They say that a dog’s age is seven times that of its equivalent in human years, and while we may not want to live seven times as long as our normal life expectancy, owning a dog can in fact help us prolong our lives.
Just about every dog owner will tell you that their dog enriches their life in many ways, but as it turns out, having a dog can actually help you live longer.
Here are a few ways owning a dog can add years to your life:
1. They’re natural mood lifters
Have you ever felt worse after playing with your dog? After just a few minutes of playing with a dog, you begin to feel less stressed, less anxious – whatever you were worrying about seems to have vanished. Your stress hormone cortisol is lowered and your well-being hormone serotonin is raised. Dogs are a great distraction from the everyday worries, even if temporary, you feel better equipped to handle problems after a good play.
2. They’re natural social butterflies
As we age, we tend to withdraw from the world more and turn our focus inward. Staying engaged as you age is easier with a dog – they’re pretty insistent about getting up and out which leads to meet-ups with other dog owners and impromptu chats at the park. Less isolation is healthy. Most dogs are natural social butterflies, so you never have to worry about planning your next outing, they dog will do it for you. Even trips to the vet or pet store help us on this one.
3. They’re physical activists
Dogs need plenty of exercise or they go crazy and then we do too.
We tend to worry more about our dog’s health more than we do our own – is he active enough, is he gaining weight, is he limping?
Well, dogs will help us focus on our own health by focusing on theirs.Daily walks lead to stronger bones and muscles, increased flexibility, and increased exposure to vitamin D from the sun. We can keep a pulse on how we’re feeling – are we achy, stiff, bloated? Going for a walk is a great way to tune in to how your body is feeling and lead you to do something about a problem or something that doesn’t feel quite right. As we age, strong bones and muscles can help with balance issues and help prevent osteoporosis.
4. They tire us out
Caring for and playing with a dog can be a great way to burn off excess energy, putting us in a more effective mental state for sleeping. Everyone knows that plenty of good rest is critical to good health. So play with your dog, relax, and drift off that much easier. This one is especially true for busy, active kids.
5. They’re excellent emotional barometers
Ever noticed that when there’s a disagreement or argument in the house, your dog gets anxious, agitated, shifty, and they bark or just plain leave the room. It’s because it doesn’t feel good to be in that room with you. Dogs won’t sugar coat it. They don’t like it and they’re trying to let you know. Pay attention – arguing affects everyone around you, particularly animals and children. Now that’s biofeedback.
Not just because of the love part, but dogs help maintain good heart health. Petting a dog lowers our blood pressure. Not coincidentally, dog owners have a significantly lower risk of dying from cardiac-related diseases and have significantly higher likelihood of surviving heart attacks.
7. They’re immune boosters
Dog owners boast higher levels of some immune system chemicals. Children raised in houses where there’s a dog have fewer allergies and diagnoses of asthma. Sounds a bit backwards doesn’t it? But we’ll take it!
8. They help combat depression
Dogs offer us unconditional love. They’ll listen to us for as long as we want to talk. Caring for a dog (feeding, grooming, exercising) takes us out of ourselves, establishes a sense of routine, purpose, and achievement, and helps us feel good about ourselves and how we spend our time.
9. They’re funny
Time spent laughing and playing is time that is never wasted. How often does your dog crack you up? How good does it feel to let loose and play with your dog with abandon – the way kids do? We all know that being happy is one key to living better. How great is it that happiness can also help us live healthier and longer too?
How does your dog help keep you healthy? Or young-at-heart? Or both?! Do tell!