Americans love their dogs, and say they’re a member of their family. But do dogs really benefit people?
The American Heart Association has found there are so many positive benefits from owning a dog (pet) that during their American Heart Association Month, which was during the height of COVID in 2020, they encouraged people to consider adopting or fostering a pet if they don’t have one.**
In 2019, the American Heart Association published in their scientific journal* that owning a dog will help you do better after a heart attack or a stroke. They also found that dog owners are less likely to die from a heart attack or stroke than non-dog owners. Their studies have found that overall, dog owners tend to live longer than non-owners.
When you walk your dog, and play with your dog, you’re moving as opposed to being sedentary. The American Heart Association documented that dog owners get significantly more exercise than those who don’t own a dog. Interacting with your dog can boost your production of oxytocin, serotonin, and dopamine – the happy hormones. Their presence in your body leads you to feel happier and less stressed. They found that having a dog can lower your blood pressure and cholesterol, ease depression, and improve fitness. People who own dogs are less likely to develop heart disease.
According to the American Heart Association, 85% of pet owners say their pet makes them feel less lonely. Dogs can help us feel less social anxiety, and cause us to interact more with other humans. We at Putnam Service Dogs have found that after we place a service dog with a person, that person goes out into the world more, and interacts with more people, in a more positive way. People tend to look away, and shun a person with physical disabilities. If that person has a service dog with them, people smile at them, speak to them, sometimes stop to talk to them. Their service dog is the ice breaker in the interaction. People now want to talk to them about their service dog, and interact with, and pet their service dog! (Which is fine, when the dog isn’t working to assist that person.) In addition to their service dog assisting them by performing tasks they can’t do for themselves, their having a service dog also reduces their feelings of loneliness and isolation.
5 Ways Dogs Benefit our Lives
Owning a dog adds a sense of purpose to their human’s life. The person is sharing their life, and physical living space with another living, breathing, feeling being. Their dog relies on their person for most of their needs – shelter, food, medical care, exercise, and lots of pets and love. Dogs help people focus on something outside of themselves, which helps their person avoid depression. The needs of the dog motivate their person to attend to them, to get out of the house, rather than languishing in bed.
In their Report** on how pets help your mental health, the American Heart Association noted these 5 ways pets help us:
- Pets can reduce work-related stress. 2 out of 3 employees say work stresses them out, and 40% say their job gets in the way of their health. Pets in the workplace reduce stress and improve employee satisfaction.
- Pets help increase productivity at work. When a dog joins a virtual meeting, group members rank their teammates higher on trust, team cohesion and camaraderie.
- Pets help manage anxiety. In these times, with mental health issues increasingly prevalent in our society, pets provide companionship and support.
- Pets help you be more active. They give you a reason to get outside, get some fresh air and get active, which is proven to improve your mood, sleep and mental health.
- Pets provide a sense of togetherness. They help their person not feel alone. Seeing their pet, touching, hearing it, or talking to it brings a sense of goodwill, joy, nurturing and happiness.
*”Pet ownership associated with longer life, especially among heart attack and stroke survivors.”, Circulation: Cardiovascular Quality and Outcomes Journal Report, October 2019.
** 2020 Report written by American Heart Association editorial staff and reviewed by science and medicine advisors.