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: Pets! Woof! Meow! What are They Good for? A Whole Lot, it Turns Out

Pets! Woof! Meow! What are They Good for? A Whole Lot, it Turns Out

Project Manager

Anyone who knows me should know that I have a dog. I sometimes refer to her as my "dogter." It's a little bit disgusting how obsessed I am with her, but I am not ashamed of my love for her. My dog's name is Pippin, and she's a charming, lazy mutt that I rescued two and a half years ago. While I find the phrase "I didn't rescue my dog, he/she rescued me" a bit nauseating, it turns out that having a pet (cat or dog or…?) has some awesome benefits for its human's health and wellbeing.

This may be old news to some people, but it's still absolutely worth noting, and new studies are done all the time to discover or confirm more benefits of our furry friends.

Probably the most well-known benefit of having a pet is the relief they provide for stress and anxiety. A recent study showed that pet owners had hearts that adapted better to stressful situations than non-pet owners! Along those lines, pet ownership improves mood. I see this every day--I get home and no matter what kind of day I had, I am greeted with a smiling face, wagging tail, and invariably a profuse amount of licks. Pets provide unconditional love, and that boosts humans' mood and lowers stress.

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In fact, dogs are so well-known to reduce stress and anxiety that they are now being commonly used as a tool for the rehabilitation of veterans. Dogs reduce stress during a potentially tenuous time, and dog ownership has been shown to reduce suicide rates in this at-risk population. There are even a number of groups like Pets for Vets that pair rescued shelter dogs with veterans!

Another relatively obvious result of pet ownership is that you end up getting more exercise! Owning a dog means taking that dog outside for walks. Most people still consider this a leisure activity, and yet it is one that gets your body moving. In addition, most dog owners aren't going on walks in a vacuum. You walk your dog in your neighborhood, and inevitably run into other dog owners in the process. In my first apartment building in Washington, D.C., the only people I knew in my several-hundred-unit building were fellow dog-owners. Dogs break the ice in new social interactions and give people a reason to talk to each other, even if they may normally be painfully shy. Apparently, this also makes us feel more connected to the community. It is these social and active aspects of pet ownership that makes them a boon to the elderly, and can increase length and quality of life.

 Yet another benefit: Pets are good for your heart! Owning one can lower your blood pressure, lower cholesterol levels, and increase your likelihood of survival if you suffer from a heart attack.

Pets are great for kids, too, in more ways than one would think. The same benefits already discussed still apply, but kids that grow up with pets are often more socially adjusted and they are less likely to suffer from allergies! Pretty cool.

My co-workers are always telling me to bring Pippin in to work, but our building doesn't allow dogs. So I will arm them with this data and tell them to take it up the ladder! There is some emerging evidence that pet-friendly policies may be some of the best wellness programs that a company can implement! Studies have shown that pet policies can increase productivity at work and also deliver the benefits of pet ownership while at work (even to those who don't have pets!). Stress levels during the day were reduced for workers who brought their pooches into the office as compared with non-dog owners and dog owners who left Rex at home. Plus, dogs in the office increase social interactions, reduce stress, and get employees walking around--all good things for both personal and corporate wellness!

So when I get home today, and am greeted by that squishy pooch of mine, I'm going to tell her "thank you" for all of the benefits she bestows on my life. And also because she is just the cutest. And I love her.

Jess And Pip

 

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