I finally figured out all those people posting dog pictures and telling dog stories all over the Internet. It took me getting a dog before I understand how much dogs change our lives and our health.
 
It’s true. Spending quality time with a dog can have a positive impact on your mood and your health. Dogs can be calming stress-fighters. Now, I’m not talking about dog owners who keep their dog chained in the yard and the sum total of their interaction is dumping food in a beat-up old bowl and then walking away. Thankfully, most people in our community seem to be the type who are looking for a meaningful relationship with their dog.
 
Whether you are playing frisbee and catch or going on a long-distance run even in this snowy weather or simply watching the newest Christmas movie curled up on the sofa with your pooch those are both ways to be connected.
Connecting is an action verb so petting, talking, looking into their eyes, going on walks and more interactive fun all add up to truly meaningful relationships.
 
1. We all know that dogs will force us to have a healthier heart because with a dog we most likely exceed the recommended two-and-a-half hours of walking each week. Studies have also shown that dog owners tend to have lower blood pressure. Obviously, the effects of a poor diet, smoking, drinking, and other behaviors cannot be wiped away by loving a dog, but it does help.
 
2. Yes, we’ve been told that stress is a killer. We know it but life is stressful in so many ways. I went to a presentation by the director of a domestic abuse center. She told us that they have the only trained therapy dog in the country who lives there. He is specially trained in PTSD and if you and your children are getting out of an abusive situation you for sure have PTSD. Their dog is trained to know when clients and staff need hugs or a gentle rub on the leg. Situations deescalate and as a person’s blood pressure lowers their body releases a relaxation hormone and cuts down on levels of a stress hormone. How cool is that? And all the petting and loving reduce stress in the dog. Win/win!
 
3. Dogs help you be more social and as much as we love our dogs, human interaction is equally important. Pets, especially dogs, can help you connect with other people. Something as simple as walking your dog can help you meet neighbors and create lasting friendships. You seem more approachable to most people when they see you with a dog so stopping to talk is an acceptable interaction that otherwise wouldn’t be possible.
 
4. People who own dogs are generally happier, more trusting, and less lonely than those who don’t have pets. They also visit the doctor less often for minor problems. Having a dog in your life gives you a sense of belonging and meaning and makes you feel secure.
 
In a world that sometimes seems to have gone mad, it’s a lovely feeling to know that when you enter your home there is a dog there who loves you more than anything and wants only the best for you.
 
We’re not saying that prescription drugs don’t have value. But we know dogs can make a huge difference in the lives of those who choose to adopt.