If you have started referring to Loki the Wolfdog as "my boyfriend" and follow more pooches than people on Instagram, maybe it's time to consider becoming a real life pet parent. Of course, owning a pup is a massive responsibility that requires a lot of time and money, but the payoff is also huge. Besides cuddles, kisses, and deep, soulful gazes, there are a whole bunch of ways (sanctioned by science!) having a dog may make your life better.
1. It's good for your heart. A 2017 study of more than 500 adults found that owning a dog reduced the risk of coronary artery disease. Those with the most significant benefits tended to play with their dogs more, and had longer durations of ownership. There's also ample evidence that having a dog lowers blood pressure and the risk of other cardiovascular diseases.
2. Dogs really are your best friend. Researchers studying stress response in humans found that subjects engaged in a stressful task perform significantly better and register fewer physiological signs of anxiety in the presence of their dog than in the presence of a human friend.
3. They make workplaces friendlier. Led by companies like Google and Amazon, more and more businesses are welcoming dogs. And for good reason: dogs have been shown to encourage social interaction and boost positive encounters with strangers by thirty percent or more. Similar benefits are found when dogs visit nursing homes, hospitals, and college campuses.
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4. You'll move more. Dogs need walks. It's a lot harder to hit the snooze button when you are being drooled on by your eager pet. In fact, a study by Michigan State University found that dog owners were much more likely to meet federal exercise guidelines (moderate exercise for 30 minutes every day, at least five days a week).
5. It may save your life. There are numerous stories of dogs detecting cancer in their owners, including early-stage melanoma and breast cancer. Dogs have 220 million smell receptors in their noses compared to human's five million. Doctors have yet to harness this canine superpower in a systematic way, but some day in the future cancer screenings might include a big, black, wet nose.
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6. Dogs help people make friends. Despite the time requirements of having a pet, it turns out that dog owners are actually more social and less isolated, know their neighbors better, and have an easier time getting to know new people (see workplace above). People really do fall in love at the dog park.
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7. Kids benefit from dogs—a lot. There are many ways that having a pooch is great for children. For example, Pet ownership teaches kids about responsibility and empathy, children with pets tend to be able to regulate their behavior better, and exposure to dogs has also been shown to introduce beneficial gut bacteria in children and makes them less likely to develop allergies.
8. They will make you happier. People with dogs are less likely to suffer from depression and tend to have higher self esteem. This could be attributed to getting more exercise, having non-judgmental companionship, or more social encounters. Whatever the reason, it relates to your pooch and it's a good thing.
Of course, there are some real reasons to think twice about getting a dog. A pup may not be a great choice if you are usually away from home or working many hours a day and can't or don't want to hire a dog walker or bring your pup to a daycare. And then there's the cost of pet ownership. The ASPCA points out the number one reason people abandon their pets at shelters is not out of cruelty, but because they simply can't afford to care for them—they might be weighing buying their own medication against pet food or a trip to the vet. If it's not the right time to get your own dog but you want some puppy love in your life, then there are plenty of other owners who would be grateful for a dog sitter, and shelters with bored and lonely dogs who would love a walk or snuggle!