us, we can all greatly benefit from their presence in our lives. If you have a dog, snuggle them and love them more today knowing that they can or may have already changed your life in many ways. Don’t have a dog, but thinking about adopting one? Make sure you’re prepared for the responsibility, and then get ready to have a happier, healthier life.

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