Why Owning a Dog is Good For Your Health (plus pictures of dogs!)
A while back, my husband and I happened upon an orphan kitten, wandering in traffic on a rainy day. We scooped him up, wrapped him in a blanket, and discussed our options. We decided to take him to a shelter, where they could care for him. After relinquishing him to their care and learning that he would be available to adopt in several days, I went home and made a powerpoint presentation to convince my husband that we could and should adopt him. In this apparently convincing presentation, I included studies and research on why owning a pet is good for your health. For this reason, I feel pretty confident in what I’m about to tell you:
ADOPT A DOG!
October is Adopt a Shelter Dog month, and I couldn’t be more stoked about an arbitrarily dedicated time frame. My husband and I have three rescue dogs, and they are the furry little lights of our lives. At the risk of sounding trite and cliché, they really improve our quality of life. We are more physically active, as two of the pups are obsessed with fetch. Seriously, if there were a Tennis Ball Anonymous, we would have them enrolled tout suite. They are also the source of many, many inside jokes that bring us hours of entertainment and joy. We theorize that our one-eyed dachshund-shepherd mix would have a lisp, for example.
Many researchers have set out to and successfully proven that pet companionship is good for your health. Owning a dog can lower your stress levels, lower your blood pressure, make you more active, lower your lipid (fat) levels, and overall improves your cardiovascular health (due to parasympathetic nervous system stimulation.) Kids can benefit from our four-legged friends, as well! Studies show that kids who read to shelter dogs experienced beneficial effects on a variety of behavioral issues. Children with dogs are also less likely to have asthma, if exposed early.
Adopting a dog from a shelter has many benefits over adopting from a breeder. It's less expensive, for starters. Shelter dogs tend to be mixed breeds as well, which bodes well for their health. Pure breed dogs can be analogized with inbred royalty - their bloodline is "pure," but this usually means they have health disparities to match, like hip dysplasia or short respiratory tracts. Many dogs available for adoption have the aesthetic or the temperament that you may be searching for, without the added genetic issues. Puppy mills are also pretty high up on my list of things the world could do without, as their main concern is profit. The welfare of the animals is rarely a concern. They are notoriously deceitful to patrons and neglectful to the animals.
Animal shelters will also typically go out of their way to facilitate successful adoptions. They provide the initial battery of vaccines, spaying/neutering, and some limited veterinarian care. When we adopted our youngest as a puppy, she became severely ill. We took her to the shelter, and they diagnosed her with Parvo. We were sent to an animal hospital, but the shelter was able to perform the test, diagnose, and provide the initial treatment for free. Many shelters also wave their fees for special occasions.
Having a dog means going on walks, getting cuddled regularly, and owning up to some responsibilities. It also means you provide a being with a happy life, full of love. If you have the time, space, and money to provide for a shelter dog, we highly recommend it.