Why Man's Best Friend Can Also Be Our Health's BFF

How dogs help their owners live healthier and happier

It wasn’t too long ago that my husband and I—and our three kids—added a sixth member to our family in the form of a little bundle of furry joy named Gatsby. Given our crazy busy lifestyle (a reflection of everyone’s hectic lives, including your own, I’m sure), a few friends thought we were insane to add the responsibility of a new puppy to our daily routines. But as those of you who have dogs in your life already know, the rewards outweighed the kibble bill and even the occasional clean up during potty training. 

Aside from all the unconditional love, there are very real benefits to having a pet. Pets not only help kids reduce their allergy or asthma risk, but also help patients suffering from Alzheimer’s disease who have decreased anxious outbursts simply by having a four-legged friend share their living spaces. Even pet owners living with AIDS were found to experience less depression when they bonded with a pet.

Make no bones about it—having a dog in our lives is proving to be just as beneficial for all of us Bauers. Both anecdotal and even scientific evidence shows that dog owners tend to boast better health than the average person. Recent reports illustrate that certain dogs can sniff out cancer better than some lab tests and that dogs can be our heart’s best friend, given that “dog owners are more likely to exercise, have a better cholesterol profile, have lower blood pressure, can be less vulnerable to the physical effects of stress, and can be more likely to survive a heart attack.”

Modern medical miracles aside, dogs continually prove to be a good way to keep us more active, improve moods, reduce anxiety, relieve stress (even at the office) and help shy types meet people more easily.

How to Find Your Next Family Member

AdoptaPet.com offers tips on dog adoption, which include what to expect budget-wise when owning a dog, how adopting a dog can provide life lessons for kids of all ages, how to find a purebred dog at a shelter (yes, there are plenty to choose from if that’s what you’re looking for), and even how to introduce a puppy to an adult dog that is already a family member.

The ASPCA website also provides information worth wagging your tail over—like where to find a local shelter, how to view adoptable dogs in your area, and even handy pet adoption tips.

While there will be some challenges, the rewards of pet ownership far outweigh them. However, it is smart to familiarize yourself with beginner adoption tips for you and your new family member’s peace of mind (and paw).

Full Disclosure

While my focus has been on canines, I am well aware of the benefits of owning a cat and applaud whichever is the purr-fect choice for your home!

By Joy Bauer, MS, RDN, CDN, Health and Nutrition Expert for NBC’s Today Show and founder of Nourish Snacks. Joy’s latest book is From Junk Food to Joy Food.

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