Dog owners know that being around our pups can always lift our spirits. Just coming home to those little faces and wiggling butts every day instantly makes a difficult day better. We create incredible bonds with our fur babies and there is no doubt that they are part of the family. Over 48 million households in the United States have at least one dog and 35 million households have children, so our fur babies are outnumbering our human babies!
Not only do our dogs provide us love and snuggles, but all of that actually makes our lives better. We may take care of them, but they can actually make us feel better by improving our bodies and minds.
So how exactly do our dogs improve our health and happiness?
Dogs get us to think outside of ourselves.
As a loving, responsible dog owner, we have to focus on caring for someone else. Having a pet who is solely dependent upon you for food, protection, comfort, health care, and being a part of a pack creates a situation in which you must set yourself aside for a moment and take on the needs of someone else. Showing kindness and caring to someone else activates the reward center of the brain and its dopamine receptors which disperses our “feel good” hormone. When released, dopamine (along with several other hormones) helps boost our mood and mitigate the impact of stress in our system. So by caring for our pups, we actually help ourselves.
Having a dog also tends to put you on a schedule. Feeding, potty, play, and sleep activities are all accomplished most effectively when done on a schedule. By having our pup on a schedule, this gets us up and moving instead of procrastinating during the day. Certainly, we do not want our days over planned and hectic, but having a rough schedule can keep us on track and less stressed. Your pet’s schedule can help you maintain your own.
Finally, the increased activity that you engage in with you pup can also lead to increased socialization as well. Dog owners tend to be more familiar with their neighbors or people in the community. We often run into the same neighbors on dogs walks (I know I tend to know my neighbor’s only by who their dog is!) or see the same people who go to the park at similar times/days as you do. This creates more opportunity to engage with others and increase social interactions, even if this is d