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.
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
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
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.