In celebration of the 10th anniversary of National Dog Day on Aug. 26, ValueOptions, a health improvement company specializing in mental and emotional
From companionship to providing a live-in security system, dogs do a lot for humans—but you might be surprised by the health benefits of having a canine pal:
- Increasing heart health. Studies show that dog owners are more likely to participate in exercise, such as walking. As a result, dog owners tend to have lower blood pressure and a decreased risk of heart disease. Even if you already have heart problems, owning a dog may be beneficial. People with serious abnormal heart rhythms and people who have survived heart attacks tend to live longer than people with those heart problems that do not have dogs.
- Bettering mood. In addition to getting more exercise—a sure-fire stress buster—dog owners are generally happier and less lonely than those who do not have dogs, and are less likely to visit the doctor for minor problems or be diagnosed with depression.
- Acting as social magnets. Take your dog for a walk, and you may notice people paying more attention to you than usual. That's because people are more likely to talk to a person walking down the street with a dog, and many people actually perceive dog owners as more attractive.
- Benefitting a baby's immune system. Some studies show that newborns raised in families with dogs may be less likely to develop allergies and asthma, and have fewer colds and ear infections during their first year than babies living in pet-free homes.
- Providing social support for children with autism. Research shows that children tend to relate better to their classmates who have autism when a dog is in the classroom. The dog gives children in a classroom a commonality and gives children with autism a chance to practice their social skills, use language in a safe and rewarding way, and build their confidence.
- Protecting you from allergens. It is well known that dogs have powerful sense of smell, but did you know some dogs use this sense to detect allergens? Dogs can be trained to detect trace amounts of peanuts, such as a wrapped candy bar in a lunch bag, and alert their owner before an allergic reaction occurs.
- Acting as a therapy or service dog. Certification organizations, such as Therapy Dogs Inc. and Assistance Dogs International, allow dogs around the world to be specially trained to help people based on their needs. Some programs, such as Paws for Purple Hearts, allow veterans with post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) to help train puppies as a way to reduce anxiety and other symptoms of PTSD. Through their training, these puppies become service dogs who then aid veterans with physical disabilities related to combat.
Are you allergic to dogs, but still want the benefits of owning a dog? Some studies show that robotic dogs, such as Sony's AIBO, may improve the wellbeing of elderly owners and children as much as real dogs. Alternatively, the Xoloitzcuintli (or Xolo, for short) is one breed that many people who are allergic to dogs can call their own. While Xolos are most often seen as hairless and toy or miniature in size, there are also coated and standard-sized Xolos, which make them a breed versatile enough for almost any lifestyle.
For more information on National Dog Day or how dogs can help you, visit nationaldogday.com, webmd.com, or psychologytoday.com.