Wagging Tails, Healthy Hearts: Why Dogs are Good For You

Sadie

“Scratch a dog and you’ll find a permanent job,” said Franklin P. Jones, but there’s more to dog ownership than just enjoyment. When the first dog joined a human family around a fire, a bond was formed, and it has only grown stronger since. Science is only beginning to unearth the benefits of the human/canine relationship, but the proof is undeniable. Dogs have a positive impact on every major facet of our lives: our physical health, emotional health and even our attentiveness and productivity.

Worth Skipping a Beat For

You can’t walk 10 steps in this country without hearing something related to heart health. Heart problems account for one out of every four deaths in the U.S. Despite research and medical advancements, the stats aren’t getting better. We need all the heart help we can get— enter the dog. The American Heart Association (AHA) recently released a statement that highlights the numerous health benefits of dog ownership. There are approximately 78 million dogs owned in the U.S., and 39 percent of households own dogs, according to the ASPCA. Dog owners are 54 percent more likely to get their recommended levels of exercise, and they are also shown to have lower blood pressure, stress levels and obesity, according to the CDC. It isn’t just a coincidence though, as Glenn Levine, a Cardiologist with Baylor College of Medicine points out. In one study, people with high blood pressure and borderline high BP who adopted dogs saw a noticeable decrease in blood pressure, while those who delayed adoption saw no difference. This doesn’t mean that owning a dog gives you a license to guzzle MSG, it’s merely another excellent reason to give Rover another pat on the back.

Smile and ​Wag

Emotional and physical health are closely tied, and nothing brings out the best in both like a dog’s love. According to USA Today, some doctors have even suggested dogs can be a suitable substitution for antidepressants (in some select cases). When humans pet a dog, it releases the hormone oxytocin, commonly referred to as the “cuddle hormone.” Oxytocin sends messaged of happiness to our brain and lowers cortisol, which is responsible for stress and anxiety. Oxytocin not only makes us happier, it helps people heal faster, which is why therapy dogs can be so beneficial.

Dogs also help make us more social. In “The Health Benefits of Dog Walking for Pets and People,” the authors point out that dogs make a great social lubricant. Nothing ignites conversation better than a happy dog bounding toward you.

Four Paws for Working Hard

Have you ever visited a site like buzzfeed.com or petsafe.net just to browse for cute dog pictures and info (even if you don’t have a dog)? Now you don’t have to hide it, and you should encourage your boss to do the same thing. A study conducted by the University of Hiroshima revealed that looking at images of baby animals can positively impact productivity, focus and empathy. In the study, groups of people were asked to preform various tasks, then one group was shown images of puppies and other baby animals and asked again. The group that was shown the animal images improved their performance by 44 percent, and their efficiency increased by 16 percent. The “puppy pic” group also showed increased empathy and deliberateness toward the tasks given to them.

Although anyone who has ever owned a dog doesn’t need scientific proof of how wonderful they are, it’s nice to know it’s out there.

By Jacob Carter: Jacob is an animal lover, vegan and writer from Cleveland, Ohio.

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