The bond between a human and their dog can be powerful and most dog owners will not hesitate to tell you the benefits of having a furry companion. They love you unconditionally, they incentivize you to exercise, and they generally make you smile and laugh. As it turns out, the benefits go even deeper. The correlation between pet ownership and physical/mental health has been studied extensively and the results are pretty amazing. Here are some of the proven physical and mental health benefits of owning a happy hound:

Physical Benefits

Psychologist Alan Beck and psychiatrist Aaron Katcher conducted a study to measure what happens to the human body when a person pets a friendly dog. Here are the results:

  • Decrease in blood pressure
  • Muscle tension relaxed
  • Breathing regulated
  • Heart rate slowed

These are all indicators of reduced stress that occurred simply from petting a friendly dog. Add all of this to the fact that most dog owners exercise more frequently than people without dogs and you’ve got a recipe for a healthier body. A study by the Research Center for Human-Animal Interaction found that public housing residents who walked therapy dogs for up to 20 minutes five days a week lost an average of 14.4 pounds in a year, without changing their diets. Plus:

  • Pet owners have lower triglyceride and cholesterol levels (indicators of heart disease) than those without pets
  • Heart attack patients with pets survive longer than those without
  • Pet owners over age 65 make 30 percent fewer visits to their doctors than those without pets

The power of a pup is amazing!

Mental Benefits

There’s a reason that animal-assisted therapy is so effective. Interacting with friendly dogs reduces stress hormones and causes our brains to release serotonin and dopamine. It can help relax aggressive or hyperactive children and prevent anxiety. A study was conducted that asked stressed-out adults to touch a toy and then touch a rabbit. There were no changes when they touched the toy, but stroking the rabbit relieved anxiety, even in the people who didn’t consider themselves to be animal lovers.

Companionship is part of human nature. It’s why we flocked together to create communities instead of trying to survive on our own. Taking care of a dog gives us a sense of purpose and makes us feel needed. Psychologists at Miami University and Saint Louis University recently conducted three experiments on the benefits of pet ownership. The results showed that pet owners’ well-being improved in a variety of areas, including:

  • Higher self-esteem
  • Less loneliness
  • More extroverted
  • Less fearful

Owning a dog is a huge commitment, there’s no doubt about that. In the right home, a dog can truly change a person or even a family’s life. Yes, you’ll have to pick up his/her poop, but the benefits we’ve outlined above will more than make up for it!