The mere act of owning a pet means we have at least one someone in our life we have to think about and take care of besides ourself. That alone requires at least a little effort on our part, and supports our mental and physical health—like petting, walking, feeding our dog. But researchers across the country have found many more reasons why living with a dog may be quite good for us.
• Kids with family history of allergies and asthma who, from birth, grow up with a dog, are less likely to develop eczema and asthma.
• Kids who grow up caring for dogs have higher levels of empathy and self esteem. And kids who practice reading to a dog improved their reading skills 12% compared to kids who didn’t read to a dog (and showed no improvement).
• Teens in households with dogs are more physically active than those who aren’t.
• People who walk their dog regularly have one third the risk of getting diabetes.
• People who walk with a dog walk faster than with a human buddy or alone. They walk farther too, and they’re more likely to stick to their fitness plans.
• The physical activity we do with our dogs also helps keep stress levels down. Plus, just petting a dog can lower our stress. Dogs help reduce agitation and anxiety in people with dementia.
• The act of petting a dog reduces blood pressure. Of people who experienced heart attacks, those who owned dogs had a better one-year survival rate.
• People recovering from surgery who regularly petted dogs needed 50% less pain medication.
• Elderly dog owners need 20% less medical care than those who don’t own dogs.
So for all they do for us, the least we can do is feed them with unconditional love, and toss in an occasional treat to make sure they always know who’s a good dog.