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Corvallis, OR, United States
My personal obsession with prion diseases with smidges of music I like and rescue dog advocacy from a disabled Oregonian.


Welcome to my guest poster Patricia:

The Multiplicitous Health Benefits of Owning a Dog

When it comes to personal health and wellness, most people readily think of factors like eating right, getting enough rest and exercising regularly. Some people with busy schedules, such as doctors or those who are in medical billing and coding, meditate or practice yoga to reduce or manage stress. While others recognize the importance of balancing work with recreation and understand the value of being connected to other human beings in order to enjoy a satisfying life. However what some people aren’t aware of is that something as simple as owning a dog can be a major contributing factor to human health and wellness. 

Dogs have long been regarded as man’s best friend, but it turns out that there is more to a dog’s companionship than unquestioning loyalty. Studies have concluded that dog owners  tend to have better cardiovascular health  than their non-dog-owning counterparts. This improved cardiovascular health can in many ways be attributed to regularly walking a dog. Scientists who have looked into the matter suggest that people who walk dogs have a tendency to walk for longer distances and for greater periods of time, which leads to weight loss and improved mobility, resulting in better overall cardiovascular health.

Other studies have shown that owning a dog may contribute to better blood pressure numbers and lower heart rates, suggesting that pets may be able to help their owners keep stress levels in check. Certainly anyone who has ever owned a dog can attest to the fact that the enthusiastic greeting of a canine companion at the end of a long, difficult day can provide a significant mood boost. Perhaps that is because it is such a relief to be with a creature that accepts its owners uncritically and with obvious devotion and affection.

This is particularly true for the elderly, who sometimes have a tendency to withdraw from society as their contemporaries begin to fail in their own health and wellness. However interactions with dogs, and the way that these relationships can lead to relationships with other humans, can help senior citizens have more meaningful, satisfying years.

Elderly adults are not the only people who can experience the benefits of dog ownership. Children can also make tremendous social and developmental advances through  relationships with pets . When the child is expected to take some responsibility for the dog’s care, they learn many valuable lessons, as well as forming a mutually affectionate tie. Parents who assign tasks like walking, feeding and bathing the dog to their child encourage a bond of responsibility and sympathy between the child and the dog. This allows the child learns that dog ownership is fun, but also carries with it a burden of responsibility that can be applied to many areas of life.

Dogs can also assist human owners in a medical crisis. A growing body of research shows that some  dogs are adept at sensing imminent health dangers  in their human counterparts. Dogs appear to be genetically wired to be caretakers of their human friends, forging a mutually beneficial relationship in which the needs of individuals on both sides are met with speed, warmth and affection.

Given the many beneficial effects dog ownership seems to have on people, it should come as little surprise that more and more hospitals, extended care facilities and other health centers are making animal therapy a regular part of patient treatment. So-called  therapy dogs  bring joy and laughter into settings where such emotions can be in short supply, and where such positive feelings might do the most good. Volunteers bring their dogs to medical care facilities on a regular basis to help boost patient morale, creating a welcome change of pace and giving patients something fun and positive to anticipate. Even the staff and visitors at such facilities feel a positive lift to their spirits when a therapy dog is around, as few can resist the allure of a wagging tale and a happily lolling tongue.

For at least the last 12,000 years, dogs and humans have been forging close, beneficial relationships with each other. Centuries ago they hunted together, shared their food and protected each other. That dynamic has changed little through the years as people have come to prize their canine companions with ever deepening affection. Dog owners actively care for their beloved pets by feeding them nutritious food, taking them in for regular veterinary visits, grooming them and ensuring they get sufficient exercise. Yet dogs take care of humans as well by providing numerous opportunities for exercise and providing a welcome antidote to every day stress. A dog owner also has the satisfaction of knowing that they are never truly alone because their most loyal companion is always ready and eager to begin a new adventure together.

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