8 Health Benefits of Owning a Dog

Owning a dog is an investment. Dogs cost money to adopt, feed and keep happy and healthy. But, they are also one of the best investments you can make to improve your own health and happiness!

I make no secret (and wear proudly) that I am a crazy dog lady. I've owned dogs my entire life and they've always been treated like members of the family. To me, owning a dog is an absolutely essential part of a great life and I can't imagine my life without a furry, four-legged companion. Or in my case, two!

Health Benefits of Owning a Dog

Not only are my dogs Lance and Jackson totally adorable, but they're also my best friends and a constant source of amusement for my husband and me. Dogs are beneficial to your emotional and physical health in so many ways; even some I bet you didn't know! Here are just a few of the benefits to owning a dog.

1. Dogs can help keep you fit and active.

Just like humans, dogs need exercise! Some of the best ways to exercise with your pup include walking, running and hiking. Dogs are great companions and can make you feel more safe when you're walking alone. Need other great ways to exercise with your dog outside? Take him out in the backyard (or dog park) and play fetch, throw a Frisbee or even just play a fun game of chase (my dogs love that!). If you are heading outside with your dog, just be sure to keep him hydrated and be conscious of his limits.

2. Dogs offer unconditional love and can sense when you're sick or injured.

No matter what, your dogs love you. They are caring animals and will do anything to please their master. If you've had a bad day, there's nothing to cure it like a cuddle session with your pup. Dogs also seem to be able to sense when you are sick or not feeling well (and will tend to stay right by your side).

Health Benefits of Owning a Dog

3. Having a dog makes it easy to meet people.

If you've ever moved to a new city, you probably know how difficult it can be to meet people. As adults, we're not thrown into social meet-ups nearly as much as we were in our school years. Having a dog is an instant ice-breaker! I've met so many of my neighbors simply by walking my dogs because people want to come up and pet them (which starts a conversation!).

Taking your pup to the dog park is also a really easy way to spark up a conversation with a stranger. Your dog will likely gravitate toward a certain dog (or dogs), and that automatically gives you something to talk about with the owner(s). In my experience, dog people are generally friendly and caring -- the kind of people you want to be around.

4. Owning a dog teaches responsibility.

You might initially think that owning a dog is a great way to teach a child responsibility (and it is!), but it also works for adults! Owning a pet means that there is another life that depends on you. Dogs can't just take care of themselves; they require someone to be around to let them go do their business, as well as feed, walk and love them.

If you're thinking about having children, getting a puppy or a dog is actually great practice (puppies also wake up multiple times in the middle of the night!). Putting someone's (or something's) needs before your own can definitely make you a better, more well-rounded person.

Health Benefits of Owning a Dog

5. Owning a dog can reduce your blood pressure and risk of a heart attack.

Over the years, multiple studies have linked owning a dog or cat with a decrease in blood pressure and improved heart health. It's so easy to get caught up in your job and all of the stress that comes along with it and bring it right home. Having a pet there to greet you when you come home is instantly calming (remember, they offer unconditional love and are great listeners!).

Spending time playing with your dog can also elevate your levels of serotonin and dopamine, which are nerve transmitters with pleasurable and calming properties.

6. Owning a dog can reduce your risk of allergies (especially in children).

People used to think that owning a pet would increase your chance of developing allergies. But recent studies have shown that the opposite is actually true. Children who grow up in homes with animals (dogs, cats or farm animals) actually have a decreased risk of pet allergies. Dogs can also help reduce the risk of asthma and keep immune systems strong (since having a dog can expose children to more allergens, dirt and germs).

Health Benefits of Owning a Dog

7. Dogs can detect cancer.

I know it sounds crazy, but it's true! Scientists have been studying this phenomenon for nearly two decades now, and studies have proven to show that dogs can actually smell cancer cells. In fact, some dogs are even being trained to "sniff out" cancer in humans, which is a great tool for early detection.

8. Dogs lower your level of stress by making you laugh more!

What's one of the best natural medicines to reduce stress? Laughter! Here's the thing -- dogs are hilarious! They have goofy expressions and do silly things. Watching my dogs play (and wrestle) together is a constant source of entertainment for my husband and I (and our friends!).

Health Benefits of Owning a Dog

The bottom line? Get a dog! Your mental and physical well-being will be improved (and you'll live a happier, healthier, more fun life!).

*All photos courtesy Lauren Martin.
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Lauren Martin
As a member of #TeamSierra, Lauren Martin receives promotional consideration from Sierra Trading Post. Lauren is a full-time Social and Digital Media Manager for a Colorado-based natural foods company and part-time Spinning and Bodypump Instructor. Her passions include hiking, biking, brewing kombucha, cooking healthy food (that doesn't taste healthy) and running around with her two Golden Retrievers. You can follow her on Instagram or on her blog, Me and the Mountains.
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