Everyone knows that dogs are fun to have around, but do you know that they are also good for your mind and body? When my family adopted Franny from the shelter last winter, our exercise levels all improved. Not only did we walk more frequently but we started walking longer, and having more fun doing it. There’s also something undeniably sweet about coming home after a long day to a creature that just loves you so much she can’t stop wiggling from nose to tail!
These good outcomes of dog ownership are not merely anecdotal. Research has shown that having a dog can help reduce the stress hormone cortisol while boosting good hormones such as oxytocin, serotonin, and dopamine. These changes in brain chemistry can have very real impacts on our mood during the day, can alter what cravings we experience, and can even impact how well we sleep at night. Research also shows the ways that owning a dog increases exercise. A study out of Michigan State University shows that “60% of dog owners that take their pets for regular walks meet federal criteria for regular exercise. Nearly 1 in 2 dog walkers exercise an average of 30 minutes a day at least five days a week. Only about 1 in 3 of people that don’t own dogs get that much regular exercise.” According to an article on Positive Psychology News, “owning a dog is also associated with improved blood pressure and cardiovascular health, lower cholesterol and triglycerides as well as decreased anxiety.” Along with these myriad benefits, dog owners just tend to live longer.
Of course, my family wasn’t thinking of all these things when we welcomed Franny into our family last winter. We just wanted a dog to love and be loved by. If you are looking for the same, check out your local SPCA chapter or petfinder.com. You won’t regret it!