Benefits of having a dog

Dog ownership provides many health benefits for people of all ages.

If you love your furry friend or are considering adopting a pooch, you should know that despite being human's best friend, the benefits of having a dog are abundant. Research has shown that dog ownership – and even interacting with and petting someone else's pup – has positive social, emotional and physical benefits. Here are the health benefits of having a loyal dog:

Physical benefits
People with pet canines are more likely to be physically active because dogs need walking. This is especially true of people with large pooches – weighing over 45 pounds – because they need more exercise than smaller breeds. Other studies have even found a link between petting a dog and lowering blood pressure, and that pet owners may have lower cholesterol and triglyceride levels, suggesting that dog ownership or regular visits with one might contribute to improved heart health. One study even indicated that dog ownership significantly increased the survival rate of people who had a heart attack.

Additionally, other studies have shown that growing up with a dog or other pets is good for a child's immune system. According to one study of 397 1 year olds, those with dogs at home had fewer respiratory and ear infections than those without a furry friend in the home. Additionally, babies with a canine friend  in their homes were rated as healthy 81 percent of the time, while babies without dogs in the house were healthy only 64 percent of the time. Researchers believe that exposure to dogs' germs is actually what helps to improve immune health in children.

Emotional benefits
Dogs can also improve emotional health. Pets have been shown to reduce depression, stress, loneliness and anxiety. Owning a pet helps to give structure to a person's day, as animals need to be taken care of regularly. Studies show that touch is very important for emotional well-being, and for those living alone, pups can provide this important physical contact. Additionally, children and adults alike often find comfort from a dog during times of grief. Dogs are often used as therapy animals in hospitals to bring comfort and happiness to children and adults with serious illnesses.

Social benefits
Aside from the myriad emotional and physical benefits of dog ownership, these loyal pals can also provide vital social benefits. When people go outside to walk them, they're more likely to have conversations with people around them like other pet owners – animals provide an easy topic of conversation. In one study at a veterans' hospital, people were more likely to talk with each other when a dog was in the room. This is very important for people who live alone, such as elderly adults who are more likely to be isolated.

Also, children with autism who have difficulty connecting with people are able to interact more comfortably with their pets, which may help to build a sense of empathy and promote better interactions with other people over time.

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